Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fertilising the Garden in Winter...and Broad Beans

With all the rain we've had the last few weeks, the chook shed really needed mucking out.

This wasn't a bad thing in my view, because now is the time I fertilise my fallow vegetable beds in readiness for Spring plantings. If you aren't planting anything in your vegie beds over the next couple of months, it's perfectly okay to put fresh manure straight into the soil. If you do this too close to planting however, the manure will not have composted and you will "burn" the roots of your seedlings and they will die. Over winter the worms will do their stuff and compost it for you. If you aren't lucky enough to have your own supply from chooks, cows, or horses...buying manure from the garden centre is perfectly okay too, and it is already composted for you, so you could plant much sooner. Either way, now is a good time to do it. I reweeded the beds, and then forked over the litter from the chook shed lightly. It's a mixture of their droppings, straw, grass clippings and sawdust.
You don't need to dig over soil too deeply, as most vegetable plants have most of their root systems in the top 20cm of soil, and fertilising deeper than this would be a bit pointless. In another month I will fork it over again as it will have broken down a bit more, and again at the beginning of September. The beds will then be ready for hungry feeders like tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach.
If you don't want to buy in manure, why not try a green manure? Buy a packet of seeds such as mustard and cress (these guys will still sprout in cold weather), sow all over the area and water in. When they are about 10-15cm high, fork them straight back into the soil, and let them decompose. A word of warning about feeding your soil however- beds that will grow things like carrots, parsnips, or onions should not be fertilised this way. It is much better to grow them in a bed that has grown a heavy feeder in the previous season. Too much fertiliser and carrots and parnsips will grow forked roots, and onions will not keep well. Spring onions or shallots that will not be grown for their bulb would be okay.

What to put in the garden at the moment...
If you haven't planted broad beans (and you aren't in a cool mountain climate like myself and can still sow until September) you can still buy the seedlings and plant out. Broad beans need the cooler months to mature, and will flower in Spring. They will also leave a bed more fertile, as like all legumes, they fix their own nitrogen into the soil. By cutting at the base and digging the roots back into the soil when finished in Summer, you will be able to sow something like cabbage or kale that mature through the cooler's all about planning really!

No comments:

Post a Comment