Winter Garden News

Back to Earth

After the wettest autumn I can ever remember the weather has finally let up and routine work in the garden goes on. For many months the soil has been too wet to work on but finally I have been able to weed and rotavate two of the four large growing areas.

Last week I was able to harvest the last batch of parsnips and put 16 bags of cut, peeled and blanched veg into the deep freeze. There are still beetroot in the ground and the successful crop of sprouting broccoli looks very tasty inside its protective netting cages – these have (so far) worked very well, keeping away both birds and butterflies.

At least the wet weather did not prevent the necessary task of pruning the soft fruits (black currants, gooseberries and raspberries). I was also able to spend time putting new stainless steel support wires along the garden walls so the the espaliered fruit trees could continue to be trained effectively. These trees are doing very well now enjoying the very beneficial micro-climate which their proximity to the south facing wall provides. It was interesting to see that the apples on the open orchard trees dropped from their trees at least a month earlier than those growing against the garden wall.

The Annual Compost Bonanza

What a rewarding and exciting job it is to open up the mature compost heap which has been quietly rotting down over the past year. The strong compost bin has been heaped up to the top of the wall (3 metres high) many times over the summer – with weeds and vegetable tops from the garden and masses of cut grass and weeds scythed from the orchard and woodland. All this green material has now been converted into beautiful brown humus ready to be incorporated into the ever hungry soil. Of course I have to cut away the outer layers (about 2 feet – 60 cm) deep both on top and on the front – this is easily stacked into the adjacent compost bin which will be emptied at Christmas in 12 months time.

Inside the heap it's amazing to see how the fermentation, bacteria, worms and fungi have converted the mass of green material into lovely compost. In fact I am able to take 24 wheelbarrows – about 2 tons - spread on the garden.

Now we have just got some good dry weather l have spread out these heaps so we have a layer a few centimeters covering the soil and this can easily be worked into the soil with the rotavator.

So the mature compost bin is empty now and we continue to add new material to the working bin which will be ready to spread next Christmas

About the John Seymour School

© William Sutherland, Alnwick, UK. -  Website created by Alterculteurs

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John Seymour came to live in Ireland in 1981 when he began work on developing his smallholding in County Wexford. A regular series of summer courses was started in 1993.     Will Sutherland joined John in running courses soon afterwards and continued to work with John until his death at the age of 90 in 2004.   Will continues to run courses and give workshops on the many and various topics covered by the Complete Book.


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