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Clean Up Time and no Green Manure


I hate October, I really do! It is without doubt the most horrible month of the year. There is the mess and decay of spent crops still to be cleared. The Autumn leaves start falling. There is no longer enough warmth to dry up the ground between rain. And to top it all there is the prospect of winter still to come along with all the dreaded Autumn and Winter festivals which after 48 years have all worn too thin for me to get enthused about.

As I am a fair weather gardener my keen-ness to get onto the allotment is not what it was up until a month ago. Thankfully the Sweet Corn and the Runner Beans were pulled out a week ago. This time of year there is too much to fit into the composting bin so I make a big heap on some spare ground and chop it up with the hand shears. The heap so far consists of the Sweet Peas, Runner Beans, Sweet Corn, Calabrese, Potato Tops, yellowing leaves from the Brussels Sprouts and the Chrysanthemum plants which have already been cut down to stools.

This big heap of vegetation will be turned once a month during Autumn and Winter. By the time we get to March it will be semi rotted. At the semi rotted stage it is quite good enough for digging in providing it is put a good way down to avoid uncovering again during cultivation. Semi Rotted will hold and retain moisture much more effectively than fully rotted compost.

The best place for this semi rotted compost is underneath the Runner Beans. In March or April I will mark out where the Runner Beans are going and I will dig a trench 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep. The trench will be filled with the semi rotted compost and trod to firm it. As much of the excavated soil as possible will be returned to the trench to cover the compost. The remaining soil will be placed evenly around the trench area to create a recessed area for the Runner Bean plants. The recess allows for heavy watering and flooding without the water running away. The recess allows for a mulch to be applied later without creating a hump. A hump is not much use as it dries out rapidly and the water runs off.

It is often recommended by gardeners to sow the bare areas with green manure in the Autumn. I do not. Not only does green manure seed cost money which I don’t wish to spend but the amount of organic matter produced from green manure is minimal. The green manure takes nutrient out of the ground only to put back no more than it has removed. The ground does not get a rest. I do not like soil to be in continuous use without ever getting a rest. It is most beneficial to soil to be left empty for at least 3 months but preferably longer. Not only does this help the soil to be flushed through by winter rain removing the build up of potentially damaging ’’Salts’’ which are residues left from fertilizers, but it allows for soil pests to be ‘starved out’ over winter. Green manure will hold the ‘Salts’ and feed the Pests.

It is not always possible to leave all of the ground empty as crops like Brussels Sprouts and Purple Sprouting go right through to Spring, but where ever possible I believe in resting the ground. I do not ever recommend to anyone they grow green manure. For adding organic matter the way to effectively do it is to get in a trailer load of farmyard or stable manure and apply that in a 4 year rotation with 2 alternate plots getting manure and the other two not. Each year the plots shift round so the ground gets manured every second year. As well as adding the manure add any garden compost which has been made. A mix of the two is ideal.

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I have used Green Manure this year because I am getting too old to collect and shift horse manure.
Farmer's cow manure is twice the price of Fodder Radish Seed. The keen gardener should put back into the soil two and a half times the amount taken off it. This is the secret of successful vegetable growing.

6 Oct, 2012


Oh, Dear, Sunnyhill, you do sound fed up. I am sorry for you. I LOVE October - it is probably my favourite month (April and May come a very close second and third).
I suppose the difference is that the weather here is still lovely. The searing heat of summer has been replaced by warm sunny days and coolish nights. The annuals (and quite a few confused perennials) have a second flush of flowers, the lawn is recovering and is green again since it's rained for a few days, so we have that gorgeous scent of mown grass to enjoy. The soil is damp enough to pull weeds easily, and I can clear the vegetable garden of all the tatty courgette and tomato plants, dig over the still warm soil, incorporating all the wonderful rotted manure from the dozens of cowsheds in the neighbourhood and enjoy the neatness for a change. There are big, fat squashes to enjoy, and leeks and broccoli in neat rows, waiting to be eaten. The brussels sprouts suddenly get a wonderful spurt of clean growth, and the quince tree is laden with golden fruit. I don't have to spend my very, very hot, sweaty days in the kitchen preserving great mounds of fruit and vegetables for the jam pot and the freezer - this is soup weather! Hooray!
I quite enjoy raking up and bagging leaves for compost, but ours, after the ravages of summer when things were dying of the heat, are clinging onto the trees for a while yet. There's that wonderful smell of autumn to come, and the blackberries have decided to plump up after all. The greenhouse is all clean and tidy, waiting for its winter residents, and planting hundreds of bulbs, with the promise of all those blooms next spring is very therapeutic.The smell of the first bonfires (we are allowed to light them from Monday onwards) is intoxicating. The woodburners are already loaded up and waiting for the first cold snap and a match, and the cellar is full to bursting with goodies and firewood. The weather is perfect for walking, and watching the onset of autumn as the hills and valley trees turn lovely colours is a real pleasure. Winters here are a tad colder (well, ok, a LOT colder than in the UK) but we welcome, embrace and celebrate the seasons in their turn.
When our visitors are gone next week, I shall be making my Christmas cakes and chutney in a nice warm evening kitchen, and enjoying the garden at its best during the day.
I appreciate that we get far more sun and dryness than the UK, and nobody's disputing you've had a stinking year of weather, but we get the astounding range of temperature extremes that make gardening such a challenge, and we know that lovely, gentle October comes around again with startling and reassuring regularity.
Try to count your blessings, Sunnyhill, and enjoy what you can, or maybe you should move to Italy? ;o)))

(Oh dear, I've just re-read this and it sounds awfully smug. Forgive me, it wasn't intentional.)

6 Oct, 2012


I too find October a tiring month for clearing things up, but the month itself I are right about 'the dreaded Autumn and Winter festivals' as I do not like the fuss and commercialization of it all. All the best with clearing up, you are doing a good job! :))))

6 Oct, 2012


Thanks all 3 of you for your comments.

Michaella - Late October looks very colourful with the trees turning and a sunny day looks lovely but I still feel like crawling away into a hole.

Gattina - Great read thanks. I admire Italian gardening. In fact I greatly admire all things Italian because I like Italian design whether that be gardens, clothes, interior design or cars. Your seed catalogues are very impressive. I suppose being in a hot country you must be glad of some cooler weather. I don't think you sound smug and it paints a lovely picture in my imagination. I could well be tempted to move to Italy if only for the Autumn.

Diane - Know what you mean about humping heavy horse manure and people can only do what they are physically capable of. My allotment is down a very long footpath so it means lots of back and forth with a wheelbarrow. Can't get the manure dropped anywhere near the allotment.

6 Oct, 2012


Sunnyhill, I think you would be very disappointed in the awful design of day to day Italy. Many houses and apartment blocks are ugly and decorated like a version of the 80's Homes and Gardens - dreadfully over ornate and impractical, and a lot of the women are difficult to tell from ladies of the night, so provocative and outrageous are their clothes, hair and make-up at any age. I generalise dreadfully: forgive me, but we are surprised, if not shocked on a daily basis. If you have the money, incredibly beautiful and sophisticated style in all things is certainly available here, but that is true of a great number of countries, and it doesn't always come quite so outrageously expensive. There is one great advantage of being here - Christmas doesn't kick in much before the beginning of December, and tends to be altogether more low-key.
Having said that, we are still here, so we must like it! ;o)

6 Oct, 2012


I too love October. Today the sky was wonderfully blue, and so therefore was the sea,and I collected four boxes of seaweed for mulching. It was a glorious morning, and everywhere so beautiful. The fuchsias and pelargoniums are still flowering well and apart from the horrible leak in the new conservatory all's well.Lots still to do in the garden so had better go and make a start! Now its me sounding smug, but I'm not really - just grateful for such a lovely day after this horrible summer.
Come and have a couple of days in Pembrokeshire to cheer you up - we've got a spare bed!

6 Oct, 2012


Gattina... I went to Italy once so long ago now memory has faded but I liked it. I expect the stereotypes of Italy prevail as with all countries. We have seen a lot of Italy on the TV recently but unfortunately not for the best reasons but all about the sorry state of economics. I would find the parched sun baked conditions of summer in Italy hard to cope with. I overheat very easily even in the UK when the temperatures go too high.

Steragram... Pembrokeshire sounds lovely. I think you deserve some good weather. From what I can tell it hardly stops raining in the west. I'm in the east and usually the rain has died out by the time it has moved this far east. It has been rather too dry at times during August and September here although very wet from April to July. The thought of being by the sea collecting seaweed sounds good to me. And being in a mild area must have big advantages for you this time of year. A trip to Pembrokeshire sounds like a good idea. A change of location for a while works wonders for the state of mind.

6 Oct, 2012


Enjoyed reading your blog Sunnyhill - well written and very helpful. Plenty of tips to be gleaned. You are obviously a very keen (dry weather) and knowlegeable gardener.
Gattina....Im now having visions of streets full of 'ladies'.
Enjoyed reading your blog within a blog too :))
I'm usually quite indifferent to clearing up the garden around now - it has to be done kinda thing. I always tell myself that the last cut of the lawn is the last - as much as I love a bit lawn - cutting it is something I could well do without!!
My garden throughout September and the beginning of October has been most enjoyable. After the gorgeous start to the year - the rain really put me on a down. We have had lovely sunny days - admittedly getting a bit crisp out there now but the sun is still shining and my garden is looking the best it has all year. Still a few things left to flower - a few more days of sunshine should see them alright.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and your knowledge!

6 Oct, 2012

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