Wednesday, 28 March 2012

turning sand into fertile soil

Nowhere else at Cordwood is the sandy soil more of a problem than in the Vegetable Garden.

Where we need a fertile, moisture retaining, healthy soil we have thin sand and stones over a tangle of tree roots.

How will we turn sand into fertile soil?

We need to create a soil that has the necessary pH balance, organic matter and invertebrate and mychorrizal life that indicates a healthy soil -this will not happen quickly.

The first task is to break up the roots with mattock, azada and fork: heavy physical work. Gary thought that this archaic practice was due to an ethical aversion to using mechanised gardening tools. Not so. No machine available to me could cope with the thick roots or remove the thinner ones from the soil. It's man and muscle I'm afraid. Gary stayed for half an hour!!

The beds I am working on at the moment are 4 feet by 16 feet. Once the roots have been removed, in goes half a trailer of well-rotted manure plus two barrows of leaf mould per bed.

Although this will become our vegetable garden, during this first phase we are using the beds to bring on perennials, and so have planted the first bed with leucanthemum, geum, geranium and sedum divisions.

We completed the second bed today, and so the next part of our strategy comes into play: green manures. We sowed bed 2 with phacelia. The phacelia will germinate and produce bushy green growth that will help give structure to the soil and prevent the loss of fertility. The bushy growth will be incorporated into the soil, adding organic matter and a further source of fertility. The photo on the right shows a range of green manures growing on our allotment in 2008.

A further phase will see thick mulches of organic matter applied to lock in water.

The hottest March temperatures ever recorded in some parts of the country this week. Too hot for hard work!

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