How to get your soil tip-top for hungry fruiting vegetables.
There’s something wonderful about popping up to the allotment at this time of year. Nothing is happening, and it focuses the mind wonderfully on a little bit of early spring cleaning. This is what I’ve been up to on the pumpkin patch.
My soil is a light clay, and as snow may well be on its way, I’ve turned it over into clods with a spade on the pumpkin patch to enable the cold snap to break it down a little. I also sprinkled half a bag of GroChar on it. GroChar is a soil conditioner made from charcoal which helps improve drainage and also moisture retention. This is really important on my plot, which runs the risk of becoming waterlogged in the winter, while in the summer I can only visit once a week. Any way I can improve the soil so that it doesn’t bake hard in a hot, dry week is welcome. Plus GroChar adds valuable nutrients: I’ll provide the results of my trial of this product in a separate post.
Next week is coffee grounds week. I’m very lucky in that the canteen at work bag up used coffee grounds and hand them over to gardeners. They’re great for improving the soil, particularly for adding nitrogen. There’s little evidence that used coffee grounds increase the acidity of the soil, though, contrary to received wisdom.
In February, it’s time to start trench composting with the contents of the Bokashi buckets, and adding heaps of chicken manure and straw from a friend’s hen house.
And in March, a car bootful of well-rotted horse manure gets dug in. Towards the end of the month, as the soil heats up, I’ll sow a fast-growing green manure of mustard and fenugreek.
By early May, the green manure plants have grown enough to be cut down and dug into the soil. At this stage, there’s also sufficient comfrey leaves emerging for a quick cut, to be dug in at the same time.
Then towards the end of May, depending on the weather, it’s pumpkin-planting time. A second car bootful of horse manure arrives and gets forked into the soil, new Bokashi trenches are dug, and the little plants go in with their slug-protecting barriers. This year, I’ll also be using a little moat of coffee grounds and baked eggshells around each Vaseline barrier, just to deter the nasty slimy beasts a little more.
And that’s how I’ll be feeding my pumpkin patch up until the plants are in place. There are other beds which need feeding in different ways: a lasagna bed which will get its own hefty layers of vegetation, coffee grounds, horse and chicken manure and cardboard. Then there is the mulching fiesta, which takes place on all the fruit beds in March. And for the rest of the year, there’s a feeding regime to stick to. Never a dull moment on this plot.