If a garden require it, now trench it ye may, one trench not a yard, from another go lay; Which being well filled with muck by and by, to cover with mould, for a season to lie.
- Thomas Tusser, 1557
September is a busy time in the gardening calendar, reaping the rewards of our efforts in the vegetable plot, beginning the annual clear up, and enjoying the last flush of summer blooms before the first late autumn frosts signal that winter is around the corner.
Yes, the season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness’ is upon us once more and although it is a busy period, it`s about this time that, in the back of my mind, I shall begin to make plans for next year on my ‘patch’.
Now I`m sure we have all heard the expression,”I think the answer lies in the soil”, and indeed it does. The answer to many, if not most, of our gardening problems can be directly related to the condition of the soil. We really do need to replace the goodness, the nutrients, taken out of the soil during this year`s growing season. To keep the land in ‘good heart’ as it were. If we fail to address this essential need, problems will inevitably arise as a consequence of our neglect.
To get the soil kind and friable to a good depth by constant manuring and composting, and thereby achieving a high humus status, should be our aim. The more organic matter you can get into your soil the more easily you will be able to work it, weed it, plant it, and get results. By so doing, the general fertility of the soil will improve and obviate the need for any artificial fertilisers or the like.
But never mind all the fancy technical gardening terminology, what we are talking about here is muck and lots of it. Cannot do without it and cannot get enough of it. Despite the goodly amount of home made compost we produce here, it`s still not enough.
So every year I get a load of well rotted manure delivered. Any kind of muck, horse, pig, cow, sheep, chicken, doesn`t matter, although horse manure is more readily obtainable nowadays. Manuring and composting can be done at any time of the year and as often as you like, but late autumn when the garden is due for a tidy up, and the soil is usually easily worked, is a good time.
So what do we do with all this muck then? The text books will tell you to dig it in to a trench a spades depth, and double dig every third year or so. This is ideal for the keen gardener with a vegetable plot. However, for those of us with limited time to spare in the garden or are perhaps physically unable to attempt digging, why not let nature do it for you? That`s it! Let the worms do the job, and they will!
Just shovel it onto your plot and onto your flower borders, lightly fork it in and the worms will do the rest. Doing this once a year, well, or several times during the year, will soon get your soil in condition.
Remember that soil is a living medium, a square foot of it has a great population of living creatures, bacteria, protozoa, fungi, worms, and insects.
Organic matter forked in to the soil, or even left on top of it, is quickly broken down by these myriads of organisms to useful humus on which plants feed.
Whether your soil is clayey, sandy, chalky, or whatever, manuring and composting will year on year increase the depth of fertility of your soil. Your plants will be healthier and consequently more resistant to disease as a result.
Finally, let me say, that I consider manuring and composting to be powerful weapons in the gardeners armoury. “Weapons? Armoury? are these gardening terms” I hear you say. Yes, I told you it`s a war out there!