Trench Composting

Trench Composting 101

It might sound funny, but I love compost! It’s crazy to think about how much food gets thrown in the trash that could be used to improve our soil and grow new veg! We’ve got one of those black plastic compost bins in our garden, but seeing as it’s full, I decided to do a little bit of trench composting today.

Trench composting has to be the most simple and easiest way to get started with compost, and anyone can do it! All you need is a patch of soil, a spade and some kitchen or garden waste. It also just makes so much sense… you don’t have to keep moving compost around: just dig a hole where you want it!

I’ve just pulled out the last of the carrots from this end of the veg bed, and I won’t be planting anything in for about a month until I’m ready to plant out some spring onions and garlic. A space like this (or one that will be left even longer) is ideal for trench composting, as once you’ve buried your compost, you don’t really want to be digging and disturbing the area for a good few months.

Directions:

  • The first thing to do is dig a hole. Generally speaking, the deeper the better, and I reckon you should aim for at least 30cm. This makes sure that any waste that might attract pests is buried too deep for them to bother.
  • Next, fill the trench with kitchen waste. You can put anything in the hole that you would normally put in a compost bin, but I would recommend avoiding things that will take a while to rot down. The smaller the bits you put in, the faster it will rot, so I like to slice the compost up with my spade at this point. Then cover the trench back over.
  • Now your bit is done, it’s over to nature! Over the next few months, the natural bacteria and worms in the soil will break down the organic materials you’ve added to the soil. This will then create a layer of rich compost, which will naturally be worked into the soil.

 

Right now (September/October) is perfect for trench composting, as it should all be broken down by mid to late Spring; but you can use this method all year round.

If you haven’t got a large bed, you can just dig small holes at random in your garden – just make sure you remember where you’ve dug! You can also dig a trench and gradually fill/cover as you fill up the kitchen compost bin.

The lovely layer of compost you’ve created is great for planting in, and heavy feeders like beans will love you for it!

Why not give it a try, and let me know your composting secrets!

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How to get the most out of your strawberry plants

Around now we’re coming to the end of the strawberry season and it’s time to tidy the plants up and get the ready for next year. Spending a few minutes now will really pay off next year as you’ll have bigger stronger plants and more fruit!

First off, if you used a mulch (I use straw which helps keep the strawberries off the compost) clear this away so you can better access each plant. 

Now, time for a bit of house keeping. Cut off any leaves that have started to turn red or brown, trying to cut them as close to the crown as possible. The leaves will naturally turn red as they grow old, so cut them back and watch new leaves grow. 

Next you can use runners to create new plants. The runners look like long stems with a little bit of growth attached. Each runner will produce new strawberry plants, and it’s really simple to do!

Simple Guide To Strawberry Runners

  1. Fill some small pots with compost.
  2. Place the new growth on the runner on top of the compost. This is the crown. 
  3. Gently push the runner into the compost. You may want to use a small stick to peg the runner down. 
  4. Water the compost lightly. The crown should rest on the surface rather than being completely submerged, and you want to keep the surface of the compost damp to encourage the crown to send out roots. 
  5. After around 6 weeks your runner should have rooted. Now you can cut the runner off from the main plant. 

And that’s it! Keep an eye on the new plants and they’ll grow nicely ready for next year. 

Each new strawberry plant should fruit next summer, but you’ll have to wait another year for them to really get gowing. 

Of course if you don’t want any more strawberry plants then make sure to cut of the runners, as each runner will drain the main plant of its water and nutrients. 

Strawberry plants tend to last around three years, so remove any old ones and keep planting new runners to ensure a long lasting crop.

Now to enjoy the last few strawberries until next year!

Top Ten Ways To Save Water

Top Ten Ways to Save Water in Your Garden

As a grower (and as a human!) I feel a big responsibility to play my part in looking after our natural resources. Gardens can easily use up a huge proportion of household water usage, but there’s a few simple things we can all do to conserve water, help look after the planet and save money at the same time!

 

1. Use less

Plants use osmosis to draw in water, so if the surrounding soil is dry, the plant will naturally increase the levels of vitamins and nutrients that give veg their taste. If you water too much (especially with veg like tomatoes), this can result in bigger but blander tasting fruit and veg. As a general rule, it’s best to give the soil a good drenching every few days rather than a light soak every day.

 

2. Get a water butt

If you’ve got a garden it’s worth getting a water butt. Not only is this “free” water, but it is better for watering than tap water, as it doesn’t have the added chemicals tapwater does. I’m always surprised at how fast our water butt in the front garden fills up, despite only being connected to the down-pipe of the guttering around our front porch.

 

3. Use a watering can

A hosepipe will use around 15 litres per minute, and tends to be less accurate than using a watering can.  Think of carrying those watering cans as a free gym session!

 

4. Get a bath siphon

I’ve added a longer hose to ours that reaches out our bathroom window and down to the back patio where I fill up watering cans, or attach to the hose pipe to water the back garden with. If you’re planning on re-using bath water choose natural/biodegradable bath products.

 

pexels-photo-952155. Water in the morning

Avoid watering in the afternoon when it is hot and sunny, as the water will evaporate quicker from the soil. Aim to water in the cool of the mornings or evenings, when water can soak into the soil. I generally aim to avoid watering in the evening, as damp soil in the dark of the evening/night encourages the slugs!

 

6. Make a funnel

Get a 2 litre drinks bottle and cut the bottom off. Dig a hole and pop it in the soil upside down. This gives you a funnel that will take water straight to the roots.

 

7. Mulch!

Using a mulch will help keep water in the soil as it prevents evaporation. Wood chips work well around fruit trees/bushes or ornamental plants. You can use straw under strawberries and other crops. Just watch out for any slugs and snails that might like to hide in the cool of the straw!

 

8. Plant right

Planting close together will help shade the soil and keep the air cool, preventing the plants from drying out so much. If growing in pots, put pots close together rather than spreading out. Picking varieties that are drought resistant can make a big difference. Varieties grown in warmer climes may be much more acclimatised to less water.

 

9. Improve your soil

If your soil is too sandy, water tends to drain away too quickly. If your soil is too heavy, water can run-off rather than running down to the roots. Adding lots of compost will help improve your soil’s ability to keep hold of water.

 

10. Keep on top of the weeding

Remove the competition!

How to plan your veg plot

It’s around this time of year that I start thinking about what I want to grow next year! The garden centres have reduced their seeds, and we’ve worked out what we grew this year and liked/disliked.

Work out what you want to grow

Personally, I have a few things in mind:

  1. I’ve got a toddler, so having things he can pick and eat are important. (He loves peas!)
  2. There are some veggies that taste a whole lot better home grown: Peas, Carrots, Potatoes, Tomatoes, etc.
  3. I’ll generally aim to grow some veg that is expensive to buy or hard to find in the shops: Raspberries, Strawberries, Gooseberries etc.
  4. Try not to go overboard, and remember the size of your plot/tubs etc.

Once you’ve made a list, and bought/collected your seeds make a growing plan. I make a simple table like this:

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  1. Name
  2. Sowing Months
  3. Planting Months
  4. Harvest Dates

(Download a template here!)

I also make a colour coded mark to show if it will be in the ground in winter/spring/summer. Doing this makes it easier when it comes to making a plan and working out successive planting and crop rotation.

 

Make your plan!

Get some card and cut it down to the rough shape of your veg plot. I find the inside of a cereal box is perfect for this. Using card makes it easier when you’re planting out and is a bit sturdier when it comes to making changes!

For my veg plots, I want to grow a variety of veg, so to make it easier to change things throughout the season, I’m dividing each plot into three. I’ve also cut out three templates for each plot so that I can make a plan for each season of the year (Spring, Summer, and Winter).

It’s then a case of putting pencil to paper (have a rubber handy!) and working out what you want to put where!

 

Veg Plot Plan

Using a plan like this will help keep things tidy and help you get the most out of your space. Now I’m off to make a to-do list to remind myself of when I need to get sowing!