Friday, 21 November 2014

How To: Simple Ways to Get Your Garden Growing

Spring has well and truly sprung in the Dig It! Garden. With the warmer temperatures, a bit of rain and a good measure of sun, we are finally seeing results in the form of vigorous growth. But what can you do if your garden isn't taking off like you hoped? Here are a few of the cheap and effective ways we've been feeding our soil. 


Animal Manure

If you're prepared to put in a little hard labour, animal manure is a wonderful tonic for a flagging garden. You might be surprised to find a local Pony Club or farm nearby that might be pleased to have someone to take away their unwanted manure. You could of course take the easy road and purchase it too!

There are plenty of ways to use it. We collected horse 'doo doo' and put layers into our compost beds. You'll be amazed with the amount of worms you'll find - perfect food for active compost.

We also buried this underneath a layer of compost beneath our
  • potatoes
  • courgettes
  • tomatoes
  • sweet corn
  • cucumbers and
  • pumpkins.
In fact, this will go well under virtually any fruiting plant.

On point to note about manure, is that it's important to dig it in. If you leave too much on the surface, the birds can easily undo all your hard work on their hunt for worms (hidden inside the manure!).

Seaweed/Comfrey Tea

We've also headed out to the beach of a foraging mission. Not for the usual seafood fare this time, but for seaweed.

You might not realise, but seaweed makes an incredible mulch and only costs your time and effort to collect it! I'd recommend planting it about 20cm deep. If you have enough, repeat this in about a week's time as it shrinks so much. It's also a great activator for your compost, so consider throwing some in there too. As well as using it to mulch the Dig It! garden beds, we also made some seaweed tea.

Here's how I do it:
  1. I use a 30-40 litre container and fill this by a third with seaweed and top this up with water. 
  2. Make a reviving cup of tea to celebrate my efforts.
  3. Leave it to 'brew' with the lid on in the sun for around six to eight weeks.
  4. Once the time is up, I dilute it at a 10:1 ratio and water directly onto foliage with a watering can. Once a week if you have the energy.
  5. Enjoy healthy, thriving plants!

If you have comfrey growing in your garden you can use a similar process.

Half fill a container with chopped leaves and then fill with water, seal and stand in semi-shade for three weeks. Once the comfrey tea is ready dilute it with water to a 50:50 ration and apply to the garden every three weeks in growing season.

I'd recommend picking just before it flowers as that's when its nutrient levels are at their highest. Because comfrey is so deep rooting it mines minerals that are not usually available to your vegetable seedlings. This plant is an incredible grower, so be sure to ask friends or neighbours if they have some they can spare.

For both Seaweed and Comfrey Teas I recommend what's know as a foliar feed. This simply means watering directly onto the plant, not the roots and allows the plant absorb nutrients rapidly. Both teas or fertilisers contain an abundance of ready to use (or  fully chelated if you want to get technical) micro nutrients which can be readily absorbed by plants without any further chemical decomposition needed to boost lethargic plants. Not only is this provide wonderful nutrition for your plants foliar feeding has the added benefit of protecting your plants from pests and diseases. A win, win.

And how do you know if your garden needs some TLC? Dig up some of your garden and check from worms. They're a great indicator of healthy soil. Same goes for birds. If they're interested in your garden, there's a good chance they're hanging around for a reason!

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