Contact Please contact one of our commttee members. Chairman Chetana; email: chetana@hedgeendallotments.co.uk Vice Chairman Andy: email: andy@hedgeendallotments.co.uk
Secretary Maria; email: maria@hedgeendallotments.co.uk
Ideas - How to Start your Allotment: Starting an allotment can be a rather daunting task, especially if the plot has not been worked for some time. Wherever possible, some of the plots will be covered with a Landscape Cover to reduce the growth of weeds and wild grasses. A new hirer will be given 3 months in which to prepare and start cultivation. If the Town Council has implemented Landscape Cover, it is likely that the allotment will have up to 3 rolls across the plot. The hirer will be required to return each roll to the Town Council, either a roll at a time (as the plot is worked) or in its entirety at the start of the tenancy. To arrange collection of Landscape Covers, please telephone the Town Council office for a mutually convenient time and date. In any event, all Landscape Cover must be returned at the completion of 3 months tenancy and is the property of Hedge End Town Council.
Clearing your plot: Former tenants often leave unwanted materials and debris and, wherever possible, the Council seeks to deter this practice by retaining a Deposit. Once you have signed an Agreement, it will be your responsibility to clear the plot of any unwanted materials and debris. The Town Council has taken measures within the Agreement Appendix to prohibit the planting of trees, however, the more established plots will require Trees and shrubs to be dug out, but if this is not possible cutting to ground level and treating with weedkiller or merely removing all regrowth until they die out, will eliminate them in time. Weeds are best eradicated with systemic weedkillers based on glyphosate, applied from mid- spring until mid-autumn. Alternatively, vegetation can be buried during digging after removing the roots of perennial weeds. Rotovating a plot with perennial weeds can effectively multiply their growth. Smothering weeds by opaque mulches (carpet is not permitted on site) requires at least one growing season to be effective. This can be an effective way of dealing with a plot where clearing cannot be done before the growing season. Please remember that the Town Council Landscape Cover must be returned 3 months after the commencement of hire.
Working your plot: Once cleared, the soil can be broken up and ideally add organic matter by digging or rotovating, or while building raised beds. Take a soil test to find out the soil pH and whether it is lacking in any nutrients. This will help plan any lime or fertiliser application. Outfit the plot with Compost Bins, a Shed (with the authorisation of the Town Council only) and other useful items. It is imperative that you seek the authorisation of the Town Council and study the Agreement Appendix prior to any construction on site, i.e. sheds, greenhouses, polytunnels etc. Now you are ready to start planting! Make sure you make a crop rotation plan to get the best from your plot.
Weeds: non-chemical control: Weeds can be controlled without resorting to weedkillers. Cultural or organic control measures rely on killing or restricting the weeds by physical action, from manual removal to smothering and using weed barriers. All weeds can be controlled without weedkillers, but persistent or deep rooted weeds may be very difficult to eradicate. Ongoing control is likely to be necessary. Annual weeds (which only live for a year) and ephemeral weeds (which live for less than a year) are the easiest to control, as they are usually shallow rooted. However, they can scatter seed prolifically, so usually reappear and require further control. Deep-rooted perennial weeds (which die down in the winter and re-grow each spring) will re-grow from their roots if the tops are removed or burned off. They can be difficult to dig out and may grow up through weed barriers in time.
How to control weeds without chemicals: Manual removal and cutting back. Hoeing: Run a hoe over a bed or between rows to kill most weed seedlings. For maximum effectiveness, choose a dry day with a light wind, so that the seedlings will dry out on the surface of the bed rather than re-rooting into moist soil.
Hand-pulling or hand-weeding with a fork: Pull up annual weeds by hand before they set seed. Perennial weeds should be dug out with as much root (or bulb) as possible, using a hand or border fork. Hand weeding is easiest on lighter soils and should only be attempted where it will not disturb the roots of garden plants. Further pulling may be necessary with persistent weeds such as bindweed or couch grass where small root sections left behind can re-grow into new plants.
Weed knife and other weeding tools: A weed knife has a hooked end and is a useful tool for weeding between paving slabs and along path edging. Various other hooked, narrow-bladed or spiral-type tools are available for specific weeding jobs such as digging out dandelions on a lawn. Repeated cutting: In large weedy areas, repeated cutting to ground level over several years will weaken and even kill some weeds. This is usually done with a strimmer or sickle-type weeder.
Weed barriers: Mulching: Use deep organic mulches such as bark or wood chip to smother weeds around plants. To be effective, keep them topped up to a minimum depth of 10 – 15 cm. (4 – 6 ins.) to smother established annual weeds. Keep woody stems clear of mulch to prevent rotting. Edging boards or strips: These can be used to edge lawns and grass paths to prevent unwanted grass growth into the border. Especially useful where invasive rooted grasses such as couch grass are a problem. Root barriers: These can be inserted into the soil to stop the spread of perennial weeds such as ground elder and horsetail into neighbouring areas or gardens. They can also be used to restrict invasive plants such as bamboos, or suckering trees, shrubs and raspberries. A straight barrier can be formed from paving slabs or corrugated iron sheets, but for a flexible solution use a tough fabric like Rootbarrier.
Composting: Home composting is the most environmentally-friendly way of dealing with kitchen and garden waste, plus it produces compost that can be used as an excellent soil improver. Composting is useful in all gardens. Only in the very smallest gardens will it be difficult to find space for a compost heap and materials to fill it. Owners of such small plots could consider worm composting instead.
When to compost: Composting is done all year, as and when suitable materials are generated in the garden or home. However, late summer to early winter is the peak time for making compost. How to compost: The site and container It is important that the site is not subjected to extremes of temperature and moisture, as the micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi) that convert the waste to compost, work best in constant conditions. Position the bin in light shade or shade; it is often more convenient to use a shady area of the garden. An earth base allows drainage and access to soil organisms, but if you have no alternative and need to compost on a hard surface, then add a spade, full of soil, to the compost bin. Bins retain some warmth and moisture and make better compost more quickly, but even an open heap (not enclosed in a bin) will compost eventually. Any of the compost bins on the market should produce compost providing they exclude rain, retain some warmth, allow drainage and let in air. Bins less than 1 cubic m (1.3 cubic yd.) in size are much less effective than larger ones.
Getting the right balance of composting materials: Aim for between 25 and 50 percent soft green materials (e.g. grass clippings, annual weeds, vegetable kitchen waste, or manure) to feed the micro-organisms. The remainder should be woody brown material (e.g. prunings, wood chippings, paper, cardboard, straw or dead leaves). The bacteria and micro-organisms that produce the compost function best when the balance of green and brown materials is correct.  Avoid letting any single material dominate the heap - especially grass clippings, as these can become a slimy, smelly mess on their own. Kitchen waste and grass clippings are best mixed with brown woody material, as they tend to be wet and easily compacted, excluding air.
Some common composting materials: Green: Grass, clippings; soft, leafy plants including annual weeds; fruit and vegetables, uncooked kitchen waste; selected pet waste/bedding. Brown: prunings and hedge trimmings (ideally shredded), woodchip, leaves, paper and card (torn up or shredded), straw, plant stems. Accelerators and activators: Products such as ‘Garotta’ are sometimes added where green waste is in short supply. They contain high levels of nitrogen (a nutrient found in green waste), but should not be necessary if green waste is plentiful. It is also possible to purchase activators containing carbon (a nutrient found in brown woody waste); these are aimed at composting grass clippings or other green waste where there is insufficient brown waste. Lime: People sometimes think you need to add lime to the compost heap, but there is no need to do so.
Turning the heap: Turning the heap adds air; air is necessary for composting to occur. If the heap is too wet or becomes compacted, then the composting process is slower as less air is available. Ideally, place a lot of composting materials on the heap in one go, and turn it periodically (perhaps every month) to introduce air. Failure to turn the heap is probably the main cause of poor results. Remember to keep the heap moist in dry weather - turning will give you an opportunity to assess the moisture level.
When is the compost ready? Garden compost can take between six months and two years to reach maturity. Mature compost will be dark brown, with a crumbly soil-like texture and a smell resembling damp woodland. It is unlikely that all the material in the heap will be like this, but any remaining un-rotted material can be added to the next batch of composting materials. Problems: Sometimes the results of composting are not as expected. Wet, slimy and strong-smelling compost: Too little air and too much water are often to blame. Cover the heap to protect against rain and add more brown waste, such as chopped woody material, shredded woodchip, straw or paper. Dry and fibrous with little rotting: Usually caused by too little moisture and too much brown material. Add more green waste, or try a commercial activator or accelerator such as ‘Garotta’. Alternatively, add fresh manure at one bucket for every 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of compost, fish, blood and bone fertiliser at 270 g. (9 oz.) per 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of compost, or sulphate of ammonia fertiliser at 140 g. (5 ozs.) per 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of compost. Flies: Well-run compost bins don’t produce swarms of flies, but if you do see these, then make sure you cover kitchen waste with garden waste after adding it to the heap and check that moisture levels are not too high, causing insufficient air in the heap. Raised beds: Raised beds are a great way of growing a wide range of plants, and are particularly popular for growing fruit and vegetables. They are a good way of boosting drainage and can be used to introduce a different soil type to your garden. Raised beds are also a useful way to garden if you have restricted mobility, as they reduce the need to bend. You can grow almost any plants in raised beds, try the following: Soft fruits, such as strawberries, currants, raspberries and blackberries. Vegetables, almost any vegetable can be grown in raised beds. Ericaceous or lime hating plants, by filling beds with acid soil lime-hating plants may be grown in areas of alkaline soil.
Raised beds can be used to: Improve drainage: Soil is raised above the surrounding ground level. However, this can be a disadvantage during droughts as more watering may be needed. Increase soil temperature: Soil in raised beds is better drained, so warms up faster in spring. Enhance root health: Filling the beds with good topsoil enriched with fertiliser and organic matter gives excellent root zone conditions. Improve ease of management: Raised beds have a bigger soil volume than containers, so are easier to manage with watering. Match the soil to the plant: By filling raised beds with acid soil, for example, ericaceous (lime-hating) plants can be grown even where the underlying soil is alkaline. Improve ease of access: Raised beds are easier to manage for gardeners with mobility problems. Crop rotation: The principle of crop rotation is to grow specific groups of vegetables on a different part of the vegetable plot each year. This helps to reduce a build-up of crop-specific pest and disease problems and it organises groups of crops to suit their cultivation needs. Crop rotation is used in allotment plots and kitchen gardens for most annual vegetable crops. Perennial vegetables (such as rhubarb and asparagus) do not fit into the rotation. Certain annual crops such as cucurbits (courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, marrows and cucumbers), French and runner beans, salads (endive, lettuce and chicory) and sweetcorn can be grown wherever convenient, merely avoiding growing them too often in the same place. Plan your crop rotation before the growing season starts, and mark out the plots on the ground so you know where to plant each crop. Benefits of crop rotation: Soil fertility: Different crops have different nutrient requirements. Changing crops annually reduces the chance of particular soil deficiencies developing as the balance of nutrients removed from the soil tends to even out over time. Weed control: Some crops, like potatoes and squashes, with dense foliage or large leaves, suppress weeds, thus reducing maintenance and weed problems in following crops. Pest and disease control: Soil pests and diseases tend to attack specific plant families over and over again. By rotating crops between sites the pests tend to decline in the period when their host plants are absent which helps reduce build-up of damaging populations of spores, eggs and pests. Common diseases that can be helped avoided by rotation include clubroot in brassicas and onion white rot.
How to do crop rotation: Divide your vegetable garden or allotment into sections of equal size (depending on how much of each crop you want to grow), plus an extra section for perennial crops, such as rhubarb and asparagus. Group your crops as below: Brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohl-rabi, oriental greens, radish, swede and turnips. Legumes: Pea, broad beans (French and runner beans suffer from fewer soil problems and can be grown wherever convenient). Onions: Onion, garlic, shallot, leek Potato family: Potato, tomato, (pepper and aubergine suffer from fewer problems and can be grown anywhere in the rotation). Roots: Beetroot, carrot, celeriac, celery, Florence fennel, parsley, parsnip and all other root crops, except swedes and turnips, which are brassicas. Move each section of the plot a step forward every year so that, for example, brassicas follow legumes, onions and roots, legumes, onions and roots follow potatoes and potatoes follow brassicas. Here is a traditional three year rotation plan where potatoes and brassicas are important crops: Year one Section one: Potatoes. Section two: Legumes, onions and roots. Section three: Brassicas. Year two Section one: Legumes, onions and roots. Section two: Brassicas. Section three: Potatoes. Year three Section one: Brassicas. Section two: Potatoes. Section three: Legumes, onions and roots.
Soil: understanding pH and testing soil: When designing and planting your garden, you need to know whether the soil is acid or alkaline, as different plants thrive in different soils. The soil pH is a number that describes how acid or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0 and above 7.0 the soil is alkaline. When to test soil pH It is especially worth checking soil pH before designing or planting a new garden, making vegetable plots, planting fruit, when growth is disappointing, or where yellowing of foliage occurs. Lime is added to increase soil pH (make it more alkaline) and acidifying materials are added to decrease soil pH. Testing can be done at any time, but if carried out within three months of adding lime, fertiliser or organic matter, the test may give misleading results. How to test soil pH You can test your soil pH yourself using a DIY kit widely available at garden centres. These kits are relatively cheap and easy to use and give a good indication of soil pH. But for the best results, send a soil sample to a laboratory for detailed analysis. Always follow the sampling directions given by the rest kit or laboratory to get a representative sample for the area in question. Laboratory tests also detect free calcium carbonate (chalk or limestone). This may not be measured by DIY kits. A quick home test to check for free calcium carbonate is to add vinegar to a soil sample. If ‘fizzing’ is seen, free calcium carbonate is present. Interpreting the results of a soil pH test A pH test measures soil acidity or alkalinity. A pH 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0. Above pH 7.0 the soil is alkaline. pH 3.0 – 5.0 Very acid soil. Most plant nutrients, particularly calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper, become more soluble under very acid conditions and are easily washed away. 10 Most phosphates are locked up and unavailable to plants below pH 5.1, although some acid tolerant plants can utilise aluminium phosphate. Acid sandy soils are often deficient in trace elements. Bacteria cannot rot organic matter below pH 4.7 resulting in fewer nutrients being available to plants. Action: Add lime to raise the pH to above 5.0. The addition of lime can help break up acid clay soils. pH 5.1 – 6.0 Acid soil. Ideal for ericaceous (lime-hating) plants such as rhododendrons, camellias and heathers. Action: Add lime if other plants are grown. pH 6.1 – 7.0 Moderately acid soil. A pH 6.5 is the best general purpose pH for gardens, allowing a wide range of plants to grow, except lime-hating plants. The availability of major nutrients is at its highest and bacterial and earthworm activity is optimum at this pH. Action: It is not usually necessary to add anything to improve soil pH at this level. pH 7.1 – 8.0 Alkaline soil. Phosphorus availability decreases: Iron and manganese become less available leading to lime-induced chlorosis. But an advantage of this pH level is that clubroot disease of cabbage family crops (brassicas) is reduced. Action: Sulphur, iron sulphate and other acidifying agents can sometimes be added to reduce pH. Clay soils often require very large amounts of acidifying material and soils with free chalk or lime are not usually treatable.
Green manures: Green manures are fast-growing plants sown to cover bare soil. Often used in the vegetable garden, their foliage smothers weeds and their roots prevent soil erosion. When dug into the ground while still green, they return valuable nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure. Green manures are usually sown in late summer or autumn and mop up any nutrients, preventing them being washed away by winter rain. When dug in the following spring, they release these nutrients back into the soil. Winter grazing rye and winter tares are hardy green manures that will carry on growing all winter before being incorporated back into the soil in spring. Green manures can also be used to cover bare patches of soil in the spaces between crops, or during intervals between one crop and the next. Fast growing mustard sown before mid-September can be incorporated in October, for example, or the frosted remains left as mulch. Summer-grown green manures such as buckwheat and fenugreek form dense foliage that will effectively suppress weeds. Green manures belonging to the pea and bean family (legumes) have the additional capacity of storing (fixing) nitrogen from the air to their root nodules, but only in summer. Nitrogen is a valuable plant nutrient. Other benefits of green manures include protection of the soil surface from compaction by rain and shelter for beneficial insects such as ground beetles. How to use green manures: Sow seeds in rows, or broadcast them across the soil and rake into the surface. Once the land is needed for cropping, chop the foliage down and leave it to wilt. Dig the plants and foliage into the top 25 cm (10 ins.) of soil. After digging in, the site should be left for two weeks or more before sowing or planting out as decaying green materials can hamper plant growth. Cultivar selection: Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): This perennial legume can be dug in after two or three months or left for one to two years; sow in April to July; good for alkalinesoils. Nitrogen fixing may only occur if the seed is inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria prior to sowing. Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum): This perennial legume can either be dug in after two or three months or left in for one or two years: good for wet, acid soils; sow in April to August. Bitter blue lupin (Lupinus angustifolius):  This perennial flowering legume suits light, sandy, acid soils; sow in March to June and leave for two or three months before digging in. Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum):  This half hardy annual will only grow in spring and summer best sown in April to August, it can be left for two or three months after sowing; grows well on nutrient-poor soils. Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum): This perennial legume is good for light soils; sow in March to August and leave in for two or three months up to flowering. Essex red clover (Trifolium pratense): This hardy perennial legume overwinters well and can be left in for two or three months or for one or two years after sowing; good for loamy soils; sow March to August. Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-graecum): This annual legume will only grow in the spring and summer; it is unlikely to fix nitrogen in the UK. Grazing rye (Secale cereal): This annual crop is good for soil structure and overwinters well; sow in August to November and dig in the following spring. Mustard (Sinapis alba): This annual crop from the brassica family should not be followed by other brassicas, as it could encourage build-up of the disease clubroot; sow in March to September and leave for two or three months before digging in. Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia):  Later sowings of this annual crop may overwinter in mild areas, but it is generally best sown in April to August and dug in after two or three months; its flowers are very pretty. Trefoil (Medicago lupulina): This legume can be annual or biennial and overwinters well but needs light, dry alkaline soil; it can be dug in after two or three months or left for one or two years after sowing; sow in March to August. Winter field bean (Vicia faba):  This annual legume can be left for two or three months after sowing (up to flowering) and is good for heavy soils; sow in September to November. Winter tares (Vicia sativa): This annual legume is hardy and overwinters well, even in heavy soils; sow either in March to August and leave for two or three months before digging in, or sow in July to September for overwintering.
Weeds: non-chemical control: Weeds can be controlled without resorting to weedkillers. Cultural or organic control measures rely on killing or restricting the weeds by physical action, from manual removal to smothering and using weed barriers. All weeds can be controlled without weedkillers, but persistent or deep rooted weeds may be very difficult to eradicate. Ongoing control is likely to be necessary. Annual weeds (which only live for a year) and ephemeral weeds (which live for less than a year) are the easiest to control, as they are usually shallow rooted. However, they can scatter seed prolifically, so usually reappear and require further control. Deep-rooted perennial weeds (which die down in the winter and re-grow each spring) will re-grow from their roots if the tops are removed or burned off. They can be difficult to dig out and may grow up through weed barriers in time.
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COPYRIGHT2018 WWW.HEDGEENDALLOTMENTS.CO.UK ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DESIGNED AND HOSTED BY AH MARKETING
Contact Please contact one of our committee members. Chairman Chetana; email: chetana@hedgeendallotments.co.uk Vice Chairman Andy: email: andy@hedgeendallotments.co.uk
Secretary Maria; email: maria@hedgeendallotments.co.uk
Ideas - How to Start your Allotment. Starting an allotment can be a rather daunting task, especially if the plot has not been worked for some time. Wherever possible, some of the plots will be covered with a Landscape Cover to reduce the growth of weeds and wild grasses. A new hirer will be given 3 months in which to prepare and start cultivation. If the Town Council has implemented Landscape Cover, it is likely that the allotment will have up to 3 rolls across the plot. The hirer will be required to return each roll to the Town Council, either a roll at a time (as the plot is worked) or in its entirety at the start of the tenancy. To arrange collection of Landscape Covers, please telephone the Town Council office for a mutually convenient time and date. In any event, all Landscape Cover must be returned at the completion of 3 months tenancy and is the property of Hedge End Town Council.
Clearing your plot: Former tenants often leave unwanted materials and debris and, wherever possible, the Council seeks to deter this practice by retaining a Deposit. Once you have signed an Agreement, it will be your responsibility to clear the plot of any unwanted materials and debris. The Town Council has taken measures within the Agreement Appendix to prohibit the planting of trees, however, the more established plots will require Trees and shrubs to be dug out, but if this is not possible cutting to ground level and treating with weedkiller or merely removing all regrowth until they die out, will eliminate them in time. Weeds are best eradicated with systemic weedkillers based on glyphosate, applied from mid-spring until mid-autumn. Alternatively, vegetation can be buried during digging after removing the roots of perennial weeds. Rotovating a plot with perennial weeds can effectively multiply their growth. Smothering weeds by opaque mulches (carpet is not permitted on site) requires at least one growing season to be effective. This can be an effective way of dealing with a plot where clearing cannot be done before the growing season. Please remember that the Town Council Landscape Cover must be returned 3 months after the commencement of hire.                                                       TOP
Working your plot: Once cleared, the soil can be broken up and ideally add organic matter by digging or rotovating, or while building raised beds. Take a soil test to find out the soil pH and whether it is lacking in any nutrients. This will help plan any lime or fertiliser application. Outfit the plot with Compost Bins, a Shed (with the authorisation of the Town Council only) and other useful items. It is imperative that you seek the authorisation of the Town Council and study the Agreement Appendix prior to any construction on site, i.e. sheds, greenhouses, polytunnels etc. Now you are ready to start planting! Make sure you make a crop rotation plan to get the best from your plot.
Weeds: non-chemical control: Weeds can be controlled without resorting to weedkillers. Cultural or organic control measures rely on killing or restricting the weeds by physical action, from manual removal to smothering and using weed barriers. All weeds can be controlled without weedkillers, but persistent or deep rooted weeds may be very difficult to eradicate. Ongoing control is likely to be necessary. Annual weeds (which only live for a year) and ephemeral weeds (which live for less than a year) are the easiest to control, as they are usually shallow rooted. However, they can scatter seed prolifically, so usually reappear and require further control. Deep-rooted perennial weeds (which die down in the winter and re-grow each spring) will re-grow from their roots if the tops are removed or burned off. They can be difficult to dig out and may grow up through weed barriers in time.
How to control weeds without chemicals: Manual removal and cutting back. Hoeing: Run a hoe over a bed or between rows to kill most weed seedlings. For maximum effectiveness, choose a dry day with a light wind, so that the seedlings will dry out on the surface of the bed rather than re-rooting into moist soil.
Hand-pulling or hand-weeding with a fork: Pull up annual weeds by hand before they set seed. Perennial weeds should be dug out with as much root (or bulb) as possible, using a hand or border fork. Hand weeding is easiest on lighter soils and should only be attempted where it will not disturb the roots of garden plants. Further pulling may be necessary with persistent weeds such as bindweed or couch grass where small root sections left behind can re-grow into new plants.
Weed knife and other weeding tools: A weed knife has a hooked end and is a useful tool for weeding between paving slabs and along path edging. Various other hooked, narrow-bladed or spiral- type tools are available for specific weeding jobs such as digging out dandelions on a lawn. Repeated cutting: In large weedy areas, repeated cutting to ground level over several years will weaken and even kill some weeds. This is usually done with a strimmer or sickle-type weeder.                                                                  TOP
Weed barriers Mulching: Use deep organic mulches such as bark or wood chip to smother weeds around plants. To be effective, keep them topped up to a minimum depth of 10 – 15 cm. (4 – 6 ins.) to smother established annual weeds. Keep woody stems clear of mulch to prevent rotting. Edging boards or strips: These can be used to edge lawns and grass paths to prevent unwanted grass growth into the border. Especially useful where invasive rooted grasses such as couch grass are a problem. Root barriers: These can be inserted into the soil to stop the spread of perennial weeds such as ground elder and horsetail into neighbouring areas or gardens. They can also be used to restrict invasive plants such as bamboos, or suckering trees, shrubs and raspberries. A straight barrier can be formed from paving slabs or corrugated iron sheets, but for a flexible solution use a tough fabric like Rootbarrier.
Composting Home composting is the most environmentally-friendly way of dealing with kitchen and garden waste, plus it produces compost that can be used as an excellent soil improver. 4 Composting is useful in all gardens. Only in the very smallest gardens will it be difficult to find space for a compost heap and materials to fill it. Owners of such small plots could consider worm composting instead.
When to compost Composting is done all year, as and when suitable materials are generated in the garden or home. However, late summer to early winter is the peak time for making compost. How to compost The site and container It is important that the site is not subjected to extremes of temperature and moisture, as the micro-organisms (bacteria and fungi) that convert the waste to compost, work best in constant conditions. Position the bin in light shade or shade; it is often more convenient to use a shady area of the garden. An earth base allows drainage and access to soil organisms, but if you have no alternative and need to compost on a hard surface, then add a spade, full of soil, to the compost bin. Bins retain some warmth and moisture and make better compost more quickly, but even an open heap (not enclosed in a bin) will compost eventually. Any of the compost bins on the market should produce compost providing they exclude rain, retain some warmth, allow drainage and let in air. Bins less than 1 cubic m (1.3 cubic yd.) in size are much less effective than larger ones.
Getting the right balance of composting materials Aim for between 25 and 50 percent soft green materials (e.g. grass clippings, annual weeds, vegetable kitchen waste, or manure) to feed the micro-organisms. The remainder should be woody brown material (e.g. prunings, wood chippings, paper, cardboard, straw or dead leaves). The bacteria and micro-organisms that produce the compost function best when the balance of green and brown materials is correct. 5 Avoid letting any single material dominate the heap - especially grass clippings, as these can become a slimy, smelly mess on their own. Kitchen waste and grass clippings are best mixed with brown woody material, as they tend to be wet and easily compacted, excluding air.
Some common composting materials Green: Grass, clippings; soft, leafy plants including annual weeds; fruit and vegetables, uncooked kitchen waste; selected pet waste/bedding. Brown: prunings and hedge trimmings (ideally shredded), woodchip, leaves, paper and card (torn up or shredded), straw, plant stems. Accelerators and activators: Products such as ‘Garotta’ are sometimes added where green waste is in short supply. They contain high levels of nitrogen (a nutrient found in green waste), but should not be necessary if green waste is plentiful. It is also possible to purchase activators containing carbon (a nutrient found in brown woody waste); these are aimed at composting grass clippings or other green waste where there is insufficient brown waste. Lime: People sometimes think you need to add lime to the compost heap, but there is no need to do so.
Turning the heap Turning the heap adds air; air is necessary for composting to occur. If the heap is too wet or becomes compacted, then the composting process is slower as less air is available. Ideally, place a lot of composting materials on the heap in one go, and turn it periodically (perhaps every month) to introduce air. Failure to turn the heap is probably the main cause of poor results. Remember to keep the heap moist in dry weather - turning will give you an opportunity to assess the moisture level.
When is the compost ready? Garden compost can take between six months and two years to reach maturity. Mature compost will be dark brown, with a crumbly soil-like texture and a smell resembling damp woodland. It is unlikely that all the material in the heap will be like this, but any remaining un-rotted material can be added to the next batch of composting materials. 6 Problems Sometimes the results of composting are not as expected. Wet, slimy and strong-smelling compost: Too little air and too much water are often to blame. Cover the heap to protect against rain and add more brown waste, such as chopped woody material, shredded woodchip, straw or paper. Dry and fibrous with little rotting: Usually caused by too little moisture and too much brown material. Add more green waste, or try a commercial activator or accelerator such as ‘Garotta’. Alternatively, add fresh manure at one bucket for every 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of compost, fish, blood and bone fertiliser at 270 g. (9 oz.) per 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of compost, or sulphate of ammonia fertiliser at 140 g. (5 ozs.) per 15 cm (6 ins.) layer of compost. Flies: Well-run compost bins don’t produce swarms of flies, but if you do see these, then make sure you cover kitchen waste with garden waste after adding it to the heap and check that moisture levels are not too high, causing insufficient air in the heap. Raised beds Raised beds are a great way of growing a wide range of plants, and are particularly popular for growing fruit and vegetables. They are a good way of boosting drainage and can be used to introduce a different soil type to your garden. Raised beds are also a useful way to garden if you have restricted mobility, as they reduce the need to bend. You can grow almost any plants in raised beds, try the following: Soft fruits, such as strawberries, currants, raspberries and blackberries. Vegetables, almost any vegetable can be grown in raised beds. Ericaceous or lime hating plants, by filling beds with acid soil lime-hating plants may be grown in areas of alkaline soil.
Raised beds can be used to: Improve drainage: Soil is raised above the surrounding ground level. However, this can be a disadvantage during droughts as more watering may be needed. Increase soil temperature: Soil in raised beds is better drained, so warms up faster in spring. 7 Enhance root health: Filling the beds with good topsoil enriched with fertiliser and organic matter gives excellent root zone conditions. Improve ease of management: Raised beds have a bigger soil volume than containers, so are easier to manage with watering. Match the soil to the plant: By filling raised beds with acid soil, for example, ericaceous (lime-hating) plants can be grown even where the underlying soil is alkaline. Improve ease of access: Raised beds are easier to manage for gardeners with mobility problems. Crop rotation The principle of crop rotation is to grow specific groups of vegetables on a different part of the vegetable plot each year. This helps to reduce a build-up of crop-specific pest and disease problems and it organises groups of crops to suit their cultivation needs. Crop rotation is used in allotment plots and kitchen gardens for most annual vegetable crops. Perennial vegetables (such as rhubarb and asparagus) do not fit into the rotation. Certain annual crops such as cucurbits (courgettes, pumpkins, squashes, marrows and cucumbers), French and runner beans, salads (endive, lettuce and chicory) and sweetcorn can be grown wherever convenient, merely avoiding growing them too often in the same place. Plan your crop rotation before the growing season starts, and mark out the plots on the ground so you know where to plant each crop. Benefits of crop rotation Soil fertility: Different crops have different nutrient requirements. Changing crops annually reduces the chance of particular soil deficiencies developing as the balance of nutrients removed from the soil tends to even out over time. Weed control: Some crops, like potatoes and squashes, with dense foliage or large leaves, suppress weeds, thus reducing maintenance and weed problems in following crops. Pest and disease control: Soil pests and diseases tend to attack specific plant families over and over again. By rotating crops between sites the pests tend to decline in the period when their host plants are absent which helps reduce build-up of damaging populations of spores, eggs and pests. Common diseases 8 that can be helped avoided by rotation include clubroot in brassicas and onion white rot.
How to do crop rotation. Divide your vegetable garden or allotment into sections of equal size (depending on how much of each crop you want to grow), plus an extra section for perennial crops, such as rhubarb and asparagus. Group your crops as below: Brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohl-rabi, oriental greens, radish, swede and turnips. Legumes: Pea, broad beans (French and runner beans suffer from fewer soil problems and can be grown wherever convenient). Onions: Onion, garlic, shallot, leek Potato family: Potato, tomato, (pepper and aubergine suffer from fewer problems and can be grown anywhere in the rotation). Roots: Beetroot, carrot, celeriac, celery, Florence fennel, parsley, parsnip and all other root crops, except swedes and turnips, which are brassicas. Move each section of the plot a step forward every year so that, for example, brassicas follow legumes, onions and roots, legumes, onions and roots follow potatoes and potatoes follow brassicas. Here is a traditional three year rotation plan where potatoes and brassicas are important crops: Year one Section one: Potatoes. Section two: Legumes, onions and roots. Section three: Brassicas. Year two Section one: Legumes, onions and roots. Section two: Brassicas. Section three: Potatoes. Year three Section one: Brassicas. Section two: Potatoes. Section three: Legumes, onions and roots.
Soil: understanding pH and testing soil When designing and planting your garden, you need to know whether the soil is acid or alkaline, as different plants thrive in different soils. The soil pH is a number that describes how acid or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0 and above 7.0 the soil is alkaline. When to test soil pH It is especially worth checking soil pH before designing or planting a new garden, making vegetable plots, planting fruit, when growth is disappointing, or where yellowing of foliage occurs. Lime is added to increase soil pH (make it more alkaline) and acidifying materials are added to decrease soil pH. Testing can be done at any time, but if carried out within three months of adding lime, fertiliser or organic matter, the test may give misleading results. How to test soil pH You can test your soil pH yourself using a DIY kit widely available at garden centres. These kits are relatively cheap and easy to use and give a good indication of soil pH. But for the best results, send a soil sample to a laboratory for detailed analysis. Always follow the sampling directions given by the rest kit or laboratory to get a representative sample for the area in question. Laboratory tests also detect free calcium carbonate (chalk or limestone). This may not be measured by DIY kits. A quick home test to check for free calcium carbonate is to add vinegar to a soil sample. If ‘fizzing’ is seen, free calcium carbonate is present. Interpreting the results of a soil pH test A pH test measures soil acidity or alkalinity. A pH 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0. Above pH 7.0 the soil is alkaline. pH 3.0 – 5.0 Very acid soil. Most plant nutrients, particularly calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper, become more soluble under very acid conditions and are easily washed away. 10 Most phosphates are locked up and unavailable to plants below pH 5.1, although some acid tolerant plants can utilise aluminium phosphate. Acid sandy soils are often deficient in trace elements. Bacteria cannot rot organic matter below pH 4.7 resulting in fewer nutrients being available to plants. Action: Add lime to raise the pH to above 5.0. The addition of lime can help break up acid clay soils. pH 5.1 – 6.0 Acid soil. Ideal for ericaceous (lime-hating) plants such as rhododendrons, camellias and heathers. Action: Add lime if other plants are grown. pH 6.1 – 7.0 Moderately acid soil. A pH 6.5 is the best general purpose pH for gardens, allowing a wide range of plants to grow, except lime-hating plants. The availability of major nutrients is at its highest and bacterial and earthworm activity is optimum at this pH. Action: It is not usually necessary to add anything to improve soil pH at this level. pH 7.1 – 8.0 Alkaline soil. Phosphorus availability decreases. Iron and manganese become less available leading to lime-induced chlorosis. But an advantage of this pH level is that clubroot disease of cabbage family crops (brassicas) is reduced. Action: Sulphur, iron sulphate and other acidifying agents can sometimes be added to reduce pH. Clay soils often require very large amounts of acidifying material and soils with free chalk or lime are not usually treatable.
Green manures Green manures are fast-growing plants sown to cover bare soil. Often used in the vegetable garden, their foliage smothers weeds and their roots prevent soil erosion. When dug into the ground while still green, they return valuable nutrients to the soil and improve soil structure. Green manures are usually sown in late summer or autumn and mop up any nutrients, preventing them being washed away by winter rain. When dug in the following spring, they release these nutrients back into the soil. Winter grazing rye and winter tares are hardy green manures that will carry on growing all winter before being incorporated back into the soil in spring. Green manures can also be used to cover bare patches of soil in the spaces between crops, or during intervals between one crop and the next. Fast growing mustard sown before mid-September can be incorporated in October, for example, or the frosted remains left as mulch. Summer-grown green manures such as buckwheat and fenugreek form dense foliage that will effectively suppress weeds. Green manures belonging to the pea and bean family (legumes) have the additional capacity of storing (fixing) nitrogen from the air to their root nodules, but only in summer. Nitrogen is a valuable plant nutrient. Other benefits of green manures include protection of the soil surface from compaction by rain and shelter for beneficial insects such as ground beetles. How to use green manures Sow seeds in rows, or broadcast them across the soil and rake into the surface. Once the land is needed for cropping, chop the foliage down and leave it to wilt. Dig the plants and foliage into the top 25 cm (10 ins.) of soil. After digging in, the site should be left for two weeks or more before sowing or planting out as decaying green materials can hamper plant growth. Cultivar selection Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): This perennial legume can be dug in after two or three months or left for one to two years; sow in April to July; good for alkaline 12 soils. Nitrogen fixing may only occur if the seed is inoculated with nitrogen fixing bacteria prior to sowing. Alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum): This perennial legume can either be dug in after two or three months or left in for one or two years: good for wet, acid soils; sow in April to August. Bitter blue lupin (Lupinus angustifolius): This perennial flowering legume suits light, sandy, acid soils; sow in March to June and leave for two or three months before digging in. Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum): This half hardy annual will only grow in spring and summer best sown in April to August, it can be left for two or three months after sowing; grows well on nutrient-poor soils. Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum): This perennial legume is good for light soils; sow in March to August and leave in for two or three months up to flowering. Essex red clover (Trifolium pratense): This hardy perennial legume overwinters well and can be left in for two or three months or for one or two years after sowing; good for loamy soils; sow March to August. Fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-graecum): This annual legume will only grow in the spring and summer; it is unlikely to fix nitrogen in the UK. Grazing rye (Secale cereal): This annual crop is good for soil structure and overwinters well; sow in August to November and dig in the following spring. Mustard (Sinapis alba): This annual crop from the brassica family should not be followed by other brassicas, as it could encourage build-up of the disease clubroot; sow in March to September and leave for two or three months before digging in. Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia): Later sowings of this annual crop may overwinter in mild areas, but it is generally best sown in April to August and dug in after two or three months; its flowers are very pretty. Trefoil (Medicago lupulina): This legume can be annual or biennial and overwinters well but needs light, dry alkaline soil; it can be dug in after two or three months or left for one or two years after sowing; sow in March to August. 13 Winter field bean (Vicia faba): This annual legume can be left for two or three months after sowing (up to flowering) and is good for heavy soils; sow in September to November. Winter tares (Vicia sativa): This annual legume is hardy and overwinters well, even in heavy soils; sow either in March to August and leave for two or three months before digging in, or sow in July to September for overwintering.
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