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Author Topic: Limited compost- where best to use it?  (Read 1425 times)

Creagan

  • Joined Jun 2013
Limited compost- where best to use it?
« on: March 22, 2020, 09:27:52 am »
Hi everyone
haven't been on this forum in a long time but like millions of other people I think now is the time to get back in the garden!
I have mostly quite thin soil on top of rock, the water table can be close to the surface, so I'm going for raised beds.
Have a couple of large deep tubs (half barrels) that I am thinking of using for carrots
Have built a large (3x3m) raised bed for the tatties
Also want to do kale, peas, rocket, spinach, some beans, maybe leeks, but I haven't started anything for them to go in yet.

I've got a small compost heap and want to know where best to use it. Which veg should get priority?
There are also some piles of slimy rotten grass clippings at the far ends of the garden, where I couldn't be bothered making the trek to the compost heap.
I have some reasonable topsoil I can steal from where I had a bit of landscaping done, it's banked up and grassed over but there is a fair depth to it.
Lastly, as I am on the coast I have access to abundant seaweed.

It crossed my mind that a lazy-bed approach might work, and be less effort/materials than raised beds- that's how people up here grew their tatties in the past. So maybe I should change plans and do lazy-bed tatties, and use the big raised bed for something else? Nothing has been planted yet so still time to do things differently.

Thanks!
Voss Electric Fence

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2020, 11:52:36 am »
Hi Creagan, whereabouts are you? North Scotland somewhere?


My soil sounds similar to yours, thin over rock, except we have pockets of deeper volcanic soil in places, which is where we grow our vegs.
In the past I have always grown in the ground, but this year we have made 6 x 1mx2m raised beds inside our polyttunnel, using scaffold boards (9" deep) for the sides.  To fill these I bought 2 x tonne sacks of mushroom compost from a farm about 50 miles away - the 2 bags fitted into the sheep trailer perfectly (delivery charges were high.) Is there anywhere within striking distance of yours which sells mushroom compost?   The 2 bags were not enough to fill 6 beds, so we used molehill soil (plenty of that!), our own FYM, and old bags of multipurpose compost as well.

I like the lazy beds idea for the tatties, as they do need deepish soil. Do you have any livestock bedding you can use for bulk?  Tatties are quite forgiving about the freshness of manure.  Definitely don't waste your precious compost on them!  You could use your slimey grass clippings mixed in to the tattie bed, and for the rest of the year add a bout a 2" layer whenever it's available.  It will dry before it rots if we have sun and will help to keep the light off and the weeds down.


If your compost is well broken down, mix that with the soil, seived if you can, for the carrots, plus some sand unless your soil is already sandy.
Peas and beans like fairly rich soil, and leeks and brassicas such as kale and sprouting broccoli like very rich soil so need FYM.
I envy you your access to seaweed - we are slap bang in the middle of the south of Scotland, about as far from the sea as we can get :( .  You can use it anywhere, so be generous but of course it rots down to little bulk.  Is there anything else you have in your environment to help fill the beds?


Don't make your beds more than 4 feet wide as you end up standing on the soil.  We are finding 3 feet is wide enough.  Don't expect your beds to be perfect in their first year - it takes a few seasons to develop their fertility, by adding more compost or FYM on the top and letting the earthworms work it in for you.


Good luck with your new veg project  :garden:
« Last Edit: March 22, 2020, 11:57:31 am by Fleecewife »
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Creagan

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2020, 05:52:34 pm »
Yes I'm on Skye, so climate fairly harsh, frosts don't tend to get too severe though.

I'm not aware of any big suppliers of mushroom compost around here, and the local garden place has more or less run out of everything. We're also isolated right now and unable to go out and get things.

We've decided to switch plans and keep the tubs for salads/herbs, use the big raised bed for kale/leeks/carrots/peas, and the tatties are going into the ground. The raised bed has a right mixture in it- we needed to throw everything in there just to fill it! So there's a lot of compost, good topsoil, some FYM that fell off a passing tractor (yes, really), and some half-composted grass clippings. All well forked up and now covered in an old tarp.

The tattie patch has been cleared of scrub and black plastic sheeting laid over the top. I'm going to dig it into lazy beds to provide drainage and soil depth (although actually the soil is not as shallow as I feared- the water table is pretty high, though). Once I am out and about again I'll be piling seaweed on as a mulch, with grass clippings later in the year.

Hope I'm on the right track! :)

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2020, 06:26:31 pm »
Sounds perfect  :garden:   :thumbsup:
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Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

Creagan

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2020, 10:39:10 am »
Thanks!
Just reading up about use of black plastic... I had a big roll left over from a building project, so cost isn't an issue. I understand there might be concerns about long term use if it breaks down and can't be disposed of properly. But I like the idea of having less weeding to do- and I think the increased soil temperature will be very beneficial for me.

Is there a possibility that the soil will become too wet if there is plastic on top? I'm much more worried about waterlogging than I am about the soil drying out.

A friend suggested cardboard, I just used the plastic as I already had it.

Steph Hen

  • Joined Jul 2013
  • Angus Scotland.
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2020, 10:47:41 am »
I use cardboard, lots of it! Because it’s what I have.
Charles dowding says worms like working under black aplastic. If it’s raised bed that’s covered I don’t think it’ll get water logged.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2020, 12:29:50 pm »
With black plastic, the soil doesn't really get any wetter under it, it retains the moisture that was already there until the plants use it.  If your beds are sitting in water, then the soil will be wet but not waterlogged (dig in grit to preserve drainage).  Make sure your beds are deep enough so that deep rooted plants do not have their roots sitting in the waterlogged ground.


We have used black plastic very successfully for crops such as onions, brassicas and strawberries, in other words plants which need a space between them and their neighbours.  It works well for potatoes too, especially if you add a layer of straw on top to keep the leaves from sprawling in puddles on the plastic (add the soggy remains to the compost heap).  Plastic is photodegradable ie it will eventually shred in the sun, which is a bit of a disaster trying to pick the bits out of the soil.  We found that certain weeds such as thistles will pop up next to the crop plant through the hole cut for it - difficult to remove properly.  Don't let pigs or terriers near it either, as they both speed up the shredding  :rant: Slugs and mice tend to live under the plastic, especially with a potato crop.


I sourced some biodegradable film made from cellulose I think, which disappears and returns to the soil after 3 or 4 months.  It is flimsy to use and you really need to get it tight over the ground - I shall report back later this year, atbe, on whether or not it's a success.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2020, 12:32:04 pm by Fleecewife »
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Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

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Creagan

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2020, 05:38:16 pm »
Hmmm slugs and mice living under the plastic sounds a bit worrying!
I'm going to keep the plastic down for now to kill off the turf/weeds. But maybe I could swap it for cardboard when it comes time to plant the tatties (waiting on them arriving just now).

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2020, 06:49:33 pm »
I sprinkle organic slug pellets - the kind that degrades to ferrous something or other - under the polythene before I lay it.  It's not hordes of mice, just one or two - until the babies leave the nest.....


I haven't had success with growing through cardboard as it's too hard and cuts the plant stems.  I use it in winter on bare soil, with a 30cm layer of poultry house cleanings, mostly straw, underneath.  The cardboard gets rotted by the rain over winter so contributes to the soil humus (take off tape etc before use as that does not rot down).
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Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

Creagan

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2020, 08:12:22 pm »
I haven't had success with growing through cardboard as it's too hard and cuts the plant stems.

Interesting. I would be using it for tatties which I thought would be fairly robust. But I can stick with plastic.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2020, 10:19:32 pm »
The only way we find out what works for us is by trial and error, so try them both and see which works best  :thumbsup:
www.scothebs.co.uk

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

Creagan

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2020, 12:00:33 pm »
Another thought on this... my big raised bed is, funnily enough, too big for comfortable working. But I was just using the timber I had available and it kind of looks cool, like the start of a log cabin.
How about I stick four fence posts in the middle, forming a square, and have a compost heap actually in the middle of the bed?? I would be able to reach over and tip grass clippings and kitchen waste into it. Then at the end of the year break it down and mix everything up thoroughly. No double handling involved! The main downside I can see is that I can't really turn the heap easily. But I never turned my old heap anyway. It's probably not a good idea... or is it?

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Limited compost- where best to use it?
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2020, 12:37:52 pm »
I can see what you mean and it just could work.  It might be an idea to have planks available to walk on to reach across, because in real life you are bound to end up standing on and compacting the soil.  We tend to end up with a very pointed compost heap if we just tip but don't spread to all corners of the heap.  Give it a go and report back  :thumbsup:   :garden:
www.scothebs.co.uk

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie

 

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