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Slow Garden Chronicle: Compost

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I’m so excited, because I’ve just arranged a compost delivery from one of our local farms.  I’m expecting a tonne of well-rotted cow manure to arrive in January.  That’s what can happen if you start chatting about the relative merits of different manures when you visit your farm shop!  I could have chosen horse or alpaca poo if I’d wanted to, but apparently cow muck trumps all.   And they hadn’t actually been intending to sell it. 

Until now I’ve been getting my annual compost delivery from a commercial compost producer.  It used to come in garden centre-sized bags, but I don’t want all that plastic, so I’ve been getting it in bulk for the past two years.  A cubic metre of compost doesn’t go very far anyway. 

Some experts will tell you that if you spread compost now, too much of the goodness will leach away before spring.  Phooey.  If the goodness ran off that quickly all our soil would be inherently poor.  Think of your soil structure, microbes and worms; they don’t just let everything past them.  Instead, adding lots of organic matter layer by layer each year will build soil life and long-term fertility.  Charles Dowding, the famously no-dig commercial vegetable gardener has been doing it this way for decades.  Maybe the leaching claim holds true if you apply commercial fertilisers to dug soil or to pots.  Otherwise, a thick layer of compost spread now will slowly get incorporated over the next few months. 

Like Mr Dowding, I spread compost when the plants aren’t in the way.  The best opportunity for that is in autumn/winter, after I’ve pulled out the summer veg.  The soft fruit beds also get a thick layer while they are dormant, together with the fruit trees.  If there’s any left I might give it to the flower borders. 

Of course, we make our own compost from garden and kitchen waste, but it never goes far enough.  I prefer to use it only when I need smaller amounts and I’ve used up my bulk delivery.  It usually has the advantage of being finer too, which makes it easier if you want to plant small seeds. 

So, wishing you a happy muck-spreading season.  All that activity will certainly keep you warm!


Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.


The Slow Food blog welcomes contributions on the topics of Food, Farming and Agriculture. The contents may not entirely match the views of Slow Food, but reflect the journeys of the authors. To write for us please click here

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