Sunday, 20 April 2008


A video debut! Why not reduce the words written and say it with action? Was it worth the embarrassment??See below.

This time of the year - all over the world but mostly in the northern hemisphere - people are digging in green manure. Dumb name, great idea. The idea is to grow some really soil-enhancing crop, nice and thickly, let it get to the almost flowering stage then dig it into the soil. Leave it for... (here opinions vary and Deb may shout me down for my slack methods!) anything from 5 minutes to 5 weeks, depending on how much leaf matter you have and how long before you want to plant something in that space and you wish to heavens you had dug it in ages ago (the latter often being me). Deb has got us all going on this moon-phase thing and it is therefore now (or 2 days ago, actually) time to plant my garlic but I hadn't finally decided where to plant it until this morning!

I had snuck a green manure crop of bio-mustard (what mustard isn't 'bio'??) in after removing my tomatoes in late January due to total annihilation by a pest that is fairly new to Adelaide, at least in these proportions, and that is tiny red mites, invisible to the naked eye. I chose mustard as it is quick to germinate and grow this time of the year and is better than leaving the soil bare. Now it is time to dig it in and quickly get my garlic planted before Deb finds out I am running late!

P1020434 Fully grown.
It has been very dry so the mustard has only reached about 30cm in height before starting to set flowers despite my illegal watering sessions. See right side of the stone circle.
P1020435 Trampled and chopped.
I did a side-step, from right to left across the whole crop to flatten it, then, following the same pattern I chopped the spade down into it every couple of inches. (I am ambi-measuremental! Some rudely shorten this to just 'mental'!)
P1020444 Dug in.
I dug a trench on the left end, about a small spade deep and rolled the soil and chopped leaves into it. Watch the video to see what I mean.

You may be as shocked as I was to see and hear me in this video! I... well...make up your own mind...

If the soil had been a little damper it would have turned more smoothly. However, I think you get the idea. It is not a good idea to turn the soil over from down too deep, so this method is quite adequate for this purpose.The chopping is a vital step if you are going to have any hope of covering the leaves - just try not chopping it and you will see what I mean.(Another of my experiences I hope to save you from, dear reader.) It saves your back and means you still have the energy left to shovel a couple barrow-loads of compost over the whole thing, along with some blood and bone (to counteract the nitrogen draw-down that may occur when I plant directly into this tomorrow morning) and fork in roughly.Then smooth out with the rake. Watering well is of prime importance - as I have said before - never, ever plant or sow into dry soil and think you will wet it later because you will wash all the seeds and topsoil all over the place and it will still be dry underneath. I speak from experience here too!

Ideally you would leave this to do its thing for a couple of weeks this time of the year here, to get the worms all excited and busy working away on those green leaves under the soil and to multiply those millions of micro-organisms per square foot into trillions so they are ready to supply the garlic crop with everything they will need to get some growth on before the soil cools down (although I am beginning to think that this may be sometime several hundred or thousand of years in the future rather than a couple of months, and that's not funny!). But I don't have time and garlic is pretty robust, so that's the way of it this time. Suddenly I realise that I am sounding very much like my father....and I for one always thought he was very eccentric and a bit crazy - lucky I didn't inherit those genes too!?

Why Green Manurista in the title? Well, I have been practicing my Italian while turning the soil and since lots of things get an 'a' on them for the female version, in Italian, I thought I would turn 'manure' into 'manurist' then into 'manurista' - to describe a female person doing stuff with 'manure'. Well, what about 'barista' ? That is really a female doing stuff in a 'bar' which is like a cafe, in Australia. No, not that kind of stuff! This is a family blog.


Pattie Baker said...

Kate: LOVED it! SO great to see and hear you, and that simple visual of "dig and roll" is a different method than I have been using--and much easier and more effective. I'll try it. Keep the videos coming! You have much to teach, and many who want to learn.

Chook said...

I love the video - more please!! I want to know all of the secrets behind those pictures of vegetables that look like they came from a magazine.

Kate said...

Shame the garden doesn't look like it came from a magazine. Still, they say a messy mind/garden is a creative one!

Deborah Cantrill said...

I managed to have the patience to wait for this to load. Kate you left out the next vital step at the end of the day when the earth is breathing in, stir some 'cow pat pit' preparation for 20 minutes & now you dug in green manure crop will breakdown & build humus in a balanced way & you garlic may catch up to mine (Already over 6'' high.