Autumn is tipping the nod to winter and it’s time to put the garden to bed for a long and cosy slumber.
Plants are calling for a nice warm duvet as temperatures dip and of course I’m more than willing to oblige. In fact it’s probably one of my favourite garden tasks as the unruly autumn often leaves me wanting to tidy up. I’ve gone the extra mile this year by using an approach that I haven’t used before. In line with the no-dig method pioneered by Charles Dowding, Lasagne (Lasagna) Gardening consists of adding layers of card or newspaper (the pasta) between layers of green and brown materials (the filling). Overtime, and with the help of a few worms and other organisms, this helps to create a beautiful, hummus rich, fluffy soil that is perfect for growing fruit and vegetables in. On the allotment plot in particular, I thought that this approach would save on maintenance whilst also being highly effective in improving the water retentive clay soil. The idea is to lavish the allotment beds with a layer of cardboard topped with well-rotted horse manure, home made compost, comfrey leaves and whatever else I can find. This will then be added to year on year and help improve the soil. I had planned to use up a rotting bale of haylage, as an extra green layer, but it was moved before I could get to it. I’m sure another will turn up soon though and I have plenty of Comfrey to harvest yet from my newly acquired allotment plot which appears to be home to 24ft of mature comfrey plants. You can read more about Lasagne Gardening here.
Cardboard mulch around a young Blackcurrant with Manure in foreground
The soft-fruit alley is the first area to be treated with such luxury. As an area prone to heavy weed growth, and with less than ideal soil, the double whammy of cardboard and bulky organic matter is likely to suppress weeds and improve the soil over time. The manure I’m using is around two years old and like black gold - well rotted, light and scent free. I’m bringing the manure back from the stables in stages as I don’t have a trailer but as I visit the stables everyday anyway and end up back at the allotment to see to the chickens it makes perfect sense and is fairly economical. I’m quite mean when it comes to feeding my plants and I find that if I feed and improve the soil plants flourish, grow strongly but are more unlikely to succumb to pests and diseases without compromising yield. By next year my horse should have produced enough manure to mulch the whole of my plot and I love the idea that my pets all have a role in my garden and helping to produce food for the home. All that’s needed now is a small holding!
Next thing to do is mulch the two large raised beds with cardboard and top in a similar style and then comes the real challenge … the new plot. The new plot is quite large, patyly shaded and is pernicious weed heaven. I’ve removed an extremely large buddleia that was around 12ft tall, which must have had 40 stems, dug out the majority of docks and cut back the brambles. The Buddleia branches will be used to extend a dead hedge that surrounds the chicken run and the rear boundary of one of the lower and original plot (Plot number 4). It’s likely that the new plot will receive deeper lasagne gardening treatment as I’m hoping this will help to kill most of the weeds at the plot, improve the soil, which actually doesn’t seem at all bad, or at least give me a running start on next year. I’ll keep you updated on how I get on. Many will be shouting at me to go with the glyphosate or black plastic treatment but I actually quite enjoy a little bit of work and I have time to play with before planting next spring. Plus, I’m sure under all the weeds there are useful plants too.
So, on reflection this autumn will be spent, mulching, weeding and pruning with a little bit of bulb planting and planning for the year to come. I love this time of year!
The Grow Your Own Book Competition still rolls on and you can read more about how to enter here.