Friday, 9 December 2011

Using pigeon manure

I am trying to remove all the large stones from the new potato bed which is quite a chore.  Both the top soil and the subsoil need to be sieved and this is time consuming.  The sieve I am using is the bread tray.  While I am sieving, I am adding pigeon manure; compost; horse manure and sieved turf to the top soil.  

The bread tray sieve
The pigeon manure has a  ratio of 4/2/1 which is fairly good going in the realms of manuring NPK ratios.  Chicken Manure (fresh)   has a NPK ratio of 1.6/1.5/1.0 so pigeon muck compares very well with this.  Now I don't really think that I should give an awful lot of credence to these ratios because I got them from the internet and you should never believe anything you see on the internet.  Having said that,  it does give you a rule of thumb. 

It is obvious from the ammonia smell coming off the pigeon muck that it is very high in nitrogen. And loads of people tell you how good chicken manure is and I agree with them.   So if pigeon muck is like chicken manure,  it will be a valuable addition to the soil.  However, the high levels of nitrogen can damage roots and foliage unless  pigeon muck is added with care.  This is why I am adding the manure now, when there are no plants growing in this soil, so that it can rot down a little more during the winter.  By the time I plant potatoes the concentration of nitrogen should be at a level that will not cause damage. The damage that it causes roots is due to the high concentration of salts in the rhizosphere that cause water to be drawn out of roots desiccating them.  This is what people call burning the roots.     

The various additions to the soil have been really well mixed because of the sieving.  It has also produced a very friable soil.  There is now a good mixture of manure, top soil and compost fairly evenly mixed throughout the soil profile to a depth of about 600mm.  Homogeneity of the soil mixture means that there are no high concentrations of manure in some places while other parts of the soil profile have little or none.  There seems to be more benefit in producing a homogeneous soil, where all plants have equal access to added nutrients and organic matter, than having a patchwork of high and low concentrations of nutrient.  Manure added in the top 300mm of soil is most readily taken up by plant roots so this is where the manure should be mixed in.  However, I am trying to encourage mychorrhizal symbiosis and the fungi will be able to access nutrients below the 300mm depth and be able to transport them to plant roots.

I would have dug deeper but I was digging up the x Cupressocyparis leylandii shreddings that I put in last year as a kind of Hugelkultur.  The whole idea of using shreddings is to provide a sponge for water which will be released slowly throughout the summer.  I didn't really want to damage my sponge by mixing it with topsoil.  

I don't know whether it works but it keeps me happy doing stuff like this.   

I dug right up to the Boltardy Beta vulgaris  so I cannot carry on digging until the beetroot, carrots and parsnips are taken out.  

So to begin the clearance, I harvested Beta vulgaris;  Petroselinum crispum; Tragopogon porrifolius; Scorzonera hispanica;  Daucus carota;  Pastinaca sativa and Oxalis tuberosa.  However, I still have a lot left in the ground.  Who says there is nothing to harvest during the winter? I did not harvest any Allium porrum or Brassica oleracea bullata   mainly because they will stand for a while without deteriorating.  I was also going to get some Eruca sativa but it got too late and dark.  I will have to get some tomorrow.  

Still eating the pumpkin Cucurbita pepo and the Apium graveolens rapaceum  that I harvested earlier in the week.  

I am going to put some of the root vegetables into a box in the shed and cover them with soil.  The rest will be clamped and really I need to get onto doing that quite quickly because we are having the second heavy frost tonight.  

How I make a clamp.
The best way to make a clamp is to put a layer of gravel onto the soil; put the carrots on top with a little top soil to keep them in place;  cover with straw and then cover the straw with top soil.  This keeps them in fairly good nick for most of the winter.  I will probably use them all before the end of the winter though.  I used this method for the parsnips too.  

I am going to try to grow some long carrots next year so I took the bread tray sieve up to the new roots bed and began sieving the top soil.  I want to remove all the stone so that the carrots do not fork.  No fertiliser is being added at all because this may also make the carrot roots fork.  I'm not sure whether this is true but I am not taking any chances.  Really, the soil is in good heart and I don't think that it needs fertiliser.  The carrots are going where the squashes were last year and I added a lot of compost for the squashes.  This should be more than sufficient for the Daucus carota.  

Water from the springs has started to flow down the side of the allotment again so I am going to dig out a new soak away and put in another drainage pipe alongside the allotment.  I am going to put the soak away under the tap path and this will involve lifting two slabs.  Not something that I am looking forward to.  I have not raised these two slabs since I put them down in the 1980s.  It means that there is still some top soil underneath them.  I will use the bread tray to sieve this top soil and put it on the allotment somewhere.  The hole will be filled with stone that I have sieved from the potato bed.

This is a central precept of permaculture:  Always turn an adversity into something positive.  So the stones will be used to make the soak away and the slabs will be put on top.  This means that I will gain some more topsoil and a soakaway. There is no downside.  Second thoughts; it's cold and wet and it was trying to snow today.  That's the downside.
There are some leaves mixed with lawn mowings in the bins by the gate but I have not used any of them yet. 

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