How green is your garden manure?

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It’s becoming increasingly difficult to obtain good organic manure in Edinburgh.

My main load of dung used to come from the three cattle markets near Slateford Station. They have now all closed. I then bought from a local farmer. His last load of dung was contaminated with Aminopyralid. This selective herbicide caused serious problems for my potatoes. My source is now old mushroom compost.

As a supplement I’ve been using “Green Manure” for many years. The seed catalogue that I use lists 12 different types. My choice is “Crimson Clover”.

The seed packet says to sow broadcast. My way is to sow, with a small seed sower, in rows one foot apart. This makes weeding and hoeing easier. It’s also more economical with seed.

I sow it in the potato section in August as soon as the potatoes have been lifted. The clover is then left to grow right through the winter.

Brassicas follow the potatoes, so a first application of lime is made between the rows of clover in January and hoed in. In early April a sharp hoe is used to cut off the top growth just below soil level. This growth goes on the compost heap. The roots, with their nitrogen-rich nodules, are left in the ground. The ground cover provided by the clover also helps to prevent winter rain from leeching out soil nutrients.

A second application of lime is made in late April and hoed in. Brassicas like firm ground so no digging is done. The section is now ready for planting out but further hoeing may be needed, depending on weed growth.

I also sow a few rows of clover in other sections as the summer crops are lifted. The clover compost adds valuable humus to the soil but, apart from the nitrogen, not much nutrient. Fish, blood and bone fertiliser provides plant food for the crops. The whole plot benefits from the resulting good soil structure and cropping is well above average.

n George Sutherland is a past president of the Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Association, www.fedaga.org.uk