A never-ending story of fertiliser

Seven box loads finished off the winter pile of poos and now half of this year’s potato patch is covered

The potato patch is moving towards readiness to receive this year’s offerings. The clement, dry weather was such a delight this weekend; it was looking possible, at last, that the horse poos out in the field might be dry enough to be blown into the big collection bags. And indeed, the first swathe of mower-harvested, dried horse plops went down nicely, before the middle spindle of my 3-gang mower disintegrated. So while I await the replacement part from America, I spent much of the morning removing the mower deck from the little garden tractor and fitting the rear lift box in place.

Then, just to show all was in order, I collected the first two loads of the past winter’s horse manure from the convenient heap in a corner of Plough’s yard and spread it along. There were another five loads left in the remaining heap for Sunday’s effort. That’s covered about half of the 50 square meter patch. So then, on World Storytelling Day, my fertiliser story was half-finished. Anyway, the idea is to spread the patch with a layer of about 4-6″ (10+cm in today’s money) of compost, after which I’ll cover that with recycled black mulch material, before carefully inserting this year’s 200-odd potatoes into the pre-cut holes. I place the seed potatoes down at the interphase between the ground layer and the new compost layer.

The potatoes are beginning to chit nicely now in the warm conservatory. There’s Harmony, Pink Fir Apple, Charlotte and Alouette. They’ll go straight into the warming-up bed under their blanket of composting manure, after I harvest the rest of Plough’s field droppings (fingers crossed the delivery across the sea is prompt!), and I’ll see their tuber progeny around about August. This year we’ve harvested potatoes right up to now; I scrabbled around for a nice collection of Harmony and Charlotte specimens on St Patrick’s Day! Every mouthful brings us joy.

I love this no-dig gardening strategy. It’s not a ‘no-work’ effort, far from it, and especially when the mower harvesting strategy fails. But I like the way that the weeds are foiled by the black mulch, the way the invertebrates under the soil are undisturbed, and the fact that once the potatoes are in, there’s nothing really to do until it’s time to eat the new ones. I like seeing the rows and rows of potato plants growing so tidily in their patch. My rotavator, purchased with great expectations, is quietly rusting away in the shed, unused after the first season. It turned out that by chomping up the nettle and dock roots into little bits, I was eliciting the emergence of even more weeds from about the middle of the growing season. (But hey, as I was relating an anecdote about rotavators to a visiting friend this weekend, he mentioned that the word ‘rotavator’ is the longest single-word palindrome in the English language. Good for something then, and at least an opportune little story for such a significant day in the calendar.)

Anyway — actually, to be out shifting the . . . well, to be collecting the fertiliser in the fresh spring air, getting another heavy gardening job under control, was very heaven at times.

Maybe not while I was bashing my finger fixing the agri-box on the back, but after that penance, most of the time!

One response to “A never-ending story of fertiliser”

  1. Larry, Today’s “Roads to Joy” elicits both warm memories & a little bit of mourning. It’s wonderful that while you are just a year younger you can still do the work of which you write. I’m afraid just loosening a bolt or 2 with lefty-/loosey on this side of the pond would leave me with aches, pains & joints for quite some time. As I read all about your work of gardening I remember that I can no longer do it. I’ve mostly reached acceptance in the mourning process over that loss.

    Despite the loss of abilities mentioned above I experienced Joy in reading about your gardening activities. You took me to places & times of yesteryear when I was able to do plant, weed & harvest. As I read today’s “Joy” I walked behind you & rode on the back of your garden tractor throughout the narative of your work. I remember that I grew potatoes under straw and that I harvested those beautiful taters without dirt clinging to them. As you named varieties which you grow. & harvest I thought of the gold, blue & white varieties in my garden. I remember colors not names. You also caused me to recall that peas, potatoes & onions are to be planted on St. Patrick’s Day in my neck of the woods.

    So Larry, while you are doing no-till gardening you actually dug up a lot of my memories about gardening. I think that gardening is good for the body & soul of most people. Unless I’m mistaken it must be good for poets & writers of other genres. It was a pleasure for this reader to be with you while you did some of the heavy work of gardening. I have some empathy for your injured finger but am glad that I didn’t physically experience any bashed digits!
    Regards, Henry


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