How to mulch and feed spring crops
- It’s a good time of the year to mulch young crops while your soil still has some moisture in it. Mulches are generally carbon sources which hold moisture in the soil well. Another benefit is they help repel slugs and snails. Mulches also help keep the soil cool in the summer months which allows bacteria and fungi to survive. And mulch brings the earthworms to the surface, aerating the soil as they travel.
- Examples of organic mulches are
• well-rotted animal manures
• straw (use oat or lucerne and avoid hay because it usually has a lot of grass seed in it)
• wool pellets (called Slug Gone) which expands to become a wool mulch
• coffee grounds (good around tomatoes, eggplants and peppers which like acidic conditions) – mix it into the soil, otherwise it can become baked by the sun and doesn’t allow water to penetrate
• coconut fibre matting (designed for fruit trees, but works well with bigger plants like zucchini or rhubarb). Coconut fibre around zucchini is good because it keeps the leaves off the soil which will help prevent powdery mildew.
Making a summer liquid fertiliser out of selected weeds
- Weeds are growing as well as our crops with the warmth and rain of spring. Be particularly careful to clear weeds around onion and carrot seedlings as they find it difficult to compete with them.
- You can dispose of weeds by making a liquid fertiliser out of them.
- Good weeds to include in a liquid fertiliser are puha (sow thistle), ox tongue thistle, cleaver, chickweed and comfrey. If you don’t have many of these weeds, you can add a handful or two of grass clippings.
- Bad weeds which shouldn’t be included are members of the nightshade family like shoofly and creeping buttercup.
- Stomp on your collection of weeds to help release their nutrients, then add to a bucket and cover with water. If you’ve collected seaweed from the beach, now’s the time to add it.
- You’ll need to cover the bucket, but don’t fix a lid on firmly as the mixture ferments and releases gases in the process. Just rest a lid on top. Another alternative is to cover the bucket with a towel which allows it to breathe.
- Leave the bucket for at least two weeks, by which time it’ll have started to break down. Dilute it to the colour of weak tea and apply to a bed that’s been watered first, as you don’t want to burn the roots of plants.
Feeding garlic and fruiting plants
- It’s a good time to give a liquid feed of fish and seaweed to crops like garlic, zucchini and tomatoes.
Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Thomas Asche