Mulching, composting and testing my soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphates and potassium

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Mulching, composting and testing my soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphates and potassium

Today was a day spent pottering about the back garden dealing with the chores I have been putting off.  Much exposed soil looks as though it has been walked on (which it hasn’t) which I assume is the effect of the weather, compacting my soil. So I’ve been busy with my mature compost pile, rooting the good stuff out, sieving it (loosely, mind) and using it around my overwintering vegetables. The rough stuff (woody or just uncomposted matter) I am mulching the soil with to protect the soil from compaction. I am also putting it around those vegetables that aren’t closely spaced. The bulky, sticklike stuff is hard to space around my Japanese Bunching Onions but easy to do around the perennial brassicas. I also had a bit of straw left in a bag from last year which I bunged on top of the mulch. This is now, hand on heart, the last organic matter input for the back garden. My garden should now be self fertilising.

Should be.

I have managed to sieve out 6 buckets of good compost but there was much, much more rough organic matter which, now it is a mulch, will compost directly on the soil. The whole back garden is fully mulched with at least 1.5 inches of rough compost. I still have my secondary compost heap which I am hoping will be done sometime during spring, so I am confident I won’t need bought compost or manure next year.

I also did a soil test last week from my new, exciting acquisition – namely a home soil testing kit. It cost £15 and I bought it from the Bramblewood Garden Centre in Failand, Bristol. It was a faff doing it – the trick is to put the soil in loosely so the plunger doesn’t hit compacted soil (if you are trying this) – but after an hour or so I had done the full test. I did it on soil taken from an area of the garden where the welsh onions are a little bigger than the others, that way I probably wouldn’t be disappointed by the results. My first test was on nitrogen and, weyhey, it came up as high nitrogen – result! I wasn’t really surprised by this as, if you are a regular reader you will know, I spend a lot of effort on nitrogen fixing green manures. At this point my sustainable method seemed to have been vindicated.

Until I tested the phosphates and potassium which both came out as very low. I use comfrey and wood ash on the garden so I was surprised by this, hopefully the compost and mulching I am doing will solve this problem. Another surprise was the pH or acidity which said the garden was quite alkaline. Now I know I said that I use wood ash so this shouldn’t have come as a surprise but there are indicator weeds in the garden that like acid soil, so I assumed I had acid soil. It’s no disaster as (perennial) brassicas is one of my specialities,  but it may explain why the blueberries and strawberries were so poor this year.

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