Muck and Manure

I am persona non grata in the kitchen garden.  I ordered 150 tonnes of  top-soil from an Island supplier and only after it had all been delivered did we find it pale in colour, lacking nutrients and structure,  sticky in the palm when rolled and bad, really, in every respect.

Alasdair has quite rightly cursed it and moved it around from one patch to the next, but to defend my corner, finding barn stored soil in that quantity on the Island is a tricky one. I probably should have asked around, rather than acting somewhat impulsively, my crusade to move us forward leading to rash decisions. Well its down now, so we have to deal with it.

Dealing with it has involved a three pronged attack: truck loads of manure from local long-horn cattle, sheep wool compost in quantity to break up the clay and now a green manure crop of rye and vetch, to fix nitrogen and bulk up the soil. Churned up in the Spring with the original top soil, it shouldn’t be so bad.

Now we look quite in control in the kitchen garden despite the poor soil. The green manure crop has formed a blanket of green, supressing the weeds until it is turned into the soil in the spring, creating visual harmony at least.  The structure of the garden is now in place too, borders and paths laid out to the original plans, espalier apples and pears down the central axis as we understand they once were and four of the intended soft fruit fans in place against the south facing wall. There have been small frustrations, the nectarine I ordered turned out to be a peach (the nursery were unfazed, mistakes do happen, apparently, no swap offered). The others plants are very tiny, maiden whips of one year, so that we could get the varieties we wanted. I’ll be a Granny before they come to much, but I have no choice but to exercise patience in this, at least.

I am breaking with the original plan by adding my fruit cages on the four corners of the beds, as I can find no record of where they were sited in the garden in about 1902, the date of the plan from which I have laid out the rest of the garden. The first oak structure is almost complete, it has taken time while we have tried a few details that haven’t worked, trying to make all four cages look harmonious when each is sited on a different gradient in the garden and none are level. Howard and Son dodge the rain, the snow and the flu, building them in the dry of the potting shed. Meanwhile I hunt around for an interesting water feature for the apex of the kitchen garden. Oh good, antique hunting, that’s my pleasure, other than my garden of course.


A view through the gateway, the wisteria now pruned and tied to new supports.  Banks of manure either side of the path surround the newly planted espaliers, with swathes of the green manure crop beyond.



The oak framework of the new fruit cage. My photo is at an angle! The building is straight….
Howard and Mark labour on in the dry of the Potting Shed.



42 Kitchen Garden wide shot
The groundwork for the second cage.
The only remaining photo of the kitchen garden looking towards the billiard room. Effusive herbaceous planting either side of the pathway.


5 thoughts on “Muck and Manure

  1. We have been watching from afar with interest.
    We too started a garden from nothing, apart from lots of grit sand,and much trial and error.Also being exposed to a full south westerly wind has caused ,so many disasters.
    It has been a struggle,but eventually after twenty years,we have been rewarded.
    Enjoying reading your blog.
    Joan and John at The Boat House.


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