Friday, 20 September 2013

Green Manure

Why green manure?
Because I have no choice!
All summer the ground stayed hard as marble under the straw mulch and in seven years I've never seen such meager results.
After 6 months of a winter/spring deluge, the sun burnt its way through my ten centimeters of protection and turned the usually rich and crumbly soil into a surface usually found on the Afghanistan highlands. Tomatoes somehow managed to survive the onslaught but elsewhere it was disastrous;
eight aubergines plants gave two fruit
24 hot pepper plants = 24 peppers
courgette and patty pans - 16 in all
one squash from each of the 15 plants
corn is just flowering
carrots vegetated
....the list is long and I've just had some evening visits from some hungry deers who ransacked the last tomatoes and pulled the precious beetroot from the soil.
In mid-August realising my incapacity to help, I left for Iceland to feast on some of my husbands freshly caught salmon and freeze my butt off in 2° temperatures with the odd flurry of snow. I could then return to Mailhos to learn to love its climate again.

Now in September, the soil is unusually stripped bare of most plants while  rye, vetch, oats and phacelia are germinating quickly in the first rains. These are the green manures that will revive the soil for next season.

Rye and oats will send their roots far down to air the sun hardened clay soil and dredge up some of the deeper minerals to the surface. Vetch will fix plenty of precious nitrogen from the air in a form ideal for future plants, while phacelia will feed the bees and control the weeds. Each will help the garden to recover from that crazy summer and will be pulled or cut and left to rot on the surface in Spring to nourish the soil before some new planting
 I'm leaving some space for spring and Pontoise cabbage, lambs lettuce, purple cauliflower,  roquette, coriander, chervil, peas, favas and onions while parsnips, brocolli and kale have survived enough to recover with the welcome change of weather.

Its funny how flowers thrived in such unseasonal dryness while figs, blackberries, apples and pears are having a record harvest.
The chickens are loving the ripe fruit fall and are indulging in daily sugar feasts.
No longer the spoiled and bourgeois chicks of mid-summer, as adolescents they have now moved to their newly renovated chicken shed equipped with steps to help Mary tackle the heights as his wings are too short for flight.

 And yes Mary will be my rooster and will forever have cross-gender issues dealing with his name.

Billy, Liam, Séan and Hurley seem to be girls and are exhibiting all the characteristics of soft femininity while Mary, my new king, is leading the pack.
Except she really hasn't figured out that chickens sleep on perches and not on an old box, huddled together like some lost irish immigrants ... during the famine!