There’s Horse Manure in my Bed

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the garden at Wishetwurra Farm. So it’s time to cover some, uh, “lost ground”.

Leeks at the far left of the image. (Oops, there are some sunflowers that are top far lefter, sorry…) Tomatoes are tall and next, then last, a patch of green manure — mixed beans, with the “Floriana flour corn at the end of the bean patch. Those orangey leftish dots around the tiller handle area are volunteer “Diablo” cosmos.

Sometime in the last few weeks of August, the lengthening nights start to dip into the sixties, or even the fifties, as they did out on the plains last night . Did you know that Martha’s Vineyard actually has “Great Plains”? Our “Great Plains” are the flat moraineal outwash area on the south of the island. Out there the land is flat, so flat as to look, in places, MidWestern.

As the days get shorter and the weather cools, I get the urge to put manure in my bed. Beds! I want to put manure in as many of my beds as possible. Manure. Lovely manure, by the hundredweight (cwt.) and by the ton. Fortunately, manure is available at lots of places nearby, and is free for the hauling.

Thank you, neighbor Dianne, for giving me such a ration of horse pucky. If anyone knows where the expression “horse pucky” comes from, please, please, let me know. I never et a mology I didn’t like.

Because of a conversation last year with Paul Jackson, The Great Gardener of Ocean Heights, I have increased my garden’s uptake of manure and organic material by an order of magnitude. One of Paul’s methods is to put downa thick layer of manure…up to a foot thick,  in the late summer or early fall, and to overplant the manure layer with oats.

Lots of people use rye for a winter cover crop, but if you’re late dealing with that rye the following spring, working that hardy and aggressive plant back into the soil turns into a major, major chore, a time-consuming chore, at a time of year when you’d much rather be doing other things in the garden than rassle with an ancient rototiller. Oats are killed by winter cold, and you can easily rake the spent leaves off your beds when it’s planting time. If you’re totally lazy, you can leave the detritus in place as mulch, and just plant through it.

Here at Wishetwurra Farm, this winter bedtime project includes planting beans beforehand, as a cover crop, since it’s still warm enough for beans to grow quickly. When the bean plants have gotten some size, they get stomped down, and the layer of manure goes on top of them. I’m trying to time manuring and seeding so the beans have made lots of leaves and some good roots, but have not yet started to put their energy into making beans. As the covered-up plants and roots break down, they’ll improve the structure of the soil.

Beans stomped down, a layer of horse pucky is applied. The board is a “track” for the wheelbarrow. That’s so the wheelbarrow wheel doesn’t get bogged down.

Once the poop’s in the bed, it’s raked approximately smooth, and is sown to oats. I added some leftover pea and bean seeds, just for grins. The bed then gets a very light cover of mulch, and a watering if there’s not rain in the forecast.

What the bed looks like when finished. A week or so later, the oats pop up.


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