Growth in the tunnel is good. Possibly too good. I get a sinking feeling every time I walk in that my generous manuring undercover has perhaps led to over-lush growth. In other words, it looks lovely and green and fecund, but will it be fruitful? High potash feeding is happening with the homemade, extremely fragrant (flowery word for stinking) comfrey feed. But I feel it in my gut – there’s simply too much nitrogen about the place.
For years I have dreamt of an endless, free supply of well rotted FYM. I have fantasized about this for so long that I am even able to use an acronym about it (farmyard manure, to the uninitiated or those who do not long for heaps of manure). But seriously, I’ve dreamt, desired and coveted to the point of breaking a commandment (thou shalt not steal another man’s FYM or even desire it??). And after years, a decade at least, of a bag here and there of WRFYM, I was delivered this… [cue heavenly angel music now]
Not only is it good horseshit from hardly-ever-dosed horses, it’s also well mixed with straw and wood chips and has sat quietly in the corner of a yard for a year or more. One day, this huge load arrived unbidded, but most welcome, from a good friend drawing a dumper by the biggest John Deere tractor to ever grace this plot of ours (the tractor was taller than our house). I immediately dropped the loppers, glad for a reprieve from the tediously boring job of pruning the willow fedge (see overgrown fedge below for proof). I ran to the new, steaming heap. My dream come true.
It is lovely and fertile. It has great mulching capacity (mulch being another coveted commodity…) due to the wood chips mixed in, but not so new as to draw too much nitrogen away from the manure. And worms? You never saw the like. Thousands of beautiful, wiggling, purply pink, shiny little creatures. Sigh…
I’ve spread it inside. I’ve spread it outside. I’ve heaped it thickly over cardboard to create new beds or extensions to existing beds. I’ve even shared decent amounts with fellow FYM coveters. And I still have a huge heap.
But I think I’ve been a bit heavy handed with it in the tunnel. I’ve had an atrocious red spider mite problem in the tunnel for the last four to five years – it methodically decimates any French beans or cucumbers that I plant inside, slowly sucking the juice out of anything at all succulent. These are two of my favourite home crops as they really taste so much different and better than store-bought versions. My ire against these little red devils is palpable. Though I am a huge proponent of ahimsa (except for when it comes to horseflies because I am increasingly allergic), if I could see these little mites I would squish them. My point, however, is a positive one. I believe that the liberal application of mulchy manure has kept the numbers of RSM down to an acceptable level. At least so far and I am loathe to be hasty about this and hope I haven’t jinxed myself. I am keeping a daily vigil by peering closely at the baby cukes forming and the edges of the French beans (dwarf style this year, ‘Stanley’ to be exact [in honour of my friend’s terrier of the same name] as I though the climbing version was only asking for a full-on attack of the RSM). I also think that the mulch has kept the powdery mildew off the courgettes, something else I always get without fail. So I at least if I’ve too much nitrogen I might have less RSM and powdery mildew.
I’ve also been in the tunnel more this year than I have been in the last few years (new jobs, inertia, cold, wet summer weather, general dismay at over weedy garden being just a few reasons on my list of excuses). But I had to start anew – kind of like with this blog. I had to, no other choice about it. Last weekend while it was steadily raining outside Sunday morning, I cleared the very messy bit of the tunnel. It’s the part with the shelves and tables and chair and radio. It would be the equivalent of a man cave if I were a man and if it weren’t so bright. Here’s the result of my toil:
I removed the ginormous Osteosperumum, which seems to detract, rather than attract, insects, which are desperately needed in the tunnel to aid pollination. It is lovely, but useless (worst insult ever!). But have no fear, I threw the whole big lump outside and she’s still alive. Any potential rescuer is welcome to enquire within. It looks much more bare at the entrance of the tunnel now, but I guess some would just call this tidy (not a word used to describe either my garden or my house or me for that matter). I’m sure I will knock the tidy out of it soon enough (kind of like how my perfectly clean kitchen table gets heaped up with crap about five minutes after it has been cleared… know the feeling?).
I shall report on the progress of the tunnel as we move through the season. Now if I only had the wherewithal to clear up the outside veg patch…
Claregalway Garden Festival this weekend coming. Yay!
CURRENTLY READING… A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. It took me about 50 to 75 pages to get the rhythm of the Jamaican language. I thought I wasn’t liking it at first, but then I realised I just wasn’t understanding it. Plus I had to steel myself a bit against the violence — really the title should have been a warning. I’m good now and can definitely see why it won the Booker. Speaking of Booker, when will my next Thomas Cromwell book be ready??