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Manure and compost, and lime and PH

Manure and compost needs to be well rotted before it is applied, or it takes nitrogen out of the ground. Free supplies turn up occasionally at Tarring and Chesswood sites - first come first served - but if it has just been delivered then pile it up somewhere for next autumn. If you need pallets to make a container, free supplies will be at Tarring and Chesswood until they run out.

Another thing many people add this time of year is lime, but NEVER MIX lime with manure, or with sulphate of ammonia.  Use one or the other, depending on what you wish to grow and the pH level of your soil.

For beginners, we should explain that the soil pH is a number that describes how acidic or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral. An acid soil has a pH value below 7.0 and above 7.0 the soil is alkaline. For the technically minded, pH is short for ‘power of hydrogen’ because we are measuring ions of hydrogen in a water based solution; 7 is the measure for pure water. It is a logarithmic scale - a pH of 3 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 4 and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than a pH value of 5. (If you are not technically minded, just ignore that but.)

If you are getting ready for potatoes you won’t want to add lime as you will be adding muck and they should not be mixed. But it helps to know that commercial growers like to keep to a pH between 4.8 to 5.4, because an acidic soil helps to prevent scab. Most of us are happy enough with a range of 6.0 to 6.5, but if you can lower the figure with more muck, which is acidic, you might get better yields and less scab. If you do get scab don’t worry - peel it off and eat them anyway!

Brassicas, on the other hand, may need lime. Club root is a more likely if the soil is too acidic. Cabbages and peas like 6-7.5, cauliflowers 5.5-7.5 and leeks 6-8. That’s a fairly wide range so you don’t have to be too fussy, , but lime also helps to break up clay soils to make a finer, crumbly texture, so if or if your soil is claggy then it’s well worth using it. But not to excess - a very alkaline soil locks up essential nutrients. The average garden will thrive at about 6.5. More information at


Basic chemicals and additives, organic and non-organic

The most common chemicals required by nature, and labelled in most liquid feeds, are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium or potash (K).  All of those will be available from a good load of compost or well-rotted manure, but you might not have enough yet. In that case you can supplement, organically or inorganically.

Nitrogen is necessary for good leaf growth and is often used on brassicas, and potatoes. It is quickly washed away and deficiencies show as poor, yellow leaves. You can get it from sulphate of ammonia at 2 ozs a square yard (osy).

Phosphorus is especially good for root growth, ripening fruit and flowers. If you don’t have enough you might get brown spots on leaves and fruit tastes acid. Get it from bone meal at 4 osy.

Potash increases ph (see last issue) but is good or fruit and flowers, although it tends not to move in the soil so has to be applied within inches of where it is needed. You can use ash from bonfires, or sulphate of potash at 2osy. Deficiencies show as stunted growth and/or leaf browning.

If your leaves are lacking green colour, or seem red or purple, you may have magnesium deficiency. Try spraying with Epsom Salts at 8 ozs to 2.5 gallons.  In limey soils you might get iron deficiency, and need to spray with ‘sequestered iron’.  You can also use well-rotted seaweed, or make your own seaweed solution by soaking some in water, well away from your nose.

Growmore is inorganic but has an equal mixture of P,K and N.  Fish, blood and bone organic mixture gives you a balanced feed at 2 osy.  6X pelleted chicken manure gives you plenty of Nitrogen but don’t use it on very tender new plants - it could be too strong. Mix it in first and wait a bit, or use it later.


What you can buy in the shops:

Note that some are organic and some vegetarian but not often both. Ask befofe you buy.

Sulphate of Ammonia is beneficial for leafy vegetable and salad crops such as brassicas, lettuce, spinach, rhubarb and leek. A fast acting fertiliser, rich in nitrogen, that promotes above-the-ground growth and rich, green foliage. An early application also gives flowering plants, shrubs and fruit an extra boost and will quickly ‘green-up’ a tired lawn. It can be applied throughout the growing season. Simply spread evenly and hoe or fork into the top surface of the soil. Water-in during dry conditions. Sulphate of Ammonia increases the acidity of your soil.

General use, lawns and vegetables should be applied at 45g per square metre or 1.5 oz per square yard. With veg repeat every three weeks
Fruit trees, 200g per year of growth up to 2kg. Apply early spring and early summer.

Sulphate of Potash is a fast acting fertiliser which provides your plants with a booster feed of potassium. This increases strength and vigour in plants and improves resistance to weather conditions and disease. It also promotes the development and colour of blooms and improves fruit yields. It is particularly beneficial to tomatoes. It can be used throughout the growing season by applying evenly and hoeing or forking in to the top surface of the soil. When dry, it should be watered in for maximum benefits.
Apply 15g per square metre or 0.5 oz per square yard evenly over the soil and water in well immediately.

Superphosphate promotes strong and healthy root development in vegetables, soft fruit and fruit trees to encourage good growth and rapid establishment of plants.
General use 50g per square metre or 1.75oz per square yard.
Fruit trees apply in early spring at the rates above.

Growmore provides the three major plant nutrients in equal proportions, making it a superb general-purpose feed for use all around the garden. Its balance of nutrients ensures even stimulation of growth in all plant parts, meaning lots of fruit and flowers, abundant foliage and a strong root system.
Vegetables before planting - apply 135g/sq.m as a base dressing to the soil and work in well.
Vegetables as established plants - apply 70g/sq.m as a top dressing and work in well.
Potatoes - apply 210g/sq.m as a base dressing before planting.
Fruit, trees, shrubs & borders - apply 135g/sq.m around the base of established plants. Gently fork into the soil surface without disturbing the roots. Alternatively sprinkle over the soil surface around the stem of the plant and water in well. When planting out, scatter 135g/sq.m into the bottom of a planting hole and mix well with soil and compost when refilling the hole.
Flowers - apply 70g/sq.m to the soil surface and lightly fork in. Take care the granules do not touch the plant leaves or stem. Water in well after application.

Bonemeal is a tried and trusted organic fertiliser that provides both phosphates and nitrogen, the two nutrients essential for healthy plant growth. These nutrients are released slowly and steadily, making an ideal fertiliser for bulbs and herbaceous plants, shrubs, roses, veg, fruit trees and strawberries. It can be applied prior to sowing or planting and can be used throughout the season as a top dressing for roses and fruit trees.
Base dressing 130g per square metre or 4.5oz per square yard
Top dressing 90g per square metre 3oz per square yard

Blood Fish and Bone is a traditional fertiliser that is still favoured by many gardeners and, because it is produced from natural ingredients, is 100% organic. It provides the three major nutrients needed for strong, healthy plants. Nitrogen encourages growth and rich green foliage; slow release phosphate promotes vigorous root development and the potash element helps improve flower colour and the ripening of fruit and vegetables. Can be applied prior to sowing or planting and as required throughout the growing season.
Base dressing 130g per square metre or 4.5oz per square yard
Top dressing 90g per square metre 3oz per square yard