We produce several tonnes of compost every year. Most is used to keep the soil healthy and fertile for crop production, but we also use fractions of certain materials for plant raising and so we are self sufficient in propagating compost/plant raising growing media.
We usually make three different kinds of compost on site: Garden compost made from post harvest trimmings/crop matter and weeds; composted manure from local horses; and leafmould from leaves within the grounds.
Turning a steamy heap made from horse manure, brewery waste (spent barley grains and hops) weeds and crop trimmings. Six months maturation and it's ready to use.
Preparing a seed bed in a polytunnel with well matured horse manure. This ensures seedlings will grow quickly but will also be strong and healthy prior to transplanting outside during mid to late spring. The bed is being prepared in late autumn so there is time to encourage weed seeds to germinate before we sow in late winter and early spring.
Every Autumn we collect leaves from the paths in the woodland around Wortley Hall. Beech, oak and sweet chestnut appear to make the best leafmould in terms of nutrient availability and fine texture, but all other deciduous tree leaves will make a usable and valuable soil conditioner after a year or two.
After three years of decomposition, the leafmould can be sieved. Sharp sand is added to make seed raising media, or some well matured and sieved horse manure may be added as well to make a propagation mix for module/pot raising.
Onions and leaf crops growing in modules prepared with the leafmould/manure/sand mix. Small modules and less demanding crop types will grow well in a two-thirds leafmould to a third manure (+ sharp sand) as long as they are planted out in time. Otherwise a liquid feed made from on site plants such as nettles and comfrey, or bought-in seaweed extract, may occasionally be employed.
Nutrient requirements of the crop, and the size of pot/module employed determines growing media proportions. These squash and capsicum seedlings, for example, are growing in a mix of half leafmould, half manure (+ sharp sand).