Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Cardboard and FYM Lasagna Mulch For Next Years Potatoes.

Some recent  photos from my little smallholding in Southern Ireland, Europe, good old planet Earth.   The last picture is my 'silage bale' boreen.  It's just big enough for the moo cows to walk through and hopefully not sample their Winter forage.

The picture above that is some of my bales looking rather formidable and incredibly heavy - like my music, eh rock folks?

"Me with no head on": is the picture of me resting (not between jobs) after spreading barrow loads of FYM and worms over outstretched cardboard boxes lay over annual weeds.  Our American friends call it Lasagna Gardening.  The secret is to 'try' to imitate nature or even a forest floor.

For the last twenty years or so, I have been clearing and digging and 'bastard trenching' (no I'm not swearing) and scratching around like some demented hen or  even working like a Minotaur who spends it's spare time working every God given hour on it's allotment.  When really there was no need.  We no longer seem to get the seasons at the right time and so I do my mulching when ever I can.

Just lay cardboard on top of your grass or annual weeds and cover with compost and leaves and good old FYM. Next Spring you will have soil to die for, even to plant your Spudatoes in.

Picture 3 is the cardboard box that the silage plastic came in.  5 and 6 are pictures of cardboard boxes, my carrots growing in my plastic raised baths.  Well it's better than just putting the coal in it, isn't it?

I have been taking the Sellotape off and apparently there is no need because it is made from wood pulp and naturally decomposes.  There is some debate about the ingredients used to make cardboard.  Some even contain inks that could be deemed poisonous.  Any thoughts please.

Next week Internet pals.


  1. Lasagna gardening, not a bad name, suppose it resembles lasagna a bit. Brilliant idea to get rid of some of the never-ending stream of cardboard that everything comes encased in several layers of and improve soil structure at the same time. And, as the no-diggers correctly point out, nature does a great job of growing forests without the benefit of digging.

    After 10 days away, my grass isn't any shorter, new strimmer assembled, just needs some 40:1 mix and a couple of dry days to play with it. 40:1 mix is the easy part.

    I don't beleive there's much to do any harm in the printing on the cardboard, there can't be much of it anyway. I contracted in a plant that made cardboard (not print it) and as far as I know, the only things in it were softwood logs and water. They produced mountains of bark as well, which was dumped until somebody worked out how to use it as mulch, it's worth money now.

    Raggy cat resumed its nocturnal lifestyle, was waiting for us yesterday, straight to the milk and biccie dishes, then to sleep, then out last night, waiting as usual 0630 to come in for another rest. Presently asleep again.

  2. Lasagna gardening is supposed to resemble Lasagna, like you say Cumbrian. You're right about the endless stream of cardboard and packaging. Which we have to pay for and to get rid of. I like to use it on areas of the veg plot that I aren't using for a while. The worms seem to love it also and hibernate in the decomposing cardboard.

    Yes I was wondering if you had given your strimmer grass cutting trials? I find you are better leaving the grass to wilt for a few hours, rather than raking it up straight away. Please let me know how you get on with it.

    That's reassuring to know that there are no harmful chemicals in cardboard. I know a lot of newspaper print inks are said to be poisonous. So I won't use glossy magazines to mulch. Every time we go shopping we come back with a few cardboard boxes and they end up on the plot to make worm food and to block out the light and kill off any weeds.

    Alan the cat seems to be arriving later every morning for his breakfast. Then he sleeps all day on his cushion.


  3. More rain again this morning, it was dry yesterday till about 3:00 pm, then started a steady heavy rain with not much wind.
    This morning's still raining, not so heavy with a West wind, that's usually the wet one.
    So strimmer testing seems to be getting put off again, but a report will be published when it does eventually get taken out.
    The bottom back is now about ready for hay-making, I've been and cut the thistles, docks and ragwort out, so a few days of drying (dream on) might produce a small hay-cock.

    Suppose I'll have to get some rabbits to turn it into meat, half a dozen does and a buck should give us a rabbit dinner every other day. But Mrs says she won't eat rabbit, they look too nice and fluffy to eat. And I would get tired of it myself if I had to eat a full one every day.
    I'm not allowed to have chickens either, same reason, how can I feed them one day and eat them the next? Dunno what else to do with them when they stop laying?
    Funny she never seems to have the same attitude to the pretty lambs she likes to see early spring, I wonder if she actually relates the lamb chops or leg of lamb on her plate to the same wooly things in the fields.

    I would beleive the newspaper ink would be poisonous, and the glossy stuff seems too plasticy (is that a word?) but they could be burned and use the ash? When I had the open fire, all paper and cardboard stuff went up the chimney, along with anything else that would burn. Some of the glossy magazine type stuff used to burn with pretty coloured flames, I wonder what chemical was in it.

    Raggy cat waiting at 0630 again, doesn't seem to vary, sleeping now. Alan maybe has pressing business in the mornings, and the daylight's coming later already.

  4. Thanks Cumbrian. We had a very wet and windy night and it won't be long before the dark nights and gale season. We have no street (road) lights for over 4 miles so it goes dark very early here. Thank God for the Internet, Satellite television, books and a few pints of stout....

    If you did get some sun and you could make hay. You could put it in bags and sell it to people who keep rabbits and poultry. I can't believe how much the pet shops charge for 'pet hay'. There's a man near here who sells huge corrugated paper rolls for horse bedding.

    It's a difficult one killing you're own rabbits and hens. I paid a Turkey grower to despatch and pluck and gut two ducks for me last year. He charged 10 Euro a piece and made a very fine job of them.

    I don't know what chemicals are used in glossy magazines or even in food packaging for that matter. 'Plasticy' must be a word because I understand perfectly what you mean Cumbrian.

    We are always careful to wash apples in case they have been sprayed on. Think there should be a campaign for paper (recycled) packaging instead of plastic. No doubt the health and safety and hygiene people would have something to say about that. Think it's criminal how much food packaging goes into landfill. I even see so called 'organic' fruit and veg in plastic wrapping. Is it me or does that sound unethical?

    Alan came home with no collar (it says 'Alan the Cat'+ our phone number) this morning. He's fast a sleep for a change.


  5. No road lights for miles, sounds like West Cumbria when I grew up in the 50s and 60s. There was gas lights, the gas was a by-product of the steelworks coke ovens, not too many of them though. I can remember the electricity getting put in to the village house we lived in, about late 50s I would guess, before that we went to bed with a newspaper taper lit off the coal fire and used to light the gas mantle.

    Couldn't beleive myself how much pet shops want for a small bag of hay, I used to get a bale for £1 from a farmer (a lot of years ago, the little 1 cwt bales) and at the time the pet shops wanted the same £1 for a small plastic bag full, maybe 600 or so small bags from from one bale.

    Rabbits I had New Zealand Whites, lovely big animals that grow very quickly into joint-sized carcases, so big I struggled to pull their necks in the usual manner (right hand by the head, left hand grasp back legs and pull to break neck). My then wife wouldn't allow the slaughter, so I took them to my parents in batches, my dad wanted all the hearts, livers and kidneys, he got a big plateful from 6 or 8 rabbits. Never did find anybody who wanted them, or anything useful to do with the pelts.
    Slaughtering never bothered me, I never named them, they were just meat growing to dinner size.

    Paper recycling they attempt here, I have 3 wheelie bins and a purple plastic bag, for 1. general rubbish 2. paper and card 3. garden waste 4. glass, cans, plastic.

    Agree entirely about the huge quantity of packaging thrown into landfill, and I'm not 100% convinced it does fresh produce any good to be wrapped in clingfilm. Some of the stuff we get is wrapped in several layers of what is opnly rubbish once it's unwrapped.

    Wonder how a cat loses a collar?

  6. Thanks Cumbrian for that. I have often wondered why there can't be lights on the main roads in the countryside? The poles and wires are there, so why can't there be a light every hundred yards or so? It would make the roads far safer to walk on and there would be far less road-kill.

    My vision of the countryside would be public transport, allotments, shared smallholdings, community centres, street lighting, recycling bottle and paper banks and bins, reduced speed limits, strimmed or hard standing pavements (jobs for rural dwellers), cycle and bridle paths, Blacksmith/rural skills centre, eco villages, pubs, and a co-operative shop selling local produce with no plastic packaging allowed.

    Landfill is crazy. I read about some people in Germany getting together and returning all the packaging to the supermarkets. I have said it before Cumbrian:

    "How much do we pay for packaging and how much do we pay to get rid of it?"

    Oh to go back to the days when everything was sold loose.

    Think you have been brought him up not to be sensitive to slaughtering animals. I can easily send something to the slaughter house but I don't fancy killing something my self. So I suppose I am a bit of a hypocrite really, but at least I admit it. In places like the Third World there is no time or place for double standards. If you're hungry you eat it.

    I can't understand how Alan lost his collar either. Perhaps somebody is trying to adopt him?

    Thanks for your thoughts Cumbrian.

  7. Yes, a return to the good old days, you've got me thinking back to my growing up years in the 50s and 60s, our generation has seen so much change, some would call it "progress".
    Life then must seem very deprived by the younger generation, my 36-year-old son actually refers to the years of my youth as "in the olden days", so it doesn't take long.

    Gotta go, to be continued.

  8. Think Rock and Roll brought about so many of those changes. Especially the North American influence.

    Can you imagine trying to explain to somebody 20 years ago what a mobile phone was or the Internet? I love the technology and information highway. Yet I wish we could go back to a more sedate and rural based society.


  9. continued..........

    Still in nostalgic mode this morning, had a walk out despite the damp (decided a walk out every morning and a healthier diet is needed), about 40 minutes, actually stopped and talked to 2 mates from way back I haven't seen for years. Made me think how much we miss enclosed in our motorised metal boxes on wheels as we rush off on our usually irrelevant missions.
    One was on his bike (68 years) on which he rides out every morning. The other (61 years) is a plasterer dashing the outside of a bungalow. The plasterer was bemoaning the fact he'd made some good money and spent the lot, so was still plastering when he feels he should be taking things a bit easier, and with the miniscule state pension he expected to receive, anticipated continuing to plaster till the day he dropped.
    Both of them looked a lot fitter than I feel, the plasterer invited me to pick up a 25kg bag of the dash he was carrying up the ladder, I can still do it but not as easy as I used to pick up the 50kg bags (now illegal due to H & S rules)
    So the early morning walks and a bit of healthy eating will hopefully help, I just didn't realise how decrepit I've become.

    Yes, slaughtering for food is a bit of a sensitive subject, and your hypocrosy is quite common, I've lost count of the number of times I've heard it "I couldn't possibly kill an animal", often said whilst tucking in to a plate of rump steak, pork cop or leg of lamb.
    It's never bothered me, there was 3 butchers in my village, beef, pork and lamb, now all long gone, but the lambs and pigs were slaughtered on the small-holding, and kids were not barred from watching; even at a young age, I used to admire the skill I was seeing as they converted a carcase into all the different cuts. Although a couple of my friends admitted to becoming vegetarian after observing the ritual.
    But I am still of the opinion that the system was much more humane than the current highly regulated "paper chase" system of taking beasts to auction then to the abbatoir, often miles apart.

    Raggy cat in early this morning, just asked to go out again. Can't speak but it can tell me more than a lot of people.

  10. Hi Cumbrian. I have started walking quite a bit myself. Although I find it boring some times walking on my own. Walking long distances on hard surfaces is supposed to knock your heart out of rhythm if you do it frequently. I prefer to walk on the hills and fields but you aren't allowed to take your dog with the sheep grazing them. Walking is supposed to be good for your eyes because you're focussing on distances.

    I suppose that's why there are butchers so you don't have to do it yourself? However totally agree with you that animals like pigs should be despatched on the smallholding instead of being transported hundreds of miles and given stress. The powers that be won't change this though. Rather like they won't allow a old man to have a smoke in a rural pub but yet people can race at ungodly speeds polluting the environment with their carbon monoxide fumes. Yes we have a car and I am showing I'm hypocritical again. Cars give people cancer but we still drive around in them. Even organic farmers drive don't they?

    Perhaps one day there will be nuclear/solar powered cars and lorries that emit no pollution? Better still we could always go back to horse and carts.

    Thanks for your comments Cumbrian. They are always much appreciated.

  11. Yes, they do seem to have a warped outlook on life.

    Lately I've noticed that the supersheds Asda. Tesco, etc, have the cigarette display covered with sliding doors.
    I ventured to ask why?
    It's a government ruling that says all tobacco products must be hidden so that people are not encouraged to buy them.
    Don't thay want the tax off them?
    Yes, but it's unhealthy.
    So's drinking but you haven't hidden the booze.
    No, but if you smoke you affect other people around you. if you drink it's only your own self you're harming.
    Try telling that to the millions of people who are assaulted by drunks, or any policeman who has worked an evening shift in any town centere at week-end, or the A&E staff who get the brunt of drink-induced behaviour trying to patch up the result of drunken brawls.
    I don't seem to remember a single case of assault incurred by a smoker who had too many cigarettes?

    And, like you say, a mindless moron can legally purchase a high-powered motor car, fill it with pollution-inducing fuel, and drive it like it was a lethal weapon.

    Lorries that emit no pollution? Sounds like science fiction to us, but I suppose that mobile phones or the internet would sound like science fiction to our parents? So maybe one day, but I doubt we'll see it.
    Often wonder why they dismantled so many miles of rail track, it was a great method of transport of bulk goods in my opinion, much under-rated, one engine could transport hundreds of tons of goods, and quickly as well.
    Or the canal system, now much reduced and what's left mainly used for pleasure craft. A horse-driven means of transport, might be slow but very economic and eco-friendly.

    I drive a car as well, your excuse is that you live too far away from anything to do without one, my excuse is that my wife's a wheelchair user and can't go anywhere unless I take her in the car.
    So I suppose everybody can come up with a justifiable reason why they need their motor, we're all hypocrites to a degree.

    Raggy cat came in as usual, but spent most of the day outside, it's a bit warmer and sunnier today.
    Grass seems to be drying out nicely, hopefully be dry enough to get cutting tomorrow. Silloth market and car boot in the morning if Mrs is OK, so an afternoon job for after dinner.

  12. Hi Cumbrian,

    Thanks for that. Yes we can only live in the world we are allowed to live in. I agree that the car seems to be a necessary evil for most people today. It's just some people aren't content with one or even two. Many houses have 4 cars. Then you go to town on a Friday and nobody can park.

    Went to Cork last week and went on a BUS. I thought they were extinct. The local bus company charges you 1.75, be it for one stop or 4 stops - it's all the same price. I remarked this to be rather odd and was told that in Dublin they don't give you change. If you give the bus driver a fiver they keep it!

    I hated all the cars speeding at the traffic lights and passers by not speaking to each other. On a lighter note I went in a pub and they served Franciscan Ruby Red. It was like being in Blighty. The taste was very much like: Speckled Hen. It was excellent and very strong.

    Most of the old branch lines have been dismantled and built on here in West Cork. Used to love fishing and walking along the old canals in England. I often saw Moorhen and sunken coal barges and steam cranes and Anglers. I totally agree with you it would be great to see the horse driven narrow boats again.

    I am not calling you an hypocrite Cumbrian. We all have to use what means of transport that we have available. I wish we had public transport here in rural Ireland but people seem to be self reliant and just drive themselves everywhere these days.

    Spent a lot of the day clearing the onions, chopping and freezing them. Well, it's betting than letting them rot.

    Silloth market car-boot sale sounds great. I used to go to a massive one in Chelford (near Manchester Airport) and Chirk in Shropshire.

    Thanks Cumbrian.

  13. Yes, first there was the 2-car family, now we have the 4-car family, with 2 of them usually on the drive, I've even seen it where they have a "good" car that only gets used occasionally for special events, and a second older cheaper car for eveyday use.

    Can't remember the last time I was on a bus, Mrs couldn't get on one anyway. So I don't know about fares, but I'm amazed to hear that they don't give change in Dublin, dunno how they get away with that.

    Never heard of Franciscan Ruby Red, but it sounds good. My latest ale doesn't seem to be clearing, it's got the pressure and keeps a good head, but very murky. I tried a bottle, clear but no head, maybe I should have primed with a bit of sugar. Tastes OK though.

    Good idea freezing onions ready chopped, no point growing them to let them rot in storage. Yesterday I did picallili, lemon curd and started some blueberry wine off, so I had a kitchen day as well.

    Raggy cat in, found a nice comfortable place to sleep. Spent most of the day outside yesterday, and it's going out today if Mrs back is up to the day out at Silloth.

  14. Think some people would drive around the supermarket if they could. Totally agree with you about the 4 car family. Ben Elton wrote a book called Gridlock. It's the nightmare scenario of a car crazy world. We seem to have the American Dream idealogy of:

    "If you can afford (even if you can't and you can get credit) it, you can have it."

    Surely the best way of saving fuel for future generations is to limit the amount of cars or even ration the fuel? I would be a popular politician with that for my manifesto. Governments make far too much money taxing cars (and cigarettes and drink) to stop people from having lots of cars. Our old friend (we often talk about him) John Seymour opinion about bypasses was simple.

    "Get rid of the cars."

    I love 'Park and Ride' systems. Think most town centres could be pedestrianised (is that a word?) and access be only allowed for public transport and delivery vehicles.

    The Franciscan Ruby Red is made at the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork. It's got a website. I don't agree that it was only 4.2% because I could really feel it after 3 pints. Think most draught is a lot stronger. You would know more about that Cumbrian?

    Yeah we had a veg plot/kitchen day. Topping and tailing and lifting onions, then planting leeks and sowing Autumn King carrots, then peeling and chopping onions into bana shapes and feeding them into the car boot sale food processor and then placing them in small polythene bags (with seals) and throwing them in the freezer. We made twenty five yesterday. They are great for soups, stews, curries.., and you don't need to mess about chopping onions. You don't need to blanch the onions either. We are working on filling the two freezers for winter when the gale season arrives.

    Would love to know how to make picallili Cumbrian. Going to buy a home brew kit this week.

    Have a good day at Silloth Cumbrian.



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