In journal entry number 4 I mentioned ‘revitalising raised beds’; the pictures above show part of the process. The whole area was covered in horse manure in July last year (2013); by mid-September, after layers of aged manure, straw and compost had been added to shape individual raised beds, the first seeds and seedlings were planted in this area. After the Summer harvest the beds had dropped in height quite a lot, and the decision was made to ‘top them up’. We did this by first adding a thick layer of aged manure and then by digging up the paths straight onto the raised beds, because the paths consisted of the same manure that originally covered the whole area; the manure has turned into very healthy organic matter. The final layer is our own home-made compost, indeed a key secret ingredient. The beds get mulched immediately in order to prevent the sun from frying the microbes in the soil. The idea is to fill the paths back in with manure so that it can age; then, come Summer, we can simply dig up the manure from the paths and repeat the process.

Note in some of the pictures the water in the trenches around the beds. We dug deep in order to create these mini-moats. Now, when it rains, the water is ‘stored’ instead of running out of the garden area. This is an easy method of storing energy in the garden: the water seeps into the raised beds at a low level and moisture is maintained for far longer after rains than if the trenches were not there. The trenches can be filled with lightly-packed manure and mulched along with the bed to further maximise the amount of time the moisture will stick around.