I love visiting the farm next door. The huge hill behind us stretches out with an amazing view across Kerikeri and out toward Haruru, Waitangi and Paihia. I love to climb to the top each day with our dog Polly. I’m sure she remembers the smell of country air from her young days on a Dargaville farm before we adopted her. The paddock is the only one near me which has a mixture of conifers, poplars and a little swamp with frogs which are all at the corner junction to our land. Some 10kms up from this paddock, is a cute shearing shed rich with years of compacted poo ready for me to collect.
It was 8am on a misty morning; the day we were ready to travel to visit friends and family during the school holidays. The kids were happy to help this time since it meant getting away earlier. A little bit of city chick still remains. I wore a mask whilst under the holding pens to be sure of protecting myself from breathing in spores. I think farmer Paul thought it was over the top; but I’d rather be safe than sorry – I got a terrible chest infection some years ago from breathing in horse manure spores. The ground was some 20cm thick with awesome aged sheep poo. There would be trailer loads of the stuff! I took enough for me and extra for the neighbour who feeds our animals when I go away for work. Once sack bags were filled we bumped along with the trailer back to our place; unhitched and loaded the car with bags, food, the dog and warm clothes fit for visiting Taupo.
The excited kids hopped in the car, pleased to see I had put on a dress, (which to them meant no gardening); however they all groaned when they saw the spade be dragged from the garage with gumboots on my feet. “A quick dig before we leave” I said. I knew a bit of rain was on it’s way, so I thought I better bury some of the sheep manure ready for planting the heavy feeding asparagus on top, before embarking on the city trip.
I’m really impressed with how workable my soil in the ‘ground dug’ veggie gardens are already after such a short time. In December when I dug the gardens it was mostly clay and scoria. I cut trenches and filled the spade depth and width with sack full’s of seaweed, sawdust and kitchen scraps. I covered it over and topped the gardens with 10cm of compost before planting my summer salad greens. This time when I dug the trenches the soil was soft and friable with no evidence of seaweed, scraps or anything. No wonder my spinach is so sweet and tasty. The kids were surprised that red dress and I managed to be de-gumbooted and in the car within 20 minutes ready for the city stop in Auckland to visit friends.
Back home again now, the Asparagus Mary Washington is planted in neat rows and foliar fed with seaweed solution. It is so hard to resist picking fresh spears in the first year. Asparagus is an investment, and such a great reward for waiting. I could have made my planting adventure easier with some store bought sheep pellets. Sterilised manure is so easy to use when feeding the garden. For me, playing farm girl is fun for now, so it was the shearing sheds that doubled as a good workout. In previous years I’ve been really happy with abundant asparagus grown from 2 cups sterilised sheep pellets – available at your local Palmers; buried beneath each plant with a covering of 5cm of compost to prevent the roots from touching the manure.
Don’t forget to mulch well with pea hay or similar organic material to protect against drying out for the best results.