New field -compost expense

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    I am starting out on a new 320sq m plot. I think I therefore need about 41000 litre of compost to make it 13cm thick over the whole site.
    I have been collecting cardboard slowly and have started putting it down but I just feel daunted to get that much cardboard and then spend £1600 on compost to fill it all.
    Do I really need it to be that thick ?
    Lots of people want me to plough the field first as they say this amount of compost is too much, too expensive and will just was away but I really would like to try your method.
    I want to start planting in it asap. Charles I love your books and am hoping to be coming on a course in the next month.

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    Hi Talia. Perhaps aim to bring a smaller area in to use initially and then build each season from there. This helps to keep things manageable and you can adjust more easily to the required task.

    Do check out local farmers for huge amounts of low cost horse and cow manure, if you have access to any of course. As an example, I got 110 wheel barrow loads for £40 of well rotted cow manure; a good bit cheaper than the local garden centre! Hope that helps.



    Hello Talia
    I acknowledge your commitment!
    As you say that is a lot of compost. As Tris says above, there are cheaper ways to buy it.
    And also as he says, why such a big area?
    My dig/no dig beds, including two paths are 20sqm, both beds, and last year they produced 200kg veg.
    Four such beds would be sufficient for many families.
    So are you proposing a market garden?
    Screen shot below: if it does not work, scroll down to see the table here

    No dig experiment, 2013-16, current year at top

    [caption id="attachment_37810" align="aligncenter" width="638"] Total harvests 2017 from 20 sq. m of beds[/caption]



    Thanks for this – this is a market garden so I would like to get as much planted as possible this year. I am looking to sow, plant and harvest intensively and hope to get yields like those above.

    I do have access to horse manure which I am collecting but I will have to wait a year till it rots – maybe I could do half and wait for the horse manure to do the other half?

    Is it a mistake to do the 320 sq m no dig? I am including paths as well but I am not doing raised beds as I would need too much wood and as you say, wood rots and harbours slugs!



    In a first year, I reckon yields are about 80% of the above, as some soil is not available until weed roots have rotted.
    Also, there may be some leatherjackets (there were here) and more slugs than in subsequent years.
    I would do about half the area, cover the other half with polythene.
    Crop super intensive with 15cm compost in beds, learn, and build your market. Discover which crops pay best.
    Then next winter remove poly and compost the rest. 5-7cm (2-3in) would be enough because the weeds will mostly be dead.



    Hi Talia; we’re in a similar position – was your field just grass when you got it and how compacted is it. Compaction is one of my fears I think Charles mentions in one or more of the books or articles I have read that Firm is good but if it’s been driven over with tractors etc will it be too compacted I wonder. We actually had quite a large area ploughed and then I rotovated a lot of it to get the soil depth required for carrots (which were the best we’ve ever grown in 8 years) BUT rotovating brought up the weed seeds big time so I want to get away from that. I guess I could Broadfork but we have an area of approx 2 acres. Have a good supply of horse muck and cardboard saved so fingers crossed

    Any comments welcomed



    Hi Talia Are you sure about those calculations? I have 325 sq meters of allotment (15 rods) approximately and 2 cubic meters of compost gave me a dressing on around 250 sq meters. So if you are using card twice that much would give enough, even 3 times would only be 6 cubic meters at around £75 per bag delivered ( depending where you are but cheaper for a loose lorry load) that is well under £1000.

    If you are not sure perhaps order a load and see how far it goes?



    2 cubic meters must have given you a very thin dressing – are you starting with a new allotment covered in grass or just top dressing?
    My land is a field covered in grass so in my calculations I suggested I needed about 13 cm (and that is light as it should be 15 cm ultimately) of compost dressing according to no-dig to kill the grass and so I can plant in it straight away. This equals 41 million cubic cm and 41 cubic m. It sounds like a lot – because it is a lot! Unfortunately i cannot get a loose load as the compost lorry would have to drive down the field and so far I can’t find a company willing to do that. I will be taking Charles’s advice and doing half the field with 15cm depth and I have found a company to deliver 20 tonne bags.

    Peter: as you have rotovated perhaps you don’t need as much compost as I am getting?I am not rotovating or ploughing but my field is not very compacted luckily for me. good luck with the horse manure and the cardboard! It has taken me such a long time just to get enough cardboard for 10m sq!



    it gave me approximately a 5 cm covering, but as you say I’m not starting out. However you do say that you are using card so 4 inches (10 cm) should be sufficient even if you want to start growing straight away. Also don’t forget that there will be paths in this area presumably that will not need so much if any mulch.



    How near are you to a green compost producer? Our nearest sells it for £2.50 a tonne, or about 1.5 cu m, plus haulage which is usually the expensive bit.

    A tonne should cover 10 sq m at 15cm depth so you could get, say, 35 tonnes, probably three loads.





    Is there anyone on local allotments that can recommend a local farmer to deliver to your site? I have a smaller 5 rod and couldn’t get companies to deliver to the plot as they wouldn’t drive down the dirt track, but a local farmer was more than happy to deliver direct to the plot.

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