My marvellous Kent Claret vine ... I bought it from Victoriana Nursery to keep my ever-faithful calendulas company. Friend Wendy recommends the grapes for grape jelly.

Happy harvesting … my Great Auntie Bee's watercolour of farming life as it used to be, painted in 1950.

The creative mind in action … Coppicing days, Pheasants Coppice, Bishopsbourne.

History …In the garden of Serre de la Madonne, Menton. Seems I wasn’t the only admirer.

Happy birthday! ... My 50th Birthday Party 9th September 2010 at Jenny's, also with Hilda, Becca, Vittorio, Robin and Yvonne and Bianca - Caprese Michelangelo, Toscana. A very special day.

Birthday girl ... Mrs G picking flowers on the morning of her 80th Birthday, a few seconds before she realised that I had arrived.

Remember when the sound of horses' hooves sent gardeners racing out to collect the hard workers' visiting cards?

Thanks to George Derrick, gardeners don't have to wait till the odd horse or pony wanders near your home. George has an enterprise in Sussex that collects it and delivers it to our gardens.

Gardeners' best friend ... Once there were three million working horses.

Another hitch with the popularity of the almost perfect natural fertiliser is the, well, odour.

Many gardeners are put off by the smell. They don't want to upset their own families, and they worry about the noses of near neighbours, too.

George knows that and he has answered it. An odourless manure? Yes, very nearly.

George told me, 'In late Victorian Britain there were more than three million working. Chemical fertilisers had not been invented.

'Well, they weren't needed because the horses provided mountains of cheap manure.

The natural choice

'Allotments became available from around 1800 and the then plentiful supply of aged horse manure was the natural choice to feed for the soil,' George said.

'Queen Victoria died in 1901 and the industrial world was starting to overtake mother-nature on the transport stakes. The horse population declined to such a degree that rotted manure was not easy to come by and people looked for alternatives.

'Thrifty plot-holders and gardeners made good use of their waste and together with leaf-mould made their own compost. However, this is time-consuming.

'With the introduction of large-scale mushroom farming and local amenity green waste centres, enterprising companies have now mixed spent mushroom compost with smashed green waste to produce a weak and cheap, non-nutritious soil conditioner.'

George said, 'Today, horse riding is a passion for many and together with the sporting fraternity there are just under a million horses in the UK.

'Many equestrian centres and stables offer fresh manure to passers-by for free and some even sell it to allotments.

'In this state, it will harm your plants and will, without doubt, contain weed seeds.

Black and odour-free

'Quality manure is a product. It's collected, shredded and turned regularly for months until its black and odour-free. The heat in the pile is sufficient to kill off the weed seeds and it encourages worm activity.

'This type of horse manure is still difficult to buy and with the passing of time and all the various options available on the market, using aged horse manure as a first and natural choice of fertiliser has been forgotten,' George told me.

'If you have access to a supply of quality manure, consider using it as a food for your soil. Its goodness and natural quality cannot be matched by composts or chemicals.

'At Sussex Manures, we are proud of our Puckamuck and offer it at great prices in 60-litre bags, bulk-builders' bags, by the transit tipper truck, or by the articulated lorry load.'

Happy fertile gardening!

60 litre bags are available at:
       Ferring Nurseries
       Lansdowne Plants
       Southwick Nursery
       Camelia Botnar Nursery
       The Vineries (Bookham)
       Gardner and Scardifield
George 01903 877689, 07899 676166

Robert Graham's | Email | Wye, Ashford, Kent TN25 5DD | © 2000 - 2019