Red Clover and Lupins

We’ve been thinking of how best to build up the croft’s ability to support plants and wildlife. It’s pretty barren at the moment with limited biodiversity, having been left unused for many years as far as we can tell. It’s compacted grass, moss and rushes with a bank of trees to the Southwest and a very boggy area to the South. The soil levels are very thin.

What we can do is start working on the fertility of the ground by seeding nitrogen fixers like lupins and red clover, which will start the process of returning nutrients to the soil and slowly build up the biomass. Green manure.

We also need to get to know a local farmer who can provide manure from cows, pigs or horses that we can dig in or spread. Anything that increases the organic matter in the soil can only be a good thing. We’ll be aiming for full ground cover rather than bare, tilled soil with most of the land under tree or orchard cover, and raised beds for vegetable production.

Of course, once the trees are in and slowly shedding leaves the cycle will start and the soil depth will slowly and naturally increase.

I know that it’s going to be at least ten years until the trees and hedges will be established enough to really get going, but how satisfying will it be to know that the legacy we leave will be woodland and wildlife.

14 Replies to “Red Clover and Lupins”

  1. J > Lewissian Gneiss is completely unforgiving. No drainage, and doesn’t degrade and release minerals. Removing the vegetation cover could be disastrous : it’s essential that any new cover must be very well established, securing the soil particles and maintaining soil structure by the end of September. The risks depend on slope, exposure to wind (those trees are well placed!). Chickens must be kept out!. If that doesn’t work out right, soil could be washed or blown away and you won’t be able to stop it and restoration would be extremely difficult. The safest and surest route to improved fertility is with well-managed grazing, with feed brought to them. But bringing in manure, seaweed etc is equally effective – if you can get them. If yours is a coastal township you’ll have rights to collect seaweed – free : make the most of it – though you would still need manure for the nitrogen, and the two thing combine very well. By the way, in a highland/island context, 230mm soil is certainly not very thin, and it will probably be good loam (which results from slowly accretion of soil from grass growing over very slowly weathering rock). The soil structure of the loam provides the micro drainage that stops the soil liquifying in very heavy/prolonged rain : so the seaweed and manure should be spread thinly over the grass (thinly but regularly in the grass-growing season).

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    1. Thanks for this comprehensive response, Jonathan. Good advice. Ours is a coastal township so we’ll certainly check out the seaweed possibilities too.

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    2. I’ve just re-looked at your blog and what you’ve achieved in your walled garden, which continues to serve as a massive inspiration to me. I’ve been following you (as a food blogger) for years, but it’s good to revisit earlier posts and to cast an eye over how things have developed over time. Thank you for taking the time to help get us up and running with advice.

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  2. Sounds like you have the ideal ground for a herring bone bamboo Reed seage system. This will not only massively reduce cost but will maintain a wonderful green Vista. Richard

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  3. Having read the well-inofrmed comments above, I hesitate to add mine, since I barely qualify as even an amateur gardener. But I did grow lupins for a few years, and the slugs just love the things. I don’t know what your slugs are like on Skye, but in Cornwall they’re murderous. I’m giving up the battle and looking for plants they don’t eat.

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    1. I have yet to determine how murderous the slugs on Skye are, but I suspect they’ll be about the same! Best of luck in your war… have you considered chickens? ☺️

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      1. Ha, Ellen. Maybe train the dog to collect them? All’s fair in love and war, I’d say. Maybe it’s time he/she contributed to the cause …

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      2. Sorry–this is in the wrong place but I ran out of reply buttons: The sweeter, calmer dog had an encounter with a chicken that involved blood and feathers (and as far as I know, no deaths). The wilder one hasn’t had a chance and I hope to keep it that way. Now, if I could train them to hunt slugs, I’d be happy.

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    1. Thank you! It’s actually one that I’m already following, and I totally agree – it’s brilliant. What they’ve done with that land is simply remarkable. Thanks for thinking of me though ☺️

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