Make do and mend down on the farm in Hail Weston

Hunts Post Farming Column by Anne-Marie Hamilton, of Wood Farm, Hail Weston

Hunts Post Farming Column by Anne-Marie Hamilton, of Wood Farm, Hail Weston - Credit: ARCHANT

You know that spring has officially arrived when a tractor turns up with the fertiliser spreader on the back. Today, most farmers physically test the soil temperature to decide the optimum time to spread nitrogen fertiliser on the crops, as timing is critical to ensure that the soil is warm enough for the plants to take up the ‘plant food’ and benefit from it.

If you go in too soon, and plants are not yet active, there is a real risk that fertiliser will be wasted, and could cause problems by leaching out of the ground and into watercourses – an expensive situation that nobody wants!

These days, most of the fertiliser spreading is done by our business partner and staff, and there is no need for us to have our own spreader. Their machine is large and sophisticated, and capable of spreading more fertiliser on areas that badly need it, and less where the computer has analysed that the soil is more fertile.

A couple of hours after the spreader had left, I was surprised to see our business partner at the back door, with two plastic garden containers full of fertiliser.

Apparently, there was a tear in one of the bags, and a bit of fertiliser had gone onto the floor. By the time it was noticed, the spreader was just a dot in the distance, so the fallen material was gathered up into the containers, and we were given first refusal. 

Farm fertiliser is not like the garden variety. Although the pellets (known as prills), are incredibly small and remind me of the tiny polystyrene beads in a child’s toy, they are, in fact, extremely potent. 

I vaguely wondered whether the fertiliser would be of any benefit to our fruit trees, although I know that they prefer potash, but Rob came round the corner and promptly announced that the fertiliser was exactly what he needed for the grass paddocks. 

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Our next problem was how to spread the material evenly and sparingly over the land, without a spreader. Like most farmers, Rob is an expert at ‘make do and mend’, and after a rummage in the back of the shed, he emerged triumphantly with an old slug pellet machine that used to go on the back of a quad bike when we had one. A few tweaks to his favourite elderly Massey Ferguson tractor, and it was ready for action.