Doin’ The Dirt … Eh?
A Funny thing happened on the way … 2017
The likes of Monty Don, Alan Titchmarsh, Percy Thrower or even Alan Gardner for those of us on the spectrum are never going to fear my tread! These are great celebrity gardeners who are as nimble with their fingers as they are with their horticultural wizardry. None of them have got anything to worry about with me. I am your classic accidental gardener! Kermit has more green in his fingers than l do! And yet, this doesn’t stop me from ‘Having a go!’
Out With The huge raised beds!
Last year l saw myself as a ‘great gardener’; the soils would not be safe from my hands l thought. I read up everything l could on gardening, l bought not just a few packets of seeds, but thousands of seeds in hundreds of packets! I was going to launch into gardening with whirlwind brazen bravado – l could do it!
And in with the more efficient smaller beds!
The larger beds of which there were two operating in 2017 measured 8 x 4 and 10 x 4 @18″ depth, have been replaced with 6 smaller beds measuring 4 x 3 @ 6″ depth. Each bed has a good quality organic mixture: home grown rich compost and screened top soil.
I ordered raised beds, the right screened soils, the right organic mixes for the beds, the trimmings for watering systems, planting and you name it and l was going to forget baby steps and make jolly green giant footprints and do my bit for organic gardening! I was going to prove everyone wrong who said l would never make a gardener; l was going to show them all!
I was going to produce fine vegetables for the table, herbs for the condiments and fruit for desserts!
A good compost doesn’t just produce a quality organic supplement, it will also ensure you have a good selection of worms to go into your new bed. Here l am introducing new worms to one of the beds in prep for the seedlings in a month’s time.
YES, I WAS!!
I am sure by now that most of you will know that being under the spectrum as l am, this means at times l have no sense of moderation! I don’t always believe in baby steps, it is all go with me. Now most times when l start things like this, l am usually successful … usually. This doesn’t mean l am always successful though!
2017 as an adventure into organic gardening did not go as planned. Now don’t get me wrong, l did manage to grow a lot of vegetables, in a roundabout way. I did have fun …. In a roundabout way. My plans for square foot gardening, did not go as planned, and what l ended up with was a lot of vegetables in one bed or rather two beds in spaces that were never meant to be for more than one plant!
The base of the 2018 compost heap, first proper lawn clippings of the year. I like to ensure that my compost works to the green, brown, broken and organic waste formula. This is the green layer part 1.
This is the first broken layer – consisting of the previous years pile slowly being sifted for the compost, the aggregate left goes into the new pile, mixed with bracken.
But everything is a learning curve right?
I did discover however one thing, one very important thing and that was that l didn’t actually have green fingers, no l had brown! I discovered that my true organic love was actually found in producing compost, and that it was a real dirty passion, not just a passing romantic phase, it was lust!
Sometimes referred to as ‘Black Gold’, a richly dark and productive soil supplement – aka fancy name for compost. The process of naturally recycling garden waste, using materials such as foliage, kitchen scraps, vegetable waste, paper, cardboard and leaves and so on.
There’s a lot of life in the dead wastes! This is a juvenile female slow worm. Last year l had a family of fifteen in the heap. I think they are gorgeous.
I am a brown fingered gardener and proud!
…………. To the garden 2018!
This year Suze has decided that l should concentrate upon brown gardening whilst she plays her own hands in green gardening. Suze has this natural affinity with gardening with grace, whilst l on the other hand am a catastrophe! So in many ways this new set up is actually way more comforting.
We have jointly planned a more reasonable garden rotation for this year, although we may have started it a little late, which will not matter one iota if we have a later summer, but could if we don’t. The earlier rains of the spring meant that serious repairs and preparations for the beds and the soils were delayed. Seeds could not be made ready for planting, but at least we are optimistic, and that is a starter.
2017 compost heap awaiting digging, sifting and then adding the remainder to the new pile in careful layers. Last year l produced 2 tonne of compost for the garden, and others. The beauty is in truth that you will produce a lot of organic material from a good quality heap that is maintained and managed.
Most gardening series concentrate upon producing pretty flowers, beautiful vegetables, glorious looking herbs, landscaping, crop rotations and the list goes on, but very few look at composting! Oh no, composting is given the back seat … it’s not pretty, it’s mucky, it’s not colourful, it’s brown and green, it doesn’t deal with blossoms, it deals with dead things, waste and the broken forgotten bits of life!
But in essence, l don’t think this is all that true.. Composting is one of the most natural blossoms of the world that is too often and quickly forgotten. It is beautiful in its organic quality, its rawness and the freshness. I mean come on, when have you known me to stick to the usual, convention and conformity – if anyone was going to tackle something a little out there – who would it really fall to?
Crude but effective, l prefer an open filtered composting system. Wooden pallets staked together in a twin hot box system. The left box is 2017 awaiting sifting whilst the box on the right is 2018’s. Once the left has moved across fully to the rightt, it will sit and produce a heat of around 100 sometimes a 110, then will be dug, sifted again and transferred to the left.
Exactly, and so l am going to take you through a truly natural process of life behind the garden, the ethos of the garden, back to the raw state. Without the compost, the soils would be lacking, without the additional supplements how could an organic chemical free gardening actually commence?
Adding in more levels of broken, cardboard, torn up egg cartons, shredded paper, leaves and shredded down branches in the form of mulch.
Dried out and bagged leaves from 2016 added to the pile.
With a third layer of sifted 2017 pile.
Of course, l will also show you the gallant attempts of Suze, and the processes of our vegetable garden, how together we are working towards producing crop for the table as a team!
Labour intensive it is indeed, digging out 2017 heap with pitch fork, and using the sifter to produce the fine compost, and discarding the rest into the new 2018 heap.
The sifted compost goes into one of these bins which is then ready for immediate use in the garden.
The leaves from 2016 have their branches shredded down to produce a garden mulch for protecting the plants.
Will produce about 2 bin loads which is a good amount for the season.
We started the whole organic gardening approach, because we were getting so very tired of
1] The ever increasing prices of buying vegetables from the shops …
2] Because we are green and are sick to death of constantly having to buy vegetables wrapped in an endless sea of plastic …
3] Because the life expectancy of bought vegetables from the sellers is greatly reduced due to the shipping process. Meaning buying vegetables these days in comparison to say fifteen years ago is greatly reduced. They go off quicker.
Suze loves gardening, l like to see a nice garden, but am never hyper focused on the pretty flowers in consideration to seeing more green foliage in a garden. We are talking here of a man who only sees weeds as flowers in the wrong place, so perhaps my love of composting was a curve just waiting to be released.
Just keep adding lawn mowings or green layers and brown layers together for about a month, before the first 2018 dig over and bottom sift.
Thanks for reading all, more in a few weeks.