June 7th, 2010
If a garden has healthy soil it makes all the difference to the end result. Healthy soil is pure magic with a fragrance and texture I learned to love early in my gardening life. I find that the plants growing in healthy soil will grow stronger, faster and might I say happier? Compost is a good way to feed the earth the lazy way! It helps to build good soil and then your garden rewards you with great plants – and it doesn’t cost a great deal either! A beautiful abundant soil is not only the foundation of a great garden, but the foundation of my gardening philosophy.
Gardeners of the past dug everything diligently and it took many years to resist the temptation to follow their lead, but I have now reduced my compulsion for turning the soil to a minimum. The truth is that worms don’t like having their little tunnels destroyed, or being flung into the cruel light of day on the end of a garden fork. I have found that if I need to create a new garden bed the best way is to use newspaper as a mulch with organic material spread on top. I learned to put down enough paper to smother the grass and weeds, about 6 to 8 sheets does the job. This seems to be enough to smother the weeds, but not so much that the worms give up and go elsewhere. I want to attract them with lush manure, hay and other organic things that they are fond of. They are my greatest allies after all. It is, of course tempting to bring in topsoil, but I couldn’t afford it, and this method works so well!
There are probably as many variations on compost making as there are compost makers! My method doesn’t involve turning heaps over, and takes time, but in the end there is year-round compost. I have two bins and I rotate them every 6 months or so. This means that while one is being filled up with weeds, duck poo and other soil yummies the other is emptied onto beds as needed. This allows loads of worm-laden soil food to be available through all seasons. My drums are bottomless so worms, natural soil microbes and their many friends and associates can come and join the party. From time to time I will throw in some compost worms and the odd sack of soil and of course at this time of the year the leaf litter.
Some ingredients that I throw in include: garden waste, spent crops and weeds, grass clippings, autumn leaves, kitchen compost, wood ash, duck poo and hay from their pen. Throwing in a sprinkling of lime or wood ash over the layers every so often helps sweeten and moderate the pH. My bins have lids, but you could use a tarp or flattened cardboard. The covers stop the compost from drying out and shade it from the heat in summer. Worms like the dark. To aerate the mix I shove a stake or crowbar down a few times and wiggle it about, I do this when I feel the need for letting off a little steam! Garden Therapy in action! But I find that mycompost doesn’t need much air as the bins are wide and shallow, allowing it to naturally ventilate.