Hands in the Dirt

Hands in the Dirt

Finally! A day of real progress in the garden. I was very surly yesterday morning — it was cold. Too cold and icy to get any garden work done. I was taking it personally — storming around doing my errands, grumping about the damp wind. Then, finally, about one, it warmed up and I managed to get my compost corner cleaned up.

My composting system has been a frustration for a couple of years. I had three different backyard composters — one square one that came apart in layers that the waste district in California sold me for cheap years ago, another square one with a little door at the bottom where you’re supposed to remove compost (with what? a trowel?) and another totally crappy round one where the top layer fell off if you just looked at it cross-eyed. Again, with a little door at the bottom where you were supposed to remove your compost. These might have been okay for someone who just wanted to use up kitchen scraps, and maybe fill a few flowerpots. But they were too small, and you couldn’t get in to turn the compost, and they were nearly impossible to get the compost out of when it was ready. Because they were so small, I have a ginormous pile of old leaves and sunflower stalks and garden waste piled up out there. Last year I had to send leaves and other stuff to the town compost heap.

My dream is a self-sufficient system in which I compost all my yard and garden waste and then return it to my many vegetable and perennial beds. So yesterday I dismantled the crappy composters, put all the compost I’d actually made into the vegetable beds, and started building the new compost system. A two-bin system that uses scavenged pallets. I need to go find one more pallet today, but it looks like it’s going to fit into the space really nicely, and it will solve several of my problems. I’ll be able to get in there to turn the compost. They’re big, there’s a lot of room for the volumes of stuff I’ve got. And since I kept the one plastic composter that worked well, and moved it closer to the house for kitchen waste, I won’t have to worry too much about keeping the dogs out of the new heaps. I need to drive out to my friend Joan’s house and get some manure, because one of my garden goals this year is to get a good hot compost heap going. And so I need something to start the cooking …

As for the compost I made — there was about six wheelbarrow loads of compost. Not all of it was entirely digested — there were some sticks, and some straw, and some chunks, but I turned them all in anyhow. What I wanted as much as anything was some vegetative matter to aerate and lighten the soil in my veggie beds. I spent the last couple of years enamoured of the no-dig theory, but last year I saw a real drop-off in productivity. My soil was hard, and there was a crust on top from watering, and my carrots were not a success. The dirt had gotten compacted. It was hard. So yesterday, I took all that compost I’ve made, and I turned over the dirt in each of my raised beds. I smacked apart clods with my turning fork. It was hard work, particularly if like me, you’ve spent all winter typing and knitting and sitting on the couch because you hate hate hate the gym. But spring is here and there’s some actual work to do. And after a nice warm afternoon of digging, I have eight raised beds full of fluffy beautiful soil. I think I’m going to plant carrots and spinach and early greens and fava beans today. Fava beans! Last year was the first time I grew them and they were so so so wonderful. Peas. Maybe I’ll put in some peas today as well.

One thought on “Hands in the Dirt

  1. Too icy? We just fled Henry Coe State Park because we were so hot. We got home and found out Morgan Hill (slightly more seaward) was 93 degrees and 9% humidity. No wonder the kids were all flushed and tired…

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