My Little Dirt Secret

The other morning I woke up really early and just couldn’t get back to sleep. I’m talking 4:30 AM. By 5:30, I gave up going back to sleep and sat out on the deck sipping hot chocolate. It was just so wonderful out, cool, green and quiet. The light is totally different at 5:30 AM. I should do something with this time, I thought. I should use this time to do something I really like.

You’ll never guess what I really like to do in the garden. I love to make compost.

A gardening fashion statement
A gardening fashion statement?

There’s something about clomping about in my gumboots, layering all the ingredients of my compost that is quite satisfying. Well, there’s something about clomping about in wellies that makes me like to pretend that I’m Barbara Good in the Good Life.

If you have never heard of The Good Life, you are too young. If that’s possible. Anyway, this was a very popular British TV series back in the 70’s that featured a couple determined to be self-sufficient on a 50 by 100 foot lot in a trendy area of London.

Anyway this couple, Tom and Barbara Good, had a veggie garden , chickens, even a pig at one point, instead of a lawn and flowers and a wood stove in the kitchen. This was all much to the consternation of their trendy Yuppie neighbours. Anyway, if you can, rent it. It’s even rumoured that the Queen of England plopped herself down on the couch every Tuesday evening to watch it.

We get everything second hand, we’re into sustainability, conservation and all that.

Actually five wheel barrows, if you count the handy little green weed barrow
Actually five wheel barrows, if you count the handy little green weed barrow

We have about four old wheel barrows, all for free, giveaways. Now you may wonder how does a couple on a 50 by 100 foot lot possibly use 4 wheelbarrows? Well, we do use them. Mostly to store all the weeds that we pull and the finished flowering plants. We don’t always have time to do the compost so basically I just store the stuff in the wheelbarrows and let it get sort of pre -composty. Then when I can, I “do” the compost.

Now, if you’ve been searching the internet for all kinds of ways to make compost , you’ll know there are many ways to do it. Then there’s my way. And here is my little dirt secret. I cheat a bit.

Our free black composter
Our free black composter

For instance we have one of those big black composters, which I got free, by the way, given away by a neighbour. I like to use that one for all the kitchen stuff like tea bags, coffee grounds with the filters (unbleached of course), peelings from fruit and veggies, egg shells (I crush them usually). I save all this stuff in two plastic recycled containers on the kitchen counter. As soon as they get full they get emptied out into the black composter, but, and this is where the cheating comes in, with each load I add a few trowels of dirt from the compost already made.

In winter I leave a pile of this finished compost close by so I can scoop it easily. I like to think that I’m adding some good bacteria and worms to get to work on all this bounty. Putting the kitchen scraps in the black composter until its composted, keeps it away from the rodents. We do have rats in Victoria.

Then we also have a pile of sod, from making new flower beds. This is the dirt I talked about in a previous blog, that is hard, dry and no self-respecting earthworm will touch. So there you have the ingredients, the old sod, the kitchen scraps from the black composter, and the wheel barrows full of decaying weeds and the secret ingredient, finished compost added to the mix.

The pre-composted weeds
The pre-composted weeds
Dirt for the backyard lasagne
The old sods for the backyard lasagne

Now I like to think of lasagna. That is layers. I put a layer of sods which I break up into the smallest bits I can by hand. I water that really well. In fact, my latest trick is to keep the hose going on a fine spray pointed at the compost

Keeping things wet
Keeping things wet

while I layer to keep the dust down and wet the stuff as I go. Then on top of that I put a layer of weeds, also broken up as much as possible. Then I add a layer of composted kitchen scraps from the black composter. All of these layers get thoroughly watered down, since the compost needs to be wet to work. Then back to a layer of sod, then weeds, then kitchen compost with some finished compost added.

We have two bins next to each other. We usually empty them both on to the garden in the spring but we save a bit for the cheating. That is we save some good finished compost full of worms and wigglers to seed the new layers with.

A layer of black plastic keeps the moisture in
A layer of black plastic keeps the moisture in

The last thing we do is also a bit of a cheat. We put black plastic over the working compost to increase the heat and keep it wet. A dried out compost won’t work.

Then by the next spring we have “black gold” as we like to call it. All for free, all natural and the garden loves it. Barbara and Tom would be proud.

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Making Space in the Garden

Last night it rained, a lot. I could hear it drumming on the greenhouse roof as I fell asleep. So, as every gardener knows the best time for weeding is right after a good rain. Those weeds just come out a lot easier. Well, ok, some of them did. Quite a few of them required a bit more effort having established themselves quite well. And for once, I made myself come in after an hour or so. It’s always easy to forget that you are not in shape yet and overdo it. Gotta get those weeding muscles in tune yet.

But first, even before I got started, I had to get some photos of the goodies that have come up and are doing great. I love our garden and am always in awe of the way it all seems to just pop up in the spring. We’ve got poppies already full of heavy buds. And the Cardoon is just motoring and will be a giant soon.

Our Cardoon (May 18)
Our Cardoon (May 14)
Mystery Plant?
Mystery Plant
Hellebore (Peeking out from behind it, a Native Bleeding Heart)
Hellebore (Peeking out from behind it, a Native Bleeding Heart)
My fave Hosta, which later becomes a beautiful blue.
My fave Hosta, which later becomes a beautiful blue.
And suddenly, a Solomon's Seal
And suddenly, a Solomon’s Seal

The dirt here in Victoria is so wonderful. Such a change from our gardens in the past in Calgary. Dirt in Calgary is dryer and harder and requires a lot of work. Sometimes I felt,¬† when a tulip would struggle up in that hard dirt, like I should just stand back and cheer. Here you have to actually cut things back. Which reminds me that we’ll have to check on the compost we worked so hard on last fall. Hopefully, it’s at the stage we like to call “black gold”.

Besides weeding I was really looking over the garden to find spaces. I need spaces for all the things I have to plant. We went a little wild at the Seedy Saturday back in February and got some veggie seeds like beets, parsnips, chard¬† (the pretty rainbow variety of course, I am an artist after all) and dill. And to top it off, last weekend, out garage sailing, I brought home starters for Acorn and Butternut Squash and Zucchini. Now to find some spots for them. So having weeded out a few areas I’ve found a bit of space but I fear that this weekend there will have to be a lot of moving around going on.

my handy Weed Wagon

Knee saver weeding stool
Knee saver weeding stool

You may be wondering why I have included this photo of my little green wheelbarrow. Now we’ve got a lot of wheelbarrows, we find them everywhere at garage sales and as giveaways. But this one is special. I just love this little thing. It’s got a wonderful shape and colour to it, sort of bright and friendly. It’s my favourite for weeding. It’s light and just is so easy to drag around after me as I weed. I found it, where else, garage sailing and snapped it up. And then there is the little stool, a freebie at a garage sale last summer. I’m finding it’s just right for sitting on as I weed, a real savior for my poor knees. Doesn’t take much to make me happy.

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