Kevin recently mowed down a big patch of canna lilies. Today we spent a good part of the afternoon gathering up the cut plants and layering them into a big pile just over the fence from the vegetable garden. The mulch from the canna lilies seems to be full of carbon. Tomorrow we plan to gather some cow dung and make a big batch of nitrogen-rich manure tea with which to douse the pile. This is the biggest of several compost piles that we hope will be ready to enrich the garden in the coming autumn.
I spent a good part of last autumn being rather lazy (I like to think this was related to being in the early stages of pregnancy), so did not plant lots of compost crops in the unused vegetable beds as I’d planned to do. As a result, our present composting efforts are not as extensive as we would have liked. Still, we are doing as much as we can, and are on target to keep building up the amount of compost we are producing on the Farmlet season after season. I have already purchased seed for compost/ green manure crops to go in this autumn (broad beans, lupins, mustard, phaecelia, asparagus peas), and have written reminders in the garden diary so that we’ll be sure to plant them.
With the heavy clay soil we have here, it is crucial that we keep adding large quantities of organic matter every time we re-plant the beds. Last season, we were lucky enough to have a number of large bales of spoiled hay from my cousin’s farm, as well as a huge pile of mulched-up tree branches from my parents’ place. That gave us a fine start for building garden beds. This year, we are still in the position of needing to bring in extra organic matter to improve the structure of our soil. We anticipate having to do this for the first few years until a) we have established a good base of garden soil, and b) we have a decent quantity of our own compost coming on line.
Though in principle we dislike the idea of hauling in organic matter from outside, we feel this is a wise use of our “petro-chemical dollars.” Establishing a good base of soil in our garden is one of our highest priorities. At this stage, we are also adding lime and gypsum to the vegetable beds, and are looking into remineralizing the soil on the Farmlet as a whole, by spreading rock dust.
NB: In the photo the compost pile has come out looking somewhat cone-shaped. It is actually rectangular in shape.