Composting

Spring has sprung and there’s lots to do in the garden, with the main task being preparing the raised beds for planting. My last plant-related post was about pumpkins 🎃 and how they did unexpectedly well. The strips of carrot seed, unfortunately, yielded nothing and (as detailed in a previous post) although it was a good year for onions & garlic, tiny sweet strawberries, nasturtiums for salad and the bees, chilli peppers, chives, cleavers, basil, peppermint, thyme, sage and even some potatoes, planted or not, the Chinese cabbage and carrots weren’t a success.

Flowers, always important in and around a vegetable patch, also did well, with Calendula adorning the bottom bed and blue alliums in a corner beside the (failed) tomatoes. Two out of the four fruit bush saplings grew and honesty in a big pot was a lovely addition to the rather wild circular flower bed nearer the back door.

This year I’ve benefited from having written down a plan in a notebook in autumn and buying seeds to sow. So yesterday, having raised the other half of the side bed and reinforced the organic underlay of the big green box, I was pleased to discover, tucked into cloth pockets at the back of the cupboard under the stairs, packets of both broccoli and cabbage seed.

Raising a bed is hard work. First you have to dig out all the soil.

Top of side bed with soil dug out
Soil piled up beside the raised bed

Then lay twigs, small branches and leaves, to provide drainage.

Twigs and branches at the bottom of the raised bed
Old flower stems on top of the twigs & branches

Then fill it back in! Forking the soil in gets air into it and breaks up clumps. This soil is clay and otherwise tends to form endless airless mud only good for potatoes so, if you want more variety, you have to work for it.

Side bed with soil replaced

After all this I flung compost on top. The idea is to let it lie for a week or so – to give the birds a chance to eat up all the slugs. They’re useful in compost heaps and if I find any that’s where I put them but if the birds find then first – it’s the circle of life!

Meanwhile the bottom bed isn’t doing much apart from pushing up chives, some of which I plan to relocate to the big green box. The calendula has survived the winter and will need restaked.

Chives and calendula in the bottom bed

This was the first bed I raised and did well with Brussels and cabbage that year. Since then the wicker fence has been rather damaged by Ben 🐕 jumping over it so at some point I’ll need to spend an afternoon weaving more supple twigs into it.

The top bed is full of foxgloves, spring onions and garlic. I thought I’d lifted everything last year so the alliums are a nice surprise. It does complicate composting though.

Foxgloves, onions & garlic shoots in the top bed

I faced the same problem in the big green box and, though tempted to call it a day at this point, decided to take advantage of the rare sunshine and my good mood. First I potted all the saplings, about 60 of them, mostly apple trees from pips in the compost that had seeded due to the combination of temperate weather and good drainage.

6 pots of saplings surround a wooden box

I put the pots around the wooden box (held together with screws and a spare bike tyre) which had held the struggling rhubarb that eventually gave up. Last week I planted some irises inside and other flowering bulbs around the garden.

10 saplings in a pot

Now it was time to lift all the spring onions with their surrounding soil from the green box and temporarily put them in a tray in the greenhouse.

Onion sets planted in tray in the greenhouse

I also put the foxgloves in a trays.

Foxgloves in trays sitting on the trampoline

Then scooped the soil from one side of the green box into the lid of the compost bin in preparation to reinforce the woody organic layer below – some of which had got quite patchy. With soil falling through, the level had gone down and I also found some gladioli bulbs attempting to grow six inches under! I removed these as it struck me that they could possibly be mistaken for edible alliums.

Patchy soil covering of woody layer in green box

You’d have to be pretty stupid to confuse foxglove and cabbage leaves (which is why Miss Marple allocates that task to particularly muddled housemaids) and they are great for the bees so in the top bed those can grow together and here they and the nasturtiums should help keep the pests off the pumpkins.

Twigs and branches on one side of the green box with soil inside the compost bin lid

I replanted the foxgloves in the green box after adding more branches, twigs and leaves, replacing the soil then composting.

I’ll probably replace those central foxgloves with chives but they can stay there for now.

The rest of the compost from the plastic bin (the compost in the wooden box is less broken down) I removed from the bottom of the bin placed in the riddle set atop, in order to give it a good airing.

Compost airing on top of the plastic bin

Tomorrow I plan to compost the top and bottom beds and the greenhouse but that’s enough for today. Hands scratched from bending and breaking branches, muscles tired but mind relaxed, I took off my wellies and went indoors for tea.

(All photos copyright the author, may be reproduced, but not altered, with link to this post.)

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