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New Year’s Gardening

January 1, 2012

The little islands off our bay are glowing orange in the late afternoon light.  Crisp, cold air takes my breath away as I load Baby into the backpack and head out for a walk. It is quiet and still everywhere I go.  Even the seagulls are silent versions of their usually obnoxious selves, drifting soundlessly in groups of five or six across the sky.

After hiking down to the beach to warm up I return home to tackle the first item on my list of New Year’s Resolutions – pay more attention to the garden.  Today I’m going to help the cold compost along, hoping to produce rich soil in a couple of months that I can use when starting to plant the garden.

I was motivated by a warmer day a few weeks ago, when a break in the rain got us all out of the house and playing in the yard.  As the Big Kids kicked a deflated soccer ball around I finally chopped the wilted, soggy tops off perennials that finished blooming months ago.  As I yanked grey, mushy carrot tops out of the containers that the kids scattered seeds in last May, I was astonished to see beautiful, orange carrot tops peeking out!  I ran to the house for the biggest bowl I could find and filled it with perfect Scarlet Nantes!  Enough to make a big ReBar carrot cake for the Big Guy’s birthday, and a mess of food for Baby too!

That night I went to bed with dirt under my fingernails, dreaming of paying more attention to my garden this year.  We’re lucky the coastal climate is so forgiving, so that time is really the only factor limiting what can be cultivated. Seedy Saturday events begin in February, broccoli seeds can be started indoors in March, and sweet peas should be direct sown by St. Patrick’s day…  Carolyn Herriot has done a fantastic job of improving on her 52 week Organic Gardening Guide with her more recent book, Zero Mile Diet, which similarly breaks down gardening into seasonal chores by week.

So for me, in January, it’s soil building.  I mulched with leaves and seaweed in the fall, and I’m planning to collect a few more bags of maple leaves before they get covered with snow, to spread on the raised beds.  The decaying leaves discourage weeds from taking root, and make the top layer of soil fluffy and light for spring planting.

Last summer I emptied out the backyard composter and spread the soil on the raised bed that grew garlic, then squash and tomatoes.  The produce from that bed was bumper stuff, the garlic and zucchini especially. The black compost container moved into the chicken run and quickly filled with sawdust from cleaning the chicken coop, but nothing else…  A little research pointed out that the chicken material was mostly carbon-based “browns”, and too dry to heat up and decompose.  To make things harder, we have curbside organic collection here, so we were sending all our valuable “greens” to a facility far away to be made into soil that could be bought back.  It didn’t make sense, but it took a little reinventing our garbage system to start capturing those precious greens again.  Now we use the Green Bin for table scraps, meat bits and bones, and paper towels soaked with cooking oil, and use the good old ice cream bucket for coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable peels and cores, that get taken out to be mixed with the chicken waste.  I’m hoping that the mixture will come closer to the ideal 50:50 ratio of greens (vegetable scraps) and browns (sawdust), and that the chicken manure will catalyse the whole thing into some magic nitrogen-rich soil for growing food.

Today I added water and turned the material in the black composter with a pitchfork until it was well mixed and as soggy as a wrung-out sponge.  Hopefully in a couple of months I’ll be able to use the soil as a top-dressing on the raised beds and to pot up strawberry plants as I divide them up. Rot on, compost!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tric permalink
    January 1, 2012 7:29 pm

    Funny that Gardening is one my brain as well. As soon as I put the Christmas tree away it is always the next thing I plan!

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  1. Tomatoes don’t equal ketchup « Realistic Stuff : Bad Mamma Jammas

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