I am not a professional farmer, but I did pick up a couple of tips hanging out with my grandpa as a child. My grandparents moved around a lot, but there was always one constant…Grandpa’s garden. It didn’t matter what size his patch of earth was, whether he had a full acre or a small apartment patio, he would have at least 3 things thriving in the ground; hook neck summer squash, tomatoes, and prize worthy roses. That man loved his roses.
He may not have taught me everything he knew, actually to be quite honest he didn’t “teach” me anything. He let me work alongside him, so it was more of an absorbing of knowledge. I was often on bug watch and had my own squirt bottle of dawn and water. Squishy has a very similar bottle.
Working in the dirt is as healing to my soul now as it was then. I understand why he worked so hard on land that wasn’t his. Now it’s my turn. My turn to transform a little patch of scorched earth and my turn to share the journey. Luckily Squishy is just as exciting about working out in the dirt as I was.
This week we are focusing on developing our soil…on the cheap. We live in between zones 8 and9b. Which means we get a complete second growing season come August. We may or may not have the soil ready, but we will have started the nutrient cycle. The best way to rejuvenate depleted soil will always be compost, in my opinion. The best part of compost; it’s practically free. The worst part of compost; it takes time and space.
While I don’t have any magic wand to speed up the decaying process, I do have a pretty nifty solution to save on space. Hole composting! It is just what it sounds like. You dig a hole and put your composting material inside. Done. This makes it the perfect method for small yards, or yards with close neighbors, or if you just want to keep it out of sight
Hole Composting directly benefits the ground your working and attracts the beneficial bugs already in the earth. I use a layering method inside the hole; first layer is food scraps, then some thin paper or cardboard (your carbon layer), add more organic material (like leaves or grass), then start over until the hole is filled. I have in the past added some night crawlers to the mix to help things along, but that is purely optional. The fresh decaying matter will attract bugs all on its own. I keep a small yogurt tub under my kitchen sink to throw scraps in. That makes it easy to toss outside in the morning when we check the plants. It also makes a great chore for my handy helper.
Then just cover it over with dirt and let nature do what she does. You can come back in six months or so and till it through if you want. A lush humus layer will emerge where your dry dirt used to be. For this garden bed I think I am going to be constructing a modified “hugelkultur” and plant directly into the decaying matter. Less work is always a plus.
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