Composting is the heart-beat of your garden. If you're not adding fresh alive compost 2 or 3 times a year to your beds, your plants simply won't thrive !! Making compost is the most basic thing I do for my garden. If you want to start a garden, begin making compost even before you start digging your ground : ) You can be making compost while you and your Beloved figure out the best positioning of the various plants and garden plots on your Space of Love. I add compost to my different garden beds maybe 4-6 times a year as our bin generates soil really fast (due to tiger worms). Most beds will get new compost dug into them around two times a year.
Remember, the Number One thing you need to do once you've decided to start a garden is:
MAKE COMPOST !! :D
What kind of material do you add to your compost?
Collect all of your organic kitchen waste/ food scraps into an ordinary plastic bucket or similar receptacle. Please don't add any 'animal products' such meat, fat, fish... My mum used to add torn up newspaper saying "the worms love this"... which they do. The best thing worms love is banana peel. I often go to the trouble of cutting up my banana skins cross-ways into 2-3cm bits for the worms : ) ... so they scatter and spread to various parts of the bin. Some people add seafood shells, such as cockle and mussel shells. I'm sure this is a good idea in theory as it would undoubtedly add to the calcium in the soil. In practice, whole shells are just annoying. I've finally managed to get most of the mussel shells out of the compost bin now. They're sharp and could cut your finger, they're hard, they'll stop little self-sown plants come through potentially, especially if the shell is laying horizontally in the earth. It's best to leave them out unless someone in the family volunteers to grind them up (as a coarse sand) and then their calcium will be beneficial i'm sure to the plants : ) Add any leaf litter you can find, pine needles, horse or chicken dung is excellent, any other herbivorous droppings.
Preparing the space for your bin or compost heap:
Dig the ground over first. You don't need to remove the grass layer... just dig to a spade-depth, the perimeter size you want your compost heap to be. This allows the wee worms easy access to your pile. Putting your compost heap on a concrete slab, bricks or similar is useless. You want to have the interaction between the organisms in the soil and the matter you're adding on the pile. A "free-falling" heap is fine. Some people like to fence their heap in :D ... all just personal preference, trial and error. I like free-flowing personally. In a year or so's time, the soil at the bottom of the compost is fabulous and rich. When it comes time to turn* your compost (6-12 months) you may even want to permanently move your compost over a space, and grow directly where the old compost pile had been. Veges grown in such a place obviously, do very well :D
* turn = dig off the newest matter from the top of your compost heap and put it at the bottom of a new pile. Prepare your soil for the new pile as described above. In your old pile, you get to the good rich composted soil at some point. It should be full of earthworms after leaving it for 6-12 months. The 'worm quantity' lets you know the material is alive and vital !! You then dig this fabulous alive stuff into your wheel barrow and spread on your garden : )
Thoughts about 'excrement' :-/
I avoid pig shit personally :-/ mainly because pigs are omnivorous, but i'm fine with other animal turd : ) You will want to use pig dung to run your methane engines anyway :D I believe it's got the highest methane content... Anyone see "Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome" ??
At Findhorn Garden in Scotland, they allow residents to use the composting toilets only after they have eaten fully from the garden for one month... a vegetarian diet : ) All this human waste which breaks down with untreated timber shavings and other such 'litter', all gets added back into the soil after 'resting' for a year. What comes out at the end (cripes, full of puns!!) is beautiful black, friable soil. I've seen the results of this type of composting in Northland, at the eco-community near Tutukaka (please pardon yet another pun !! ) :D kaka in Maori means 'poo' !!
Wicca and menstruation
Depending on your 'position' in the Wiccan traditions, you may like to 'bleed' directly into your garden during menstruation (just wear a long dark coloured skirt while gardening) : ) If you think this a little odd, how do you think Anastasia deals with her monthly period ?? Particularly since we're told that she rarely wears clothing and that we know that she has no use for baby nappies/ diapers... so neither would she, I would speculate :D Alternatively, you could use 'environmentally friendly' pads which are then soaked for an hour or so in water before washing in ~ Soap Nuts !!! :D You can do this also with ordinary store-bought pads or tampons. Obviously these are discarded after soaking. The water from soaking may then be added either to your compost heap or put in a watering can and sprinkled directly onto any developing plants. I don't recommend using this fluid on vegetables or berries that are ready to pick :-/ The family may not appreciate that : ( ... but during the developing stages I think is fine : )
If this idea creeps you out (and obviously your HIV status will need to come into consideration !!) : ) just think of all that "blood and bone" that your grandfather used to spread liberally all through his vegetable garden !! Now... your choice... ground dried beef or fresh 'majick' fluid directly flowing from your beloved woman !!! :D And if this still creeps you out... just remember that what you're eating now from your supermarket is grown with Oil !!! ('urea' is made from oil) Hmmmm... oil which is poisonous to my body or natural organic enriched body fluid... hmmm ??? Which one sounds the safer ?? And for all of those people in Auckland whose water supply comes directly out of the Waikato river... guess how much cow poo and blood from flushing ends up in your water supply, leaching through the soil and so on, before it gets nice and "sterilised" with chlorine and filtered several times over ?? It's happening all the time... it's just that no-one's talking about it.
More ideas of what to add
Back to the home compost: Add seaweed - I think it best to hose off the salt first before chopping up with hedge clippers. I didn't hose off my seaweed one time when I was making a seaweed brine/ liquid fertiliser. Salt and plants are not a good mix :-/ Use petals dropped from flowering trees (eg: camelia), autumnal leaves, weeds, grass clippings are great. Thin twigs will break down. Tree branches thicker than 1cm... forget it. These are best burned and added to your garden direct or your compost as 'potash'. Add all of these 'ingredients' over time, bit by bit, into a pile in a designated part of your garden or in a compost bin and keep adding to it. A good idea is to cover your pile with an old piece of carpet to keep the moisture in. I've only done this once myself. I found it a slight 'pain'. I found results just as good by regularly adding grass cuttings. This adds heat and stops too much evaporation.
Too wet ?? Too dry ??
If the heap is too dry ie: if it's not rained for a couple of weeks or if you've got an enclosed bin which obviously stops the natural precipitation, give your compost a good hosing down. I tend to add quite a lot of water/ tea/ water with soil in it from scrubbing dinner vegetables... and all this goes into the 'compost bucket' to be taken down to the bin, which is an enclosed one. Organic material breaks down in the presence of heat and moisture... the compost will generate a surprising amount of heat once it's 'working'. If you don't have warm or even hot !! compost when you put your hand into the middle of it, get some more grass clippings off your neighbours !! :D You'll get heaps of heat from grass clippings.
If you're getting a lot of rain, add more fibre to your compost in the form of autumn leaves, straw, twigs and so on. Nothing 'bad' will happen to your compost heap if it gets very wet... the worms may very well enjoy it : ) If you really want, throw a water-proof sheet over your heap. This might be helpful if you're experiencing months of rain... just to keep it warm and the microbes still generating the much-needed heat required for decomposition.
Tiger worms, Earth worms
See if you can get some tiger worms. Earth worms are good too but tiger worms seem to munch through stuff faster. Tiger worms are brilliant for breaking everything down quickly at the bottom level of the layer... particularly if you've resorted to a plastic compost bin for 'space' or tidiness reasons : ) You may not get much heat from microbial activity with a plastic bin so this is where tiger worms are invaluable. A heaped pile is my preferred method... it's so alive !! :D The heat generated by the activity of the microbes in the organic matter causing decomposition, results in the most fragrant, beautiful, rich black soil you have ever seen. I love making compost :D It's my favourite !! :D
The self care garden: Composting and Weed Cover
The garden out the front I must admit hasn't had too much attention from me since March last year!!! I've just let things "self sow" a lot. It's my preferred gardening method really :D Very easy to do with minimum input required :D I just pull out the big weeds only over summer. A covering of weeds over the ground in the summertime especially helps protect your soil from the sun :D (natural sunscreen) and assists with moisture retention. My front garden stays in shade over most of the winter months so there's not much growing goes on there for 3 or so months.
I've now developed a small garden down the back of the property that i've planted potato shoots in that are coming away nicely in their trenches, some red onions and garlic. It gets full sun all afternoon down there and the plants are loving it. I've also got a small strip of garden at the side of the house which is very sheltered. The Cape Gooseberries have been enjoying their winter there : ) I plan to plant tomato seed here in another few weeks' time during August as it's so sunny and sheltered from frosts beside the house : )
Over August and September I cleared away weeds that had crept up over the winter. I also planted some seed - i'm experimenting with the Cedars idea of planting seeds in the ground early and then they can choose their own time to come up... so I did some late winter seed planting in August just to see what would happen. After weeding, I lay compost then planted seed... but my compost is living with a lot of seeds in it. That's because I let 1 or 2 of every plant I grow seed which is thrown naturally back onto the ground and often, this seems to end up in the compost. The new-laid compost usually starts sprouting all kinds of vegetable plants which I then just transplant to a permanent position once they get big enough to move. This will be my last weeding until April-May next year. I think it's best if weed or dense plant cover remains over the soil in summer... not only so moisture is retained somewhat, but primarily as "sun screen". The NZ sun is much too harsh and depletes the soil. So it's best not to weed in the summertime : ) Nice easy gardening like I say... and then just water most evenings... and you get crazy gardens happening. It's pretty easy once you get into your flow with your garden : )
btw. I usually only garden mid-season, ie: Spring and Autumn. Winter's too cold, Summer's too hot. Mid-season is perfect : ) And since it's such a tiny garden, I can get away with this ; )