Early Spring Photos

Here are some photos of our garden in early spring 2010!

Newly restored greenhouse

Newly restored (and tidy!) greenhouse

Herb and flower bed mulched with our own compost

Herb and flower bed mulched with our own compost

New Compost Area

New compost area and bins at end of garden

Potatoes Chitting

Seed potatoes chitting well

Shallots

Shallots planted in the autumn now coming through

New area for fruit

Our fruit area prepared with raspberry canes and currant bushes planted

How to make compost

Kitchen waste into compost bin

Kitchen waste into compost bin

Home made compost is great. Not only does it make something useful out of food and household waste – something I always felt guilty about throwing away – it helps your garden and the environment at the same time. You can use home made compost to improve the soil, mulch your borders, or mix with other things like sand to make an excellent seed sowing medium much cheaper than in the garden centre!

After having good success with our home made compost this year I am inspired to share with you how we made it:

1. We began by buying a black compost bin from our local council. It is a lot cheaper to buy one this way. Ask your council for details.

2. A suitable site was the next thing to find, and for us this was on a concrete path near the back of the house in a sunny position (to help the bin get warm and ‘cook’ the compost inside). As it was on concrete, we began with a layer of old compost/soil to get things moving.

3. The kitchen scraps we had saved were the next thing to go down to start the ‘layers’. Compost needs layers to work, so that you get a good mix of ingredients and it doesn’t become too wet (from kitchen/food waste as it decomposes), or too dry from just plant materials. The two types of waste you need are ‘browns’ – such as kitchen waste, cardboard etc and ‘greens’ – such as garden clippings, prunings, some weeds etc.

4. Then a layer of cardboard was added. It is important to break this up into smaller sections (along with anything you put in the bin actually) to allow it to be composted effectively.

5. Next came a layer of garden prunings, leaves etc along with a ‘starter’ such as bonemeal, grass clippings etc to get it going. I’ve heard urine is also a good starter but we are yet to try this!

6. All of this food was enough to get the small organisms/insects etc to start eating it and breaking it down into the final compost through their own waste (Compost is basically worm ‘poo’ – lovely!).

7. The same principle was applied to build up the material in the bin over the next few months, saving food waste, old cardboard, garden waste etc and adding it in layers to enable a good mix.

8. The bin took at least a year to start producing good compost, which we could get to from the hatch at the bottom.

So that’s basically it. For more information on what you can and can’t put in to your compost see see http://www.recyclenow.com/compost. Some items should not go in, for example waste from non-vegetarian animals, perennial weeds etc (you don’t want them re-growing again in your garden!). The site also has lots of information about what to do with the finished compost etc. This month we did ‘turn’ the compost to help separate out the ready compost from the compost still to be broken down. This also gives it a mix again after the cold months to help get it started. We also moved it to the end of the garden as found it attracted rats (for the food) and didn’t like them so close to the house. We now need to make more use of a kitchen ‘caddy’ to save up the food waste for less trips down the end of the garden! The new site is still sunny, but we put the bin on a layer of plastic matting first, to stop bindweed growing up into it. We now have two bins also, one for ready compost and one for cooking compost.

Of course you can also make compost in a more traditional arrangement of a wooden slatted ‘box’ but we found this was an easy way to get started. We have also found though that we need much more compost than one bin can make so may have to set up this system too (we certainly have enough waste for it!).

Good luck with your compost, and do share your own tips and experiences!

February

The weather was still very harsh this month, with some more snow and sleet interspaced with some sunny and clear days. Our attentions turned to clearing tasks both in the house and in the garden to make sure we were ready for Spring!

Phil worked really hard digging over a new plot for our fruit bushes, unearthing mounds of old rubbish and debris underneath the soil. We live next to a railway line and think it may have come from an old fire or something when clearing the land for the garden. Some of it was interesting, like old food packaging for marmite, findus pancakes and coca cola – no people, that sort of stuff does not compost down! Anyway, once it was all dug, soil improver worked in and raked over, we planted our first fruits – blackcurrant & redcurrant bushes, along with 10 raspberry canes. I moved the strawberries that were on our herb patch to this new area too, hoping they get more space to grow, along with the other ones I have sown this month. Now all that remains to do in this area is to put up some sort of cage, to protect our precious fruits from the hungry birds! Sloe and crab apple trees are also on order.

We made some other early sowings, some are doing better than others though. These were (early) purple sprouting broccolli, celeriac, tomatoes, peppers, leeks, salads, basil & parsley. Sweet peas came up okay from January’s sowings but are looking a little leggy, so will get them in the ground soon. Potatoes are out to chit and doing well ready to be planted later in March when the soil warms up.

Our other major task this month was sorting out our compost bin. We had previously sited it near the house and birdfeeder but this soon attracted the rats who were quite happily sorting through it all. It was time to turn it over anyway, so we coupled this with a move down the end of the garden and sorted out ‘cooking’ compost from ‘ready’ compost. The ready compost looked good! So much so in fact that it was put to use straight away in the raised beds to improve the soil and to mulch some of the flower beds. Fleeces were also put over the bare areas of soil on the raised beds to help warm up the soil for putting things in the ground in March.

The front (ornamental) garden needed some tidying, and old growth was cleared away (after the birds had fed on old seed heads), ready for new. Pruning was done and our thick blackberry bush cut right down to the ground to hopefully rejuvenate it for this summer. Hopefully we haven’t cut it too far back and might buy some new canes just in case! Oregon Thornless look like a good, juicy variety. Blackberries were a good fruit for us last year to turn into jam.

I’ve had some more ideas for the front garden and growing cottage garden flowers, so we can have seasonal vases of flowers. Needs some planning though, to ensure colour all year round. Talking of which, we’ve seen no daffodils yet or primroses – probably due to the cold winter. Hoping they arrive soon.

Oh, and the greenhouse is all fixed up properly now with new panes etc. Looking forward to being able to propogate this years veggie seeds properly, with the maximum amount of light. A cold frame is on our shopping list for March too, to help to harden the newly emerged seedlings off, ready for planting later in the month. Pictures to follow soon :)