The past few days and nights have been bitterly cold, snowing on and off but not enough to settle as it did last month. Despite the cold I forced myself outside to do some jobs in the garden yesterday, first up was tackling the area behind the chicken runs which became a dumping ground for things such as off cuts of timber, chicken wire and other bits and bobs we collect throughout the year with every intention of using them. After a good sort through most of it went in the outbuilding, the area is now clear and ready for some new compost bins that we plan to build using pallets very soon. Next on the list was cutting back wild brambles that had tangled themselves around the tops of the apple trees, I found this very easy to do with a pair of long handled loppers.
We still have quite a few parsnips in the ground and I managed to pull some up for dinner even though the ground was semi frozen. The vibrations from wiggling parsnips free from the soil brought earthworms to the surface, I was aware the whole time I was being watched by the resident Robin, eyeing up an easy meal.
I often work in the garden alone but I’m never lonely, the chickens are usually under my feet and our dog is my shadow, she loves being outside with me whatever the weather (actually that isn’t strictly true she dislikes rain and so do I). She turns 12 in August and slowing down, until she sees a squirrel.
Our raised bed vegetable garden was created many years ago and started out, as most do, with digging up the lawn. At the time of starting our garden I’d heard about another method of creating a garden from scratch called ‘No Dig’. I was curious about it because let’s be honest, not many people really enjoy digging (some do, and that’s fine!), it’s hard back breaking work sometimes. Our vegetable garden was already mostly done the digging way, but I did add a couple of no dig beds to the mix just to compare. It worked brilliantly and much quicker than the dug beds and with fewer weeds. All the beds are now no dig and I have come to realise there is so much more to it than less weeding and the obvious no digging part (which has been a blessing for my back), the quality of the soil has vastly improved with very little effort and is alive with worms and other important organisms that help soil structure and make food available to plant roots.
This year we plan to extend the vegetable garden with a few more no dig raised beds, they will go over the far side of the garden. To accommodate the extra compost we’re going to need for our no dig garden we plan to make more compost bins from pallets.
I’ve always enjoyed making our own compost and I find the whole process fascinating, lately I’ve taken an interest in how to make compost that little bit quicker, after all it’s key to managing a no dig garden and you do need to have a steady supply. Buying compost isn’t usually an option due to cost, but if we’re feeling flush we sometimes do although we prefer to make our own organic blend using garden and uncooked kitchen waste and chicken manure mixed with chopped straw bedding. This is broken down by soil life into wonderful compost that feeds our soil and in return our soil feeds us. I find that chopping material up using a pair of hand shears really speeds the composting process up, particularly anything woody, I also try not to over fill the bins or keep adding to a pile which has already begun breaking down. We currently have 7 compost bins made using pallets and chicken wire, moisture is a good thing for making compost but I’ve covered the contents of each bin with empty chicken bedding bags and ton grab bags just to keep the bulk of the heavy rain and snow off and stop the contents getting sludgy.
I can’t wait to get started on the new beds, we just need some brighter weather and for the ground to dry out a bit. It’s been snowing on and off for days with sleet and rain in between, yuk.