Extending the Vegetable Garden

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.

compost

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.

compost bins

pallet compost bin
I started this bin in October, it’s breaking down really well already.

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.

Wrap up warm and stay safe x

Improving Soil in Our New Raised Beds

We’ve made a start on extending the vegetable garden, adding three 10 x 4 ft double height raised beds. After years of being part of a well-worn lawn, the soil would benefit from being improved with organic matter. We emptied most of the contents from one of the large pallet compost bins into a waiting wheelbarrow, the compost wasn’t quite ready but it was lovely all the same – just perfect for mulching and adding nutrients to the dry, hungry soil in our new beds.

One of our German Shepherd dogs certainly likes our compost, I guess she can smell rotting chicken poop. Eww.

I still find it amazing to see the contents of a compost bin change into earthy compost, we add lots of organic matter to our bins such as chicken manure mixed with straw, kitchen waste (vegetable peelings etc), used tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, cardboard, paper, green waste from the vegetable garden, grass clippings, nettle tops, comfrey leaves and horse manure from our village stables when we can get it.

Our bins are full of tiger worms, they’re perfect little composting machines. They adore kitchen scraps and if you watch your compost bin carefully you will see them surface to feed, starting the magical process.

The contents of our compost bin became darker and more like compost towards the bottom, we had to be really cautious with the spade and fork, lots of toads hide in and around our compost bins! I almost speared one by accident, just goes to show how careful you have to be. Now is a good time to empty your compost bins before creatures such as toads and hedgehogs start to look for places to hibernate over winter. Don’t empty them completely, leave some material in the bins for them.

Another magical ingredient for compost bins is leaves. The huge old oak provides these for free, they rot down faster than other leaves. We have a leaf bin too, taking longer to rot down but lovely as a mulch.

Isn’t it a magical, majestic tree? I think it’s wonderful, it makes me think of the green man or ‘The Oak King’. I love to listen to the wind whistling through the branches, at the moment it’s home to lots of nesting wood pigeons.

Plus, it helps to make this lovely stuff: