Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One Warm day in December

Yesterday was a beautiful day to get outside. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to be outside without a coat. I decided to do some work on the garden area and more specifically the composting area.

My compost area isn't a box or specifically constructed in any way. It is simply a pile that gets added to on a regular basis and gets turned almost as regularly.

I started the pile at the edge of my garden this last spring with a pile of sod from my newly plowed garden area. Last year was the first year that we had a garden at the place we now live and our neighbor was nice enough to plow it for us. That's probably the last mechanized tool that will be used in my garden. I'm going to try to grow everything in it simply by using human power more about that in a later post.

After getting all the perennial grasses out of the garden I decided to mulch with aged sawdust and a friend of my brother's brought out a load for me. I had them unload it on top of that pile. I then removed what sawdust I needed to completely mulch the garden and then left the rest. Thus my compost pile was started.

Next I added household garbage to the compost pile. I added anything that that the dogs wouldn't eat. I placed the garbage on one side of the compost pile and then used a hoe to cover it with the aged sawdust from the other side of the pile. There is never an adverse smell that comes from my compost piles constructed this way.

Every couple of rains I turn the pile. It's been so dry this year that by watering the pile I could have promoted the composting process but I've decided to allow nature to do most of the work so I haven't been adding water to the pile. To turn the pile I simply use a garden fork or a shovel to turn the pile onto the grasses space beside the compost pile along the garden's edge. I completely move the pile to the spot beside where the original pile was.

Where the original pile was, there was a bare spot that during the summer I mulched so that grass wouldn't grow there. Because it is beside the garden, it then is an area that I can use to expand the garden in that direction. How much more perfect can the soil be than soil that was under a compost pile? I am running the compost pile down the south end of the garden and hope to complete this area by the time spring comes.

That brings us up to yesterday. Yesterday I decided to get a little more aggressive about getting that south end of the garden done so I raked leaves from around the yard and laid them down on the area of the south end of the garden that hasn't yet been 'run over' by the compost pile. I had previously raked leaves and put them on the rest of the garden but because of some severe winds, many of the leaves had been blown away so to prevent this from happening in this new area, I tossed compost from the compost pile onto the leaves to anchor them down against even the strongest wind. This morning Mother Nature was cooperative and it is raining a nice gentle rain that will soak into the compost and weigh down the leaves.

This spreading of leaves and sprinkling with compost is a process known as sheet composting. It is as the term indicates. The composting done in like a sheet. Mulching with any organic material is a form of sheet composting. By adding sheet compost in the fall or winter, I've insulated the soil from extremes in temperatures creating an environment that is less hostile to microbes that work the compost. The microbes then instead of hibernating are able to do their magic of breaking the sod into light fluffy soil ready for planting in the spring.

By taking this one day in December, I am able not only to save myself hours of garden work next spring but what I do now will also benefit my harvest later in the season.

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