If I had to choose just one subject about gardening that I felt was one of the most important topics it would have to be soil health. After all, every other aspect of gardening will fall short if soil health is not considered.
There have been many trends over the years to encourage bigger better plants, but at the end of the day I am convinced that a lot of the old traditional methods for gardening still hold merit. Take trenching for example. I remember my father’s garden always had a trench in some part. As a child I often had to fight that childish urge to cave the trench in as I would be delivering yet another bowl of kitchen vegetable scraps to ‘The Trench”
Dads garden was huge in comparison to a lot of todays gardens and that garden fed us all,(between 7 and 10 at any given time.) I don’t ever remember Mum buying vegetables, so what ever tricks Dad had for gardening, clearly worked.
All the vegetable scraps, leafy garden scratchings, old newspapers and I think fire ash all went in ‘The Trench’
The trench was back filled and left for the worms to work their magic, wheel barrow loads of sheep manure from the wool shed and the chook house went in the trench and then left, and then dug in after the winter months.
As I recall, there were 2 large garden patches was in production while the other was rested for a few months.
I’m not suggesting that we all go out and start a trench, but the process is well worth thinking about. All those kitchen scraps and leaf waste added to your soil health.
If you are not having a productive garden over winter or you have some spare ground, now is the time to really think hard about how you are going to give back to the very space that fed you over summer. There are many different options aside from trenching. If you have a worm farm consider spreading some of that black gold that your worms have produced, dig in a generous amount of Rok Solid, collect some sea weed and pony poo, add some straw and tuck it all into bed for winter.
And what about a green manure crop to do the work for you? Growing a green manure crop is easy and effortless with so many health benifits for you soil.
Getting a compost heap up and running is a hugly rewarding project especially at this time of the year when there is a lot of decaying material lying about. Once its made you can cover it and wait for wonderful things to happen as you warm your toes by the fire this winter.
The main things I have learnt about compost are:
Don’t over think it.
Start with a good sized pile of garden leaves(carbon)
then add a sack of pony poo(break it up a bit)
Add a layer of newspaper or unbleached cardboard
Every now and then sprinkle a handle full of lime.
Keep doing this until you have a large pile(remember the pile will shrink over time)
Layers upon layers of dead/dry matter alternated with green waste such as grass clipping, horse poo and green garden waste.
Stack it high, cover it with cardboard and newspaper, then old sacks (coffee sacks are my favourite) or similar and walk away. Granted it may not be as flash as the compost you see on TV, but it’s a very good start and learning experience that you can only improve on. (more about turning your pile further down the track)
Trust me, I have made a fear few mistakes over the years, but now I’m getting a handle on it. I urge you to give it a go. Why buy compost when you can make your own with waste from your property?