Friday, April 2, 2010

Out in the garden again

One of the nice things about working at home is being able to take advantage of days like the last two to get outside a bit. It makes me more productive to get outside and move about anyway, and I can catch up on work when it starts raining or gets cold.

So for the last two days I've been out in my garden: cleaning up, moving compost to the garden, moving leaf mulch to the compost bins, turning over the soil, and generally getting the beds ready for planting later.

My two big vegetable beds have a fresh dose of compost, but I need more. I probably shouldn't worry too much, because I added compost in the fall before covering the beds with leaves, but you really can't have too much compost. I'm considering going out to the Dane County sites to get some extra, although hauling compost in the back of my car seems like a lot of work.

There are all sorts of free local resources to make gardening easier or more productive. I'm going to try to write a little about the different resources in a series of posts. I'm surprised that many people aren't aware of the availability of these free resources, but I wouldn't know about them either without the help of friends and neighbors that have shown me the way.

Making compost in your backyard is just a start, but it's the first thing many people try when they get serious about gardening. It's really very easy: dump leaves, grass clippings, kitchen waste, coffee grounds, and anything other vegetable matter into a bin; turn the top third once in awhile, and take the black gold out of the bottom. It still seems a bit like magic to me.

I actually have two compost bins, and I alternate using one each year and let the other one sit and finish rotting while I fill the other one. That way I always have a completed composted supply come spring - no bits and pieces that aren't ready for the garden. Today I finished emptying the compost that was started in 2008. I actually was using stuff from that bin all last year, but there was some that needed a little more time, and the winter allowed it to finish degrading. Now that bins is ready to be filled with the leaves I used to cover my beds all winter.

Last fall I switched to oak leaves to cover my garden. They stay crispy and don't mat down and get soggy like the ash and maple leaves on my block. Since none of my close neighbors have oak trees, I went up and grabbed a couple bales of leaves from Forest Hill Cemetery. Yes, bales of leaves. It's great to just pick up a bale and throw it in the back of the car. Much easier than racking and hauling leaves in a tarp or sheet.

Oak leaves are more acidic and tougher than other types of leaves, so they take awhile to break down, but I have a few tricks for speeding up the composting. See next post.