19 December 2012

Harvesting the compost

Compost or rubbish?
Concealed behind the tool shed, our huge compost heap accumulates large barrow loads of what I call 'compost' and JC calls 'rubbish'.  In the rush to get things done, I hurl large mounds of weeds and prunings on to the pile month after month.  In the end it is an enormous mass of rotting organic matter.

Before composting, prunings and other vegetation should be cut into smallish, manageable pieces prior to throwing on the pile.  The compost heap should also be regularly turned, improved with manure and watered occasionally.  At 'Greenlion' this rarely happens, as other interesting or more pressing garden tasks take priority.  However, as a result of this neglect, from time to time the compost bursts into bloom-calendulas, comfrey, aquilegias and more.

In preparation for the Gardens of Glenlyon, Nick and I attacked the huge pile of detritus, hurling large clumps of half rotted material to one side.  Our first surprise was the sound of much squeaking and the scurrying of tiny feet as baby antechinuses ran blindly for their lives.  We carefully popped them back under the pile and left their nest undisturbed.  Next, we uncovered the most beautiful humus-sweet, fine and brown.  In this layer of the compost we harvested large, healthy potatoes, a couple of ripe garlics, a tea strainer and a potato peeler.  Not a bad haul for a neglected pile of rubbish!  so impressed was the doubting JC, that he has built two new bays to encourage a more systematic approach to the ancient art of making compost.

Jill Teschendorff, 'Greenlion'.

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