9 May 2009

"Compost Awareness Week" and making more raised beds

Hugelkultur CompostingDid you know that it's "Compost Awareness week ? No, neither did I until someone in the GROWVEG forum posted about it.

We've got several different ways of making compost, some methods work quickly and some are incredibly slow. The slow way we have of making compost is by using all the organic "waste" materials we have when we first clear a patch of land, adding more roots, weeds, branches, twigs, brambles, sheep and goat daggings and dog and human hair.

I've just found out from a reader of this blog that this system is called Hugelkultur.

Twiggy compost heap rotting down after five years HugelkulturThe pile then gradually becomes a home for all the insects, snakes, lizards and other animals we've disturbed during the clearing and gives us somewhere handy to throw organic materials. We don't have to burn our waste - we simply walk round it and in doing so shape the paths and add form to the garden.

Hugelkultur compostingAfter about a year we cover the top with used goat litter and leave it for a few weeks to settle down then we use the pile to grow easy vegetables like pumpkins and plant some climbing plants like Ipomea and Virginia Creeper to decorate the heap. We never disturb or move the heap except to throw more and more things on top of it and despite having thrown many square metres of organic matter on it it never seems to get any higher.

Raised bed made on Hugelkultur Compost heap surrounded by tree rootsOur oldest heap had started to sink and last year we decided to leave it to rot completely to make a new raised bed.

We were going to use chestnut poles as we've done almost everywhere else in the garden but we were clearing roots out of the pig park after the pigs had dug round them and it seemed a shame not to use them to make something nice. So Fabrice hauled them round one of the old compost heaps and we'll use them to retain the earth for a raised bed. We also gathered up lots of stones and used those and the remaining branches to backfill the roots to improve drainage in the hope that they'll last a bit longer.

I've started planting around the outside of them already and the chickens are still "digging" the middle bit for us and getting rid of all the grubs and insects.

Linden tree with Hugelkultur Compost bedWhen we cleared the little wood at the back of the house to make a garden, we decided to keep the well-shaped trees which were too beautiful to cut down. They give us a bit of shade and interest and provide nesting sites well out of the way of our cats and the birds don't seem to mind our presence.

Under the trees, I grow raspberries and other shade loving plants and store cuttings for potting up and they do well in those conditions. There are a few Oaks and one beautiful Aspen Populus tremula, where the Collared Doves nest each year.

The Aspen's roots go on for metres and send up new little trees every so often but I just work around them trying to keep the planting between the roots and the veg far enough away so that they don't suffer too much. At the south of the tree we've had a compost heap which we've also made into a new raised bed this week so there will be loads more room this year for summer veg.

8 comments:

detroit dog said...

This is all so interesting!

Tamara said...

I love composting. Your mounds are HUGE! What a great way to use the prunnings. I have several heaps in my suburban backyard. One large one is for the big prunnings, and is quite slow. The other two are in black bins. To speed up the big one I try and get seaweed from our local saltwater lake.

Anonymous said...

Hugelkultur , eh? Fungal composting is something I've done for years, only recently discovered the term.

I appreciate your blog. Always fun to stop by.

cheers

La Ferme de Sourrou said...

Detroit Dog and Tamara,

This just seemed a logical way to get rid of all the branches we have when we clear the little wood at the back of the house for making the garden and at the same time not wasting the "power" in them.

I'd never heard of the term Hugelkultur - now I have a name for this way of making compost. Thanks for that Anonymous! ;-)

Don said...

I enjoy coming to your blog and browsing, and your photo collections are so nice.

I have two compost piles going, but none using my piles of brush and sticks. I am going to get after those this year!

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

I am trying to use chicken power too to get rid of the squash bugs (which were TERRIBLE last year). We only have 8, so we'll see how (if?) that works for the summer garden! Nowadays, like you, most of my composting is done using the cold-pile method. All that's needed is patience.

La Ferme de Sourrou said...

Some things are well worth waiting for !

katty said...
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