marking time with compost

We’re waiting on Charles and his tractor to plough le grand potager at Sue’s. I’ve boxes and trays of plantlings that need to go in – watermelons and pumpkins, peas and beans, and 25 sweet corn. But with her L-shaped plot, there’s no point in starting a bed or two as the tractor will not be able to navigate around them effectively. And I do want this serious kitchen-garden prepared properly from the outset. It’s sunny and sheltered and has the potential to be our main provider of food.

But in the meantime, there’s always compost to attend to. After two weeks, the initial combustion has cooled to a hand-bearable 30 C. and the bulk has reduced by a third. Time to turn it all and re-stack it, with the dry outer stuff put in the middle, and the damp ashy material around the outer edge – then a spray of water every five forkfulls. The three bins become two, and eventually one. More space for fresh manure!

compost bins at Sues potager

I like the work – it’s cookery and alchemy and a visit to the bank, all in one.

our compost bins

This is Big Bin No.1 which has been cooking slowly all winter – today I’m barrowing it the 5 minutes walk acoss the village to Sue’s kitchen-garden.

If I keep up this rate of compost-production, the volume of soil will increase dramatically and it might be sensible to move to a raised-bed system now. It’s not something I’ve done before, and it costs money and time. But I’m not entirely convinced of its benefits. Here in the Midi a kind of raised-bed/ridged plantation is commonplace : the ridge is le billon and the trough or path is le sillon. As I write this, I’m checking the internet for spellings and info – and it’s apparent that there’s lots of experience on this in French, and in the French-speaking colonies. A regional term for it is ‘cultivation en ados’ where ados means a ridge or hump (remember: a dosser is someone who’d rather lie on his back, than do work . . . ).

This is particularly relevant to us, since we too have long periods of drought with intermittent flooding. And as I write I’m becoming more convinced that wood-planked raised beds are alien to this kind of clay terrain, and this climate.

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2 Responses to marking time with compost

  1. Ash says:

    We recently tried the speedy 18-day Berkeley method of compost production:

    http://www.lasorga.org/wiki/index.php/Compost_Berkeley_%2818_jours%29

    • richard says:

      Hi Ash – Glad to see all you keen members of the Compost Club! It’s where gardens begin ( and end . . . and return to their beginning . . . )
      It’s mucky and yucky and smelly and dirty – the complete opposite of all those pretty flowers and tasty vegetables. It’s the ying and the yang. Y’can’t have th’un, wi’out t’other.

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