Dishing the Dirt

3 black plastic compost bins in the garden

When we moved here and took on the challenge of the garden, one of the first things we did was start a compost bin. One rapidly became two and we have been devotedly adding to them ever since, saving kitchen waste, adding grass cuttings mixed with shredded paper and trying our best to keep the bindweed and other perennial weeds out. I never felt that we had really cracked the whole composting thing though. We seemed to add new waste to both bins according to how we felt (or how long the nettles were in front of one of them) and whenever we tried to use any of our compost, it was hard to get out of the bin as there always seemed to be roots growing through it. The first year we had a surprise extra potato harvest and last winter a tiny solitary daffodil flowered bravely inside.

Small daffodil flowering in a food waste compost bin
A lovely surprise in our compost bin!

In this, our third year here (where did that time go?) it seemed appropriate to finally try and get on top of the problem. So last week we added a third bin and set about reorganising what we had. All the useable compost we had made went into one container. We were amazed by how much there was too and quite proud that we had made this stuff all by ourselves (with a little advice from Monty Don along the way of course!) Maybe we hadn’t been doing anything wrong after all – it had just taken longer than we expected to get results. We then transferred everything which wasn’t ready into the new bin, watering it liberally first, so that it can be left alone to do its stuff. We will probably add a mixture of grass cuttings and shredded paper into the top to give it a cosy top layer for winter but apart from that, we aren’t going to touch it until next year. That left the last bin empty, so that we can start filling that with new garden and kitchen waste. It seems strange to think that what we are adding now will bring nutrients and structure to our soil in a few years’ time but we are learning that gardening is a long term activity.

Even though we are still in August (just) and have just returned from our summer holiday, there is definitely the wind of change in the air. Autumn feels not so much round the corner as knocking at the door. We have dipped our oil tank to make sure we have enough to feed Boris the Boiler, who has decided that we need the heating on so has started firing up morning and evening all on his own. We have checked the coal bunker and the woodstore and I am starting to look forward to cosy evenings in front of the fire. So is the Calamity Cat, who has taken to huddling by the radiator each morning and snuggling up with us on the bed each night. The Princess would already have been making a bid for space under the covers, lying between us, but Calamity prefers to cuddle as close as she can on top of the duvet. She is eating well too, which may be comfort eating – she is demanding lots of our attention and affection since we returned from holiday. It may also be though, that she knows it is time to start feeding herself up for winter. Our cat food bill has always been high throughout Autumn although we have tried time and again to convince both cats that winter does not mean the Sheba runs out.

Grey and white cat asleep on a zebras striped blanket on a sofa
Calamity snuggling on a cosy blanket

The heatwave last month has meant the garden has moved into Autumn mode probably earlier than usual and we are starting our pre-winter tidy up already. I have deadheaded, cut back and collected seeds for next year. It won’t be long before I am sowing them in the greenhouse – sweet peas, lupins and honesty so far. I didn’t bother gathering the poppy seeds this year or the snapdragons from the pots. Instead, I took Monty’s advice and simply took the whole plant, turned it upside down and shook the seeds out where I want them to grow. I felt like some ridiculous witch doctor but it was a much quicker way of distributing seeds, that’s for sure! Only time will tell if it is successful.

Brown opened sweetpea pods on a pale blue wooden background
These sweetpea pods spiralled beautifully when I popped them to get to the seeds

I am also planning some cuttings. I have been delighted with the success of my climbing rose and honeysuckle cuttings. I now have new plants growing up the obelisk in the cottage garden bed and along the railings outside the Sitooterie. So I am (excuse the pun) branching out and trying other plants this year. One is blackberries. We bought a couple of bushes in the spring but the heatwave killed the flowers so we had no fruit. However, the trailing branch which came through the hedge from next door’s more mature plant was far more successful and we have very much enjoyed the fruit of their labours! So I am going to take a cutting, just in case the new people moving in (the house has just been sold) decide to cut back at their side. In fact, we owe lots of our soft fruit to our neighbours – on the other side, they had raspberry canes which self-seeded in our veg beds. They take up a lot of space but we have had loads of raspberries so we haven’t complained!

White bowl containing raspberries and blueberries
Some of our free soft fruit

I find myself looking forward to the new season ahead – harvesting our veg, the cosy evenings and finding out if the plants we have put in to brighten the winter will do their jobs. If our tomatoes ever ripen (we have had a few so far but lots more which are still green) I am looking forward to making lots of sauces to bottle and store, and there are plenty of plums and apples to be picked and join the strawberries in the freezer to bring us a touch of summer during the long winter months to come.

2 thoughts on “Dishing the Dirt

  1. The canes of the neighbor’s berries can be layered. If they do not reach to where you want them to grow, you can put them through pots, just by threading them up through the drainage holes. If you do it in autumn, they should be ready by next year. It that is not fast enough, then cuttings should work just fine.

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