Passive compost, strawberries, and garden blogs

Strawberry box, summer 2011

I’ve been working on this garden for 5 years, but this is the first year where it has felt like things are finally coming together. The perrenials are well established, patterns of color and shape are emerging, and several outdoor rooms, each with a different function are taking shape. And it’s starting to take on a life of it’s own.

About a year ago, I started a passive compost heap. I had a bunch of bricks that had been unearthed over the years and a backyard full of leaves from my neighbor’s 75 foot tall chestnut tree. I built a box out of the bricks and filled it with the leaves and over the course of a year added garden clippings and more leaves, as they fell. I didn’t turn it, water it, or make any efforts to balance browns and greens. In fact, I pretty much gave up on it, thinking it would take years to break down. Then today, while planning out how to transplant my strawberry plants, I asked my husband if he had any compost, the store bought kind. “No” he said to me, “but you do!” He pointed to the sad heap of leaves in the corner of the garden. I figured it was worth a shot, so I took a peak at what was happening underneath the layer of leaves at the top of the heap. I was expecting some partially decayed leaves but instead found rich, dark, and crumbly compost! I spent the rest of the afternoon digging out the compost and spreading it around my perrenial border, feeding the rhododendron and azaleas, hydrangeas, lillies, hostas and more. This time next year hopefully I’ll have another batch ready to go just as the garden needs feeding. A pretty perfect system, if you ask me!

The strawberries are filling in nicely

My next project was to work on my strawberry patch. Last summer, the raised bed that we had planted with strawberries flourished and actually overflowed into the adjacent garden bed. Then I got the idea of using the strawberries as ground cover over the whole area. Today I transplanted the plants from the original box, which is now freed up for something new. It was built with a sub-irrigation watering system, which I learend about here. The water reservoir takes up a lot of space in the box, so the soil stays quite wet. I thought this might suit lemongrass, which I’ve been curious about growing ever since I read about it here. We’ll see how that goes, but for now, I’m really excited that my strawberry patch is well on it’s way.

The two blogs that I linked to, Inside Urban Green and You Grow Girl, pretty much encompass everything I’ve learned over the last few years about gardening, plus some help from my amazing neighbor (the one with the chestnut tree). Someday, I’ll write about the micro-climate that we’ve got going between our two yards, it’s kind of amazing! Anyway, these blogs  take decidedly different approaches, one is about modern technologies for safe and productive urban farming, and one is more along traditional lines with lots of soil building and sort of an urban food forest feel. I’m learning how to combine the two approaches and I think it’s really working out: growing veggies and other edibles in homemade sub-irrigation raised beds while developing the soil and establishing perrenials for both beauty and ecological function. I even have two different composting systems: passive for garden clippings outside, and a worm bin inside for kitchen scraps.

This is going to be the best year ever for my garden, and I’m so excited!

4 thoughts on “Passive compost, strawberries, and garden blogs

  1. Hello Naima.

    Good to just leave it I think, and I put almost anything that will rot in. I do that here in Brisbane and the things that grow from it, delightful, always new and unexpected.

    Of course, I tend my garden for different reason to you, for itself – it has a character of its own that can be evoked with the right attention – but also what wonderful creatures may emerge or visit. And it does take years for a garden to establish itself, doesn’t it.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I love your website. I tend to daydream a lot about the future so it’s nice to be reminded of all of the little remarkable things that happen moment by moment. The garden is great for that.

  2. I’m growing strawberries for the first time. Interesting idea of using them as ground cover. I should try that if the slugs leave any.

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