Work continues in the garden and it is beginning to bear fruit – well veg – as we picked peas and beans this weekend and ate them together during the barbeque after our work morning on Saturday. The children also picked some after church on Sunday morning and “shared the peas” with the rest of the church over tea and coffee.
On Saturday we cut some of the grass, did some weeding and tidying along with starting to edge one of the beds with stones ably helped by some of the local children who seemed to enjoy being in our green space (and slightly brown due to lack of rain).
One of the big problems with our garden is the soil, it is quite thin, poor and very dry with loads of rubble just under the surface. We are trying to source some free topsoil but this has not been successful yet. The lack of depth of soil has meant that our first vegetable bed has had to be raised and has used the soil from where we were planning another bed leaving a big hole. It was while reflecting on the quality of the soil and where we might get some that I suddenly realised that I had become blinkered in my thinking! One way of creating a raised bed, creating good soil and getting rid of some of the garden waste all at the same time is to bury the garden waste and make what is called a Hugel-Kultur bed. These beds have been well demonstrated by an Austrian called Sepp Holzer who makes Hugel-Kultur beds using whole trees on a mountain side in Austria. As the wood and green waste rots down it provides a home for lots of beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil, helps to trap and store water and traps carbon dioxide in the soil. I have made two mini-hugel beds in my home garden with considerable success. Since we had just generated a load of garden “waste” on the Saturday by pruning back shrubs, hedges and trees at the front of the church along with cutting the grass this was the perfect opportunity to find a new home for it and create some soil so on Sunday afternoon we moved it all into the big hole that Tony, Joanne and others had dug. You can see in the picture that there is a wide range of plant material including a few solid branches, a Christmas tree, etc. It is important that we use materials that will rot down and don’t inhibit fungi and bacteria. Our next step will be to add some more grass cuttings, water well ( I think the thunderstorms of today (Tuesday) will have done a pretty good job, cover over with soil and then immediately plant up with a good green manure – we will probably use red clover – which will provide much needed nitrogen to the soil. Into this we will eventually be able to plant vegetables – at home I have grown some superb tomatoes and squashes.
For more on Hugel-Kultur beds read: