Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #2

Green Matter and Brown Matter

At the moment we keep compost in two places: a (420L) compost container and a compost pit.

The container provides enough drainage so that last year it was possible for us to experiment on producing moist (not soggy) fertile soil. During the minimum 6-8 months it’s resting, it is turned over two or three times. We then cover the beds, preferably before Winter, using it as both compost and mulch. In Spring, without any digging, we can plant vegetables directly in it, using a small dibber.

Compost in the form of freshly made fertile soil is already a properly balanced mixture of green and brown matter. Green matter is only plant-based waste and coffee dregs. Brown matter is egg shells, cardboard, paper, straw, sawdust (untreated wood), and manure – also called by some “an activator” (more information about how we did it last year and why will appear in a separate post). 

The pit is a place where, in a more traditional Polish rural household, people would put their scraps and other organic waste. In the end, although well rotten, due to relatively poor drainage, the organic matter unfortunately remains rather wet and is therefore smelly. Access to the compost is also quite difficult as most of it remains deep in the pit.

However, making use of resources already available to us before introducing any bigger changes or potential improvements somehow seems a natural thing to do. So, although soggy, smelly, and difficult to retrieve, the compost is a very good source of nitrogen – produced by green matter (mainly grass clippings and fresh leaves) breaking down – and we are more than happy to use it in the garden; any excess liquid is then used to feed the fruit trees and bushes.

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Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve cleared one of the two long vegetable beds, which we then covered with cardboard (brown matter) collected from local shops and markets. The (green matter) compost from the pit has now rotted well enough, so we put a 5cm layer on top of the cardboard. Last year we placed the compost directly onto the soil and it worked pretty well.

As we’ve gained more experience, we know that the soil and earth-worms absolutely love the addition of brown matter, so it only made sense to add it to the beds. The green-matter-plus-brown-matter combo brings many benefits to the garden:

  • adding new layers of soil
  • feeding the soil
  • protecting the soil and the life in it from too much exposure
  • reducing weeds
  • retaining moisture
  • providing drainage
  • and more

Around March, that once soggy, green matter will be much drier. We’ll then break down and reduce the bigger, harder pieces and remove anything that still needs further composting. By then, the cardboard will have started decomposing nicely. After that, the bed will be ready for direct planting – without any prior digging. We will add some dry pig manure at some point, and as the plants are growing we’ll feed them with our home-made nettle slurry.

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Two Approaches

Mailberg to Vienna: Thursday 13 July 2017

11:45am. Kleinweikersdorf.

Breakfast is ordered. Eggs and mushrooms, and a glass of orange juice. Won’t be the from-the-garden fare of Lisa and Joey, who are admirably living self-sufficiently, according to permaculture principles, with a chilled, open outlook to life and people.

Lovely friendly welcome from all, including their Workaway volunteer, Natalia, and their wonderful dogs – Laika and Nino.

The wine we took as a thank-you gift was soon open and Joey began waxing lyrically about permaculture, forest-gardening, and the like. A topic and approach similarly close to our own hearts, and something we wish to learn more about on the way, and put into practice when we darken Poland’s doorstep once more.

And dinner was served: a lovely personally grown and sourced meal of millet, apricots, cranberries, nuts, honey (they also keep bees) and other yummy stuff my unskilled palate enjoyed but was unable to identify, with side-dishes of melon, watermelon and apple. Accompanied and followed by more wine, and a chill evening of relaxed chatter and banter until shortly after the midnight hour, when my day’s ride – geographically and emotionally – told me it was time to sleep.

Finally, as I lay down, with a tired body and weary mind, my thoughts refused to let me go: thoughts of home and family, and the remains of my mum clinging to her present form…

…till sleep finally claimed me and took me to where I know not.

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Waking to the sounds of a family starting to go about their day, and the dogs, Laika and Nino, wishing to give and receive a little love. A beautiful way to ease into the morning 😄

Then a smoothy made with ingredients all plucked fresh from the garden, then coffee, and honey straight from the hive. Fantastic!

Then we pack and are unfortunately unable to say a proper ‘thank you’ and ‘farewell’ to our fantastic hosts. Sorry for that, but good luck to you guys, and keep the faith.

Peace and love.

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A non-remarkable Northern European breakfast of mushroom omelette, juice and coffee. A functional eatery, where you eat. Some are here getting busy on the beer and wine, and chatting. Doesn’t feel like that kind of place to me: more like a motorway services, with a more personal service, but each to their own; and we’re functionally serviced and ready to roll.

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Paused for a hopeful ice-cream in Uglynomagicplace, aka Großmugl (ahem), but find it’s half-day here.

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We climbed out of Kleinweikersdorf pretty much non-stop, but not too steeply for about 150 metres, which rewarded us with a stunning vista and view of the Alps, seemingly nurturing all beneath their benevolent gaze. Yes, stunning, breathtaking and other apparently trite and clichéd adjectives apply here – this is just what they were designed for, and I almost regret using them in other situations that now cheapen their meaning (if I have). Then a good, solid, exhilarating descent to return to the plateau upon which we began. Lovely place and riding.

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Lovely.

Now, where is A?

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