Not Enough Horsesh*t

When we moved into this house garden, the front yard was basically a giant sandpit covered in nicely mown weeds. I was thrilled at the overall lack of grass (there was a funny conversation when we met with the landlady- she offered to sod the front yard and I said “NO!” and then had to explain) but there were several spots with no vegetation that had broken down into sugar sand. Ever since then I’ve been building soil by bringing in as much organic matter as possible.

And it’s still not enough. We are composting every speck of vegetable kitchen waste we can. I keep pizza boxes, which can’t be put in the recycling, and use them for sheet mulching. I drive 45 minutes each way every other month and bring home hundreds of pounds of fresh horse manure in feed bags for sheet mulching and to add to the compost bin. Last weekend I started the next stage in the food forest: planting herbs (pollinator attracting, medicine, food), legumes (nitrogen fixing, food) and vegetables (food, organic matter for compost) around the fruit trees. I had a big compost bin almost halfway full of good black compost.

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This is how far all of my compost went. That’s four wheelbarrow loads of finished compost, raked into a rough rectangle about 4″ deep, around one tree. One. Tree.

The plan was to add beds like this around each of the seven big fruit trees.

I started planting anyway. I planted dragontongue beans and seminole pumpkins in the ends and then covered loosely with straw. The seedlings are already up. I’ll be adding Rosa Bianca eggplants and tomatillos (seedlings in pots are already 2″ tall) and some Chinese herbs and native flowers to the long sides.

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When we get back from vacation I’ll have to look at the plan again. I’ll probably have to buy finished compost from somewhere and have it delivered. Good-bye garden budget. Plus bring in about double the horse manure I’ve been buying, or find a closer/more regular source of manure to get more composting for use this summer. I feel the lack of a pickup truck quite acutely at times like these.

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