Monday, May 19, 2008
When we first started gardening at this house we were shocked by the state of the soil. The back, which is now the veggie garden and orchard, has been leveled with some really nasty fill - largely clay and grey matter (maybe concrete dust?), and the whole area was used as a holding pen for four large, mean dogs, which compacted and poisoned the soil. Even my Dad, who is pretty blase about bad conditions (he's of the 'if you plant it, it will grow' school), made a few shocked remarks. No worms - nothing living at all - and lots of those spirit mixer cans and broken beer bottles.
I've spent the last five years planting green manure and digging it in, collecting free horse poo and our chook droppings and them in, making compost and digging it in, digging trenches for scraps and covering them over, making leaf mould from the leaves I pick up around the neighbourhood and digging it in. We've also mulched with straw, which I don't love because it is an over-wintering hide-out for some bright and prolific sap-suckers, and weeds, which IMHO work much better. There's been way more digging in than pulling out. This makes me sound like a patient and committed gardener; I'm not but I am pig headed and hate being beaten at a task. Things are better now, though it's still a thrill to find a worm and not a beer cap. The soil, rather than the bits of the garden you can see, is my true achievement in this place and I'm very proud that if we ever do leave, we're leaving the land in a much better state than we found it.
Now, plants self-seed increasingly wildly, like the bok choy above (I think it's bok choy - that's the thing with self-seeding: you tend to lose track of what's what). In one pocket, there're enough little plants to make a salad for every night of the week. It's become such a generous piece of land. But still, it's a struggle not to dig it all in. It's a compulsion - yesterday I looked at all those juicy greens and thought, "they look delicious but think how good they'd be for the soil".
I fought it, though, and we had a lovely salad for tea.