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.


Ingrid said...

Inspiring with what can be achieved. I have worms so I am so lazy in the garden. I´m right up there with your dad. Wait and see what will happen (add more seeds if nothing happens).

Anonymous said...

Our garden had mostly sand and building rubble and archaeology (old broken glass) when we moved in. After two years it's better, but still not great. Worms are still novel. I've never lived anywhere with such awful soil and so many weeds. Something about the few blocks around my current house is very favourable to weeds (probably the derelict building a few doors down providing a breeding ground) even the lovingly tended gardens have lots of weeds. It was dramatically different when I lived only four blocks down the hill.

It does look like bok choy. I'm kinda wondering how I'll ever get the little boy to eat salad.

tamara said...

Lovely! You're so inspiring, especially with the I-will-better-the-dirt stubborness.
I'm still a tentative gardener, just starting my first one - I get composting and mulching urges periodically, and am fairly gung-ho about sticking stuff in to see what happens...and then I fall into letting it all go.

I live for the day that a little salad patch self-seeds itself somewhere...

meggie said...

I love this post, & your stubborn refusal to be beaten! Good for you. I started out like you, & realise I gave up. I must get back to 'putting it back'. I do try, but do have little set-backs.