My wife and I have been doing a lot of gardening over the holidays. We've had the time, and the weather's been reasonable enough to get on and do the work. And it's good to be out in the open air for a change and get a bit of vitamin D (when the sun deigns to shine!)
A lot of our discussion has been on compost - my wife has been reading up on it (from a book that I bought years ago, read years ago, got some ideas from and have only partially implemented). Last year we shifted our compost area from the right side of the house to the left, making three bins in the process. The longstanding compost had been open and not very organised (although it did actually produce some wonderful compost over the time). The bins are meant to speed up the composting process by making sure you're working the stuff over more effectively. And work it is: we've twice in the holidays shifted a whole bin full - once onto newly made raised garden areas, and once from one bin to the next (so that we can start a fresh lot). That's quite a bit of hauling of stuff; as well as this we shifted a trailerload of topsoil. So we're building up the muscles something wonderful - and doing it without the aid of an HGH spray!
I was walking back from getting a newspaper this morning and checked out the various gardens in one block of houses. It was interesting to see how many of them were covering them soil with stones. Bark covering is quite common (and more natural), but I hadn't been aware of so much stone covering. These vary from flat stones about the size of your fist down to little chunks, and then there are the more attractive pebbles - usually laid over plastic, as far as I could see at a quick glance. Certainly this is a fairly effective way of keeping down weeds (although weeds will get through anything given enough time) but I'm not entirely sure that it's healthy for the soil, which will get no air, and will become soggy or unmanageable - if the owners change their mind about the approach and want to start something different. Quite apart from having to remove dozens of stones from the soil - we spend enough time as it is moving stones that have somehow got lodged in our garden - it doesn't seem the ideal way to prevent weeds. And it reminds me of that biblical injunction about not throwing stones on your neighbour's plot. In which case, why throw them on your own?
Picture shows part of the bins built last year (on the left) and the two new raised gardens - one partly obscured. We've since brought the tractor tyre that can be seen right at the back down flat onto the ground and turned it into a raised garden too. Believe it or not, this is the sunny side of the house.
Since I wrote this post in 2010, we've grown older and the garden has become harder to deal with, especially in terms of weeds. This year, with all the extra hot days and the rain, the weeds would have taken over if we hadn't done something last year that I wouldn't have recommended back in 2010!
The ground you can see in the picture above is now covered with stones...! LOL. They're actually a from of schist and lie flat on the ground (unlike pebbles, which have more of a roundness to them). This isn't the only area we've covered in schist: between and alongside three of the raised garden boxes, we've put stones, and all the way under the clothesline. Then further on, we've put more schist around two more raised gardens. Yes, I know, I'm doing what I said people shouldn't. But times change.