Throwing it all away

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The glorious rubbish bed in 2013

Before the limery was built, we had a feature in our garden known as the ‘rubbish bed‘. Basically this was a raised bed made and filled entirely with waste. Mr Snail had constructed it by taking up some of the flag stones that formed the patio and partially burying them on their ends to enclose an area that we filled with all sorts of waste to rot down and become a growing medium. I don’t think it contained any actual soil, but there was a lot of cardboard, grass clippings, shredded willow, spent potting compost, shredded paper, moss raked from a friend’s lawn and leaves. Most of the organic matter went in fresh and we allowed it to rot down in situ. The best squashes I have ever grown were from this particular bed.

And then came the limery. Because of our limited space, we had to shuffle things around and the rubbish bed had to be sacrificed. The flag stones were reused to floor the limery and a new much deeper bed was built in a different location. The contents of the rubbish bed were transferred to other places – some went into two dumpy bags in which I grew potatoes and some was spread on the other raised beds.

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Volunteer potatoes in the new bed

Ideally, I wanted the new bed to be filled the same way, but it is turning out to be a long haul. However, I think that the end is in sight… it just requires some physical labour. As you may recall, I began by lining the bottom of the new bed with old handouts and lecture notes as a cathartic way to draw a line under my teaching career. Then, we added all the usual stuff, plus lots of tea leaves and coffee grounds and we stopped recycling most of our junk mail and put that in there too, along with the bedding from the hen house. Of course, when we thought we were getting near the top we turned our backs and everything rotted down and the bed was only 1/3 full again. Despite this, we have persisted and it’s currently hosting a late crop of unintended potatoes that we have decided to nurture, plus a courgette in a pot that has rooted down into the compost. Once these have died back and been harvested, we will be piling in the contents of the two dumpy bags (which came from the original rubbish bed), plus all the spent compost from the pots that have had the peppers, squashes and tomatoes in over the summer. And we’ll keep adding paper and cardboard and grass clippings from our neighbours so that by the time we come to plant courgettes and squashes next year, they can go in the ‘new and improved rubbish bed’ and we will hopefully have an ideal medium for a huge harvest… once again, all from material that many folks would simply throw away.

So, if you have a garden that is short of organic matter or just generally lacking soil like ours was, don’t despair…. simply compost everything and anything that can rot down, either in a compost bin or in situ, and you will be amazed by the productivity you can achieve.

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Courgette in a pot but rooting into the compost in the new bed – hopefully a taste of things to come

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12 Comments

  1. Our runner beans are thriving in a trench of home made compost. Just frozen another six bags of beans, and we have some for lunch shortly.

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  2. I have a compost mound around the base of a clump of palm trees. It consists of dead palm fronds, green waste, grass clippings, prunings, etc. While I don’t use it for growing things on, it does a wonderful job of mulching the palms while it rots down. And at some future stage I shall have a banana pit: you plant young banana trees on a raised circle about 6ft across, with a slight depression in the centre. Into this you throw green waste, vegetable waste from the kitchen, etc. It nourishes and mulches the bananas at the same time, providing a moisture trap for the trees to access.

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  3. When I had a bigger space this was the way I composted too – it works so well! I bet you’ll get a super potato harvest! 🙂

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  4. I can confirm that this works a treat! My old garden had soil that was sadly lacking in organic matter. I used old fence palings to make raised edges, and threw on stable straw, coffee grounds, raked leaves, pulled weeds (so much borage) and a bit of newspaper and ash from the wood heater, and ended up with wonderfully productive beds surprisingly quickly.

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  5. This is a great idea. In my last, much bigger garden, I had a ‘dirty compost’ pile, in a very shaded corner, where I put weeds & other stuff I didn’t want to end up spreading around the rest of the garden. It’s a great idea to put something like that in a place where you can use it as a contained growing bed – brilliant resourcefulness!

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