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Composting in Situ

October 18th, 2016

Earlier this summer I talked about my experiments with composting in place in the garden. Since they were such a great success, I decided to continue using this method since it saves tons of time. As I’ve been cleaning out the main garden I have been building giant compost piles at the lower end of the garden. This area is much lower than the rest of the garden and the soil needs to be built up about a foot or 18 inches to help level the garden a bit. Eventually, there will be large rocks put in place here to hold back the soil and improve water runoff issues in the garden.
compost-in-place
Instead of hauling in topsoil, I decided it was easiest to take the patient way and simply start building up this lower end of the garden with compost. I now have a rather large compost pile that is growing larger and longer by the day. At the moment it’s about four feet wide, three feet tall, and fifteen feet long. Eventually it will span the entire length of the garden at seventy feet. Next year I will plant pumpkins and squashes on these pile to help compost them down even more, then they will be raked out a bit and more will be built here if the soil level needs to be increased. I love this method because I don’t have to turn and maintain compost piles and I don’t have to bring in soil from elsewhere to increase the level. Overall, it’s a win/win because it saves me tons of time and labor.

What time/labor saving methods have you discovered recently?

Compost Pile Gardening

August 23rd, 2016

A few years ago, I read in ‘Gardens of Plenty’ about growing curcurbits in the compost pile. “The glory of today’s potager are the compost heaps, built in long lines approximately 3ft wide, stretching from path to path. They grow as the spent vegetables are added, sometimes reaching a height of 5ft. Layer upon layer of leaves create stripes of different colours, making the heaps look like the best quality terrines. Left undisturbed for a year, the piles rot down to waist height, and at this point they become the most luxuriant beds for bright pumpkins, giving vertical height in the best jardin potager tradition. The long lines of giant leaves make solid shapes among the finer lines of other vegetables. After use as a pumpkin bed for a single season, the compost returns to the garden as a nutritious fertiliser.”
growing in compost piles 1
I was able to visit the A.I. DuPont garden at The Hagley Museum twice last year, once in June and one in September. The potager is quite lovely, it was wonderful to see in person the garden I had read about. The tour didn’t give a ton of time in the garden, so I only got a few photos. I was able to spot pumpkins growing in compost piles in the garden. You can imagine my delight to see in action something I had read about and seen photos of in a book.
ei dupont garden
ei dupont garden (1)
I’m not much of one to maintain the type of compost pile which is turned regularly, so this passage inspired me. Last fall I made a compost pile in the middle of the main edible garden, you can see it in the image below.
growing in compost piles
Early this summer, I seeded a zucchini in the pile. It quickly germinated and grew nicely ( I thought about growing pumpkins, but the pile was small and I didn’t want pumpkin vines taking over the garlic patch). We’ve had quite a drought here in Maine this summer, but I refrained from watering this plant. I wanted to see if the compost retained more or less water than the surrounding soil areas. Much to my surprise, the plants is doing amazingly well, producing loads of zucchini and has shown no signs of stress from the dryness.
growing in compost piles 2
My idea for this process of compost is to reduce the amount of time spent in some areas to give myself time to focus on other things. If I don’t have to turn a compost pile I can use that time to maintain a larger garden space. This compost en situ will also work wonderfully for raising the soil level in the areas of the garden that slope too much. My main vegetable garden is too sloped and thus rain runs off faster than I would like. When considering my options for leveling it out, I decided building up the lower areas of the garden with compost piles like this will be the least expensive and least labor intensive option. It will require time and patience, which I have plenty of.

What type of compost pile do you maintain?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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