The best part of Annette and Joshua’s book is that it shows a continuum of ideas and activities for you to try at home, whether it’s a tiny house or a McMansion (well, if you have one of those, you’re probably not interested in urban farming, unless you’re Prince Charles.
This month’s challenge is to improve your soil. Here is how I am doing it:
- Add fertilizers. Organic, of course. I’ve recently blogged about making my own seed starting mix, which I’ve been doing for a couple of years now. I don’t bake my soil as some people recommend, so I do tend to get a few volunteer weeds, but they’re easy enough to pull out.
- Make the worms do the work. In a fit of excessive energy last year, I sawed off the top of my cold frame and made a new lid for my worm box. At 35″ x 24″ it’s a bit small for our 4-person veggie eating family (scratch that – 3 veggie eating people and a little boy who only eats pancakes), so I might expand it next year. Some people recommend putting in a divider and using only one side at a time, but we either have too many scraps or I don’t dig it out quickly enough. My design has an open bottom, under which I cleverly placed on a scrap of hardware cloth. Those frustrated rats! Nevertheless, since I completed this project last year, I don’t think it should count for this month’s challenge.
- Dumpster-dive for free materials. Many people save neighbors’ leaves and forage for lawn clippings to layer into their own compost bins. I started collecting bunny-poo from my kid’s daycare. You know you’re a gardener when you hand-pick chewed plastic out of the bunny poo bag! Not wanting to do that, I threw together this nesting bunny box made from untreated pine and leftover hardware cloth, so now I can get plastic-free compost-additives.
- Scale up production. My pride and joy, that thing that makes me happy, is my dirt pile! I think I’ve moved it to a completely new location at least once a year since we’ve moved in. Not so hard when you have only one or two plastic 2x2x3 bins. Once we got chickens, though, we certainly started generating compost on a larger scale, so I rapidly needed a new composting system. The large, creeping pile just doesn’t cut it, since it is in full view of our living room windows, so I went with the tailored look. I designed (based on the Seattle Tilth 3-bin Wood and Wire system) and built this large compost bin to fit on top of my chicken coop foundation, so it’s 10x4x3 (about 3 times more than my previous system). And in my typical neurotic way, I then decided that it should go somewhere else. I had hoped to get it done before the end of February, but bad weather combined with no garage = wet tools, and then the kids quarreled their way through mid-winter break so I had to devise ways of tiring them out. Building is a lot more fun with friends, so we went dumpster-diving for parts. I proceeded to use the chop-saw to remove the nasty bits, and I wonder if they can be turned into biochar. I built two end panels with the staggered board pattern, two middle panels with chicken wire, and three rear panels with spacing for air flow. I still have to build the lids, which I’m going to build as bi-fold panels. One will have an inset chopping block so I can machete the large pieces, and another will have a screen to use when shifting the pile.
The end result? Still a board short, as usual!
What crazy stuff have you been building this winter?