Sunday, November 14, 2010

The spade and the fork

kw: local events, gardening, folk songs

Yesterday and today were laboring days. We have a compost pile, and a smallish vegetable garden (~20 sq m), and both needed work. One thing we grow it tomatoes, and we favor a variety that can grow up a fence twice my height, and back to the ground, "Sweet 100", a cherry tomato variety. We also grow, typically, two or more other varieties that grow larger fruit, whatever is fungus resistant.

Side quibble: Many tomato growers aren't putting designations like VFNT on the tags any more. One has to know beforehand which variety is resistant, or try a variety and hope for a lucky break. It seems the varieties also change from year to year, because this year's Sweet 100 vines only survived a month after setting fruit, then were all dead of fungus infections. We had to rely on some volunteers from a grape tomato we grew last year for small-fruiting tomatoes in August and later.

We also grow other stuff, but this post is about the ending of the season. Some volunteer tomatoes grew so heavily that they pulled one fence half over. Saturday morning's task was to harvest the rest of the vegetables (in addition to tomatoes, we had sweet peppers and broccoli still growing. The cucumbers grew for only half the season, then collapsed. Probably another fungus), then fix the fences. We have rabbit fence four feet high (1.2 m) all around, except for a removable gate, and also the section on the North side is over ten feet high (3+ m), for climbing vines.

Then we tackled the compost pile. It is almost four feet wide (~1.1 m), more than six feet long (1.9 m), and was about 2.5 feet deep (0.7 m). It has been a-building for about six years, since the last time we harvested finished compost. Finished compost has a density about half that of water, so the harvest required moving about a ton of material. While clearing the garden, I'd uprooted and chopped all the plants, so I had quite a pile of plant matter set aside ready to restart the compost pile.

The upper part of the pile contained a lot of lawn clippings. I use a mulching mower most of the time, but I put some lawn clippings on the compost pile as a nitrogen source. The rest is fallen leaves and some of the kitchen garbage. Nothing goes down our garbage disposal (The only reason we have one is so the house can be sold some day). We had a tree removed three years ago, and a quarter of the pile was the shredded stump. I used a pitchfork to move the clippings and the shreds, and a shovel for the rest. As I worked on it, I remembered the old song, "Lavender's Green". Its first two verses go:
Lavender's green, dilly dilly, Lavender's blue.
Angels above, dilly dilly, know I love you.
Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, Lavender's green.
When I am king, dilly dilly, you'll be my queen.

Call up the men, dilly dilly, set them to work,
Some with the spade, dilly dilly, some with the fork.
Some in the field, dilly dilly, some on the farm,
Whilst you and I, dilly dilly, keep ourselves warm.
So I did both the spade work and the fork work, for this little task. Once I had the unfinished material forked off into a pile, I began moving the rest to the garden, using a wheel barrow. My wife did some of the spade work as well. Nightfall found us 3/4 done. This afternoon we finished. The entire garden is now about eight inches (20 cm) deep in loamy compost, and it is a sort of raised bed, compared to the past few years.

We put the freshest plant material on the bottom in the compost area, mixed the wood shreds and grass clippings, and put it on top. I'll put a couple of pounds of fertilizer on the garden and let the minerals spread through the winter. Now it's a hot shower (and maybe some liniment) for me. Glad that's done!

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