September 5, 2012

Progress: A Composter and a Refreshed Garden

New Year and Spring always get all the "fresh start" glory. But for me, Fall feels so full of hope! There is so much to look forward to.

Over Labor Day weekend, Ryan and I buckled down and got to work. We mowed, edged, trimmed the hackberry trees at the fence line, and got all of the un-fun stuff out of the way. Then it was time to focus on the garden.

A few weeks ago, I began what I imagined would be a quick, simple, and adorable compost bin building project. (Rose-colored glasses, anyone?) It only took a few twists of his arm to convince Ryan into driving around the city and loading up a truck full of free pallets. Then I armed myself with a crowbar and hammer and was excited to get to work.

The lumber is ok. The labor is crazy difficult.
That's when I learned that taking apart wooden pallets is not for the faint of heart. Or arm strength.

Ryan patiently showed me the best way to approach the situation, but I whined my way through it. I even recruited our all-too-kind neighbor, who enjoyed the opportunity to sling a heavy hammer at something for a while.

Pinterest makes it look so easy. "Build THIS shelf out of pallets! How about this chair? Pallets! Free! Just take them apart and voila! Something awesome." Don't be fooled.

If you decide to take on a pallet project, lured by the free-ness of the wood and the promise of DIY furniture just around the bend; be warned. It's not easy. And also, not all of the wood is in the best shape. But it's free, and I have to say I was happy to put in a little extra elbow grease to get us an almost-free compost bin.

After a couple of weekends spent taking some of the pallets apart, and then learning to use the circular saw, I devised a plan to build a compost bin. (Note: this began as a three-bin composting system and quickly morphed into the much more do-able single bin.)

Final touch: paint on the saying, "A Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste"
With about 10 feet of hardware mesh ($15) and a bunch of deck nails that I had on hand, I built a passable version of what I really wanted. I was inspired by this beautiful three-bin composter. The "door" on the front can be completely picked up and removed so that we can easily turn the compost with a pitchfork or shovel.

We moved the bin to its new home in the back of the garden, and left a little space next to it for tomato cages and the wheelbarrow. It's a little bit charming, don't you think?

Meanwhile, we had a lot of other preparation to do to ready the beds for fall planting. I took a solo trip Sunday morning out to the Natural Gardener to walk the labyrinth and get pine straw and turkey compost. There's something very meditative about shoveling hot turkey manure. Or maybe that was the labyrinth.

By Monday, we were up with the dawn and turning over the dirt in all the beds. We dressed them with fresh compost and topped them all with pine straw to keep the cats out. The garden began looking like herself again!

The beds are primed and ready (almost!) to plant. 
In a week or two, after the hot turkey compost has settled and the weather has cooled ever so slightly, it will be time to plant. Here's what we plan to start from seed (direct sow):
  • Shelling peas
  • Snap peas
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Dill
  • Bok Choi (tatsoi)
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Kohlrabi 
  • Parsnips
When it's time for transplants, we'll get broccoli and cabbage. It feels so good to be in the garden again! Are you ready to plant a fall/winter garden?


Beth said...

I will keep in mind that pallets are much more temperamental than pinterest makes them out to be! Your compost bin is quite charming!

Sadly, we have no garden at the new house (one of two things I will miss from the old house; that and the walking distance library), and I'm debating if we have enough sunlight to even give it a go at trying to grow anything. The good news is, our whole front yard is a rain garden! And I'm thinking some veggies may get planted there.

We were lucky in the fact that the previous owners had six rain barrels and a giant compost zone (it's fairly large and has a couple of piles already composted and ready to be spread). AND we're lucky that a farmer's market will be starting almost in our backyard in a couple of weeks!

Can't wait to see how your garden grows!

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Claire Jain said...

Definitely the turkey manure.