Hello and a complete beginner question (or two)

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by blurbfly, Mar 26, 2011.

  1. blurbfly

    blurbfly New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hi everyone!

    Really happy to have joined this forum - we are a small group of people who recently moved from a big city to a mountainous village (in Eastern Serbia) to try to live happier, healthier lives. We are interested in all things permaculture, but are complete beginners, and we have been finding some great information on this forum.

    One main issue that's been troubling us - last fall we've made a raised bed, keyhole garden around an existing apple tree. We used a cardboard layer, watered well, brought tons of oak leaves from the forest above our house, spread around some organic kitchen scraps and covered it with a layer of straw. We left it there throughout the winter, adding kitchen scraps under the straw sporadically, hoping it would all decompose....

    But when we moved aside the straw last week, the layer of leaves is kinda the same as it was...only a little wetter. they softened and i spotted a random worm, but it's nowhere near what we pictured would happen! [​IMG]

    So, the question is - what went wrong, and more importantly, what can we do now? the garden was designed to house tomatoes, basil, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, and some other herbs.

    can we add some regular yard soil under the straw layer? or under the leafy layer? we have some oak forest topsoil above our house that we could add also? old sheep poo? or should we let it sit until next year? we are making some fresh raised beds in a different area of the yard (which is a whole other set of questions [​IMG]), so maybe that would have to do...

    any help/advice on how to proceed will be much appreciated!
     
  2. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Messages:
    2,215
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Welcome aboard blurbfly,

    At a guess it sounds like you may have had a mix that was too high in Carbon and not enough nitrogen, it probably wasn't as wet as you thought it was either. I reckon you might need to get some more green plant material in there, some manure would help too. And I am guessing it needs a little more moisture. I think you need to decide wether you want to make a compost pile there first, or go for a ready-to-plant raised bed. The two require different approaches.

    Good luck
    Grahame
     
  3. Tegs

    Tegs Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    It sound to me like you need some more nitrogen in the mix. I would add some blood & bone or similar, the old sheep poo would be great, you could probably plant straight into that without any damage to your plants. There would be no problem toping up with some soil either. No need to wait until next year the sooner you plant it out the better. The best way to learn is trial and error & your plants will soon tell you if they aren't happy.

    I am not sure of your climate zone but if temps get below freezing over winter that could be the reason for the organic matter not breaking down?

    Best of luck!
     
  4. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2010
    Messages:
    1,676
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Apart from all the above. The pile is probably too small to heat up and compost quickly. It was winter so it was always going to be quite slow. Things like animal manure have lots of bugs in them already so these are the best type of composting starters. Don't forget hte bugs are probably asleep below a certain temperature. Certainly they are refusing to get out of bed to work for you.

    But i am wondering, how close to the base of hte apple tree have you built this raised bed. I hope its not too close. A) the roots will come up from below into your vegie patch and b) its not good for the vegies or the tree to all be competing for these resources.

    A compost heap should be 1 square metre big to be able to get hot enough. At least. Have a look at the compost pictures on purple pears photoblog. Or in his mandala town pictures. Eco456 also has pictures of a good size of compost pile.

    If you haven't got manure, get some green leaves and mix them in with the brown leaves. Anything green will have nitrogen in it.
     
  5. purecajn

    purecajn Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2011
    Messages:
    627
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Self Employed / Semi-retired
    Location:
    Westlake, Louisiana
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical, Zone 9
    Don't forget to add pee. A free and ready source. dilute it with water and spread it on heavy
     
  6. blurbfly

    blurbfly New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    thanks everyone! yes, we have pretty cold winters and it makes sense that the bugs wouldn't wanna come out and play :D
    not much green stuff has gone into the pile either. it looked pretty tall when we initially piled it up, but has gone down considerably after the snow has melted.

    we'd like to use it for planting this spring, so adding manure with some soil sounds good. i've read somewhere that oak leaves would leave the soil too acidic - would the soil/poo mixture take care of that?

    sun burn - there's about a meter in diameter free around the tree - for a wheelbarrow to comfortably go around.
     

Share This Page

-->