Posts Tagged ‘lasagne garden’

Update on the lasagne garden

Last autumn, Jennie and I set about establishing a lasagne garden. I’ve been slowly adding to it all winter and spring so it’s very much in various stages of development and is what could honestly be described as a “work in progress”!

However, having read Compostwoman’s excellent post about making compost, I realised that the lasagne garden is quite clearly too dry as there are a fair number of ants hanging around it.

So yesterday afternoon I whipped off the tarpaulins that have been covering the patch so that the overnight rain could get it nice and soggy.

Lasagne garden - 7 May 2009

Lasagne garden - 7 May 2009

As you can see from the photo, the bit we did first has come along and nicely and is, in my very inexpert opinion, ready for planting. I’m going to use the lasagne garden for things like courgettes, melons (well, it’s worth a try!) cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins, etc.

There’s one patch that we’re not using this year so in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to turn this into a lasagne garden in preparation for next spring. If I start now, it should be more than ready by next year!

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Getting stuff done

Despite a slow start thanks to the below zero temperatures on Saturday night which came hot on the heels of a torrential downpour on Friday night, resulting in a thick layer of ice everywhere (i.e. I had to break the ice on the pigs’ water bowls and then make three trips with three buckets of water to refill said water bowls, not to mention providing the chickens with water), I actually managed to get a lot done yesterday, which made up for Saturday’s sofa-hugging.

Once I’d fed the pigs and finished carting buckets of water everywhere (not easy when you’re not sure if she mud is frozen over or if appearances are deceptive), adjusted the boundaries of the weaners’ and Bailey and Brini’s enclosures to give them some new ground to keep them occupied, and braved the very cold water to clean their feed bowls out, I had a quick coffee and then cleaned the Cube and Eglu out. The chickens tend to leave me to it when I’m scraping out their poop trays but Mama Silkie and her chicks were not happy with me interfering with their sleeping arrangements and clucked and cheeped furiously at me from the other end of the Eglu run!

All the muck then made its way to the lasagne garden, as did several sacks of dirty hay and muck that I’ve been meaning to put on their for weeks but somehow never got round to it. It had rotted down quite nicely in the sacks so I hope it will continue to do so on the lasagne garden. In fact, I hope the lasagne garden as a whole actually works – I know I’m not doing it properly but I don’t enough enough compost to make it work in layers so one area has a layer of cardboard topped by a layer of food waste and then grass cuttings, topped by another layer of cardboard and finally covered by a large tarpaulin.

The rest, however, is a bit more skinny than that. Cardboard, then food waste, then cardboard. And that’s it. Another section now has cardboard, the hay and muck from yesterday and then cardboard. I’m not at all sure how this will turn out but gardening is a whole new learning curve for me and, if I’m honest, my objective was simply to have a dig-free patch so I’ll be happy if this is the only result!

I then, at long last, got round to putting the various doors and planks I’ve been collecting to good use – specifically, using them to stop me ruining any more of the field by poaching it up as I walk. Because there’s no set path, I just walk without paying any attention to where I’m going and inevitably end up “avoiding the mud”, thereby creating even more. So I’ve taken action and have laid the doors and planks over the worst parts so that the areas I’ve poached can have a break and recover from my thoughtlessness. Other areas have been topped with the dirty straw from the pig arks, which has made quite a difference. I’ve got lots more to do but am now paying attention to where I walk!

Once that was finished, I headed back indoors for some more coffee (yes, my blood is in fact a medium Gold Roast) and some soup before heading back out to prepare the pigs’ food, then feeding them and the chickens and making yet another couple of trips with water to refill the weaners’ bowl – and Tia and Scrumpy’s who, I was not amused to notice, had managed to fill theirs with mud. And, thanks to T and A, the field gate is now hanging quite happily on its hinges, so I no longer have to worry about the pigs making a real bid for freedom the next time they get out of their enclosures!

Once the animals were done, the dogs and I headed for home, picking B up from work on the way. And then, finally, our reward for working so hard recently: roast dinner at Jennie’s who, as always, didn’t just meet but beat all expectations by serving up a delicious roast beef (with yummy yorkies!), a mince pie/crumble/cake concoction that was served with the largest amount of whipped cream I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring (which I did, gladly), followed by home made mince pies…

The waistband on my jeans was complaining by the time I got home but my taste buds were utterly delighted. What a great end to the day, especially as we got to watch Mamma Mia!, something I’ve been wanting to see for ages.

Cheers Jennie – much appreciated by B and I 🙂

And many thanks for the cards. Brilliant!

A lazy day

It was meant to be tipping it down today so I thought I’d go for a bit of a lazy day. It hasn’t rained since about nine o’clock but I’ve stuck to the original plan, even though there’s loads of things I should be doing, like cleaning the chickens out or moving Bailey and Brini’s enclosure.

But I’ve been working really hard recently on not much sleep and, quite frankly, I need a break. So I fed the pigs, did their water, heaped their bedding in a big pile in the middle of their arks to give them something to do later (they hate it when I do that!), cleaned the chickens’ water containers (and changed their water, obviously), cleaned the back of my car out (the downside of getting the fruit and veg is that things like beetroot leak everywhere!), divided up said fruit and veg and out them in buckets for the pigs later on and added to the lasagne garden. And then, with all the goodwill in the world towards the pigs and chickens, I’ve left them to it, curling up indoors with the laptop, trying to stay awake. I’ll feed them all again later and then head for home where I intend to get into bed and stay there until morning. Apart from toilet breaks for myself and the dogs.

How’s your day been?

Busy bees

I’ve had a couple of fun and productive days up at the farm. On Tuesday, B spent the day with me and we got Scrumpy’s ark shifted (it might not sound like much but the next time I have to have one of the pigs, I’ll take some photos of the process so you can see how complicated life is when you keep your pigs in a modern version of the traditional fold!) and then yesterday, Jennie came to help (again!) and we got started on the lasagne garden. She took some photos and detailed our work over at Jennieworld.

I’m thrilled that we’ve got started on the veggie garden. I’m a beginner at this whole smallholding thing (as you can tell from reading my blog) but at least when it comes to animals, I have an idea of what needs doing. The basics are the same for all livestock (water, food, bedding, secure fences, comfort, health) and it’s a matter of figuring out the details. But when it comes to plants… I’m less than a beginner. I’m a total novice. I have never in my life even attempted to grow something, other than a dimly remembered experiment in science aged 10 – something about a test tube and a bean. Oh, and some cress in a hedgehog container so that the cress grew up and looked like the hedgehog’s spikes. I don’t know what happened to the cress (I have no memory of it growing) but I know mum used the hedgehog as an ashtray for over a decade.

All that is a way of illustrating how much I need some help and while Jennie claims she knows very little, very little is in fact a step up from where I am. Besides, the extra help yesterday was invaluable. Even between us, we only just managed to finish everything in time for me to leave at 4 to get to work, so I would have been stuck on my own!

What I’ve really enjoyed about B and Jennie’s contributions is twofold. First, having an extra pair of hands. Both bemoan their lack of physical contribution but they’re the only ones that are bothered. Me, I get bothered by having to, for example, put the ark next to where I want it to go, go back to the previous site to get the rubber mats, put them down in the right place and position to ark over them, then go back to get the bedding that can be reused, then make yet another return trip to get their water bowl… Having someone there who can make these trips while I put up the electric fence makes life much much easier and speeds up the whole process considerably. B and I finished and were able to have lunch at about half past one. On my own, I would have been a lot later! The same with the garden. On my own, I would have got the cardboard and some of the compost down, leaving me with much more to do! Instead, today I just have to collect a small amount of cut grass and then go round and get the used hay and straw I’ve been saving from the pig arks. These piles have been sitting out in the rain so they should be good and damp and ready to kick start the composting. Not to mention all the pig poo that needs collecting!

So, you see, having an extra pair of hands is fantastic. So is the company. I quite enjoy being on my own, probably because with animals about, you’re never truly on your own. But while the animals make me laugh on a daily basis, it’s great to have someone to laugh with, to share the joys and beauty of working with animals. Company makes light of the worst jobs and deepens the sense of satisfaction of a job well done.

So, to B and to Jennie: thank you for your help and for making the time and effort to come to the farm and spend your time with me. It’s more appreciated than you know.

Lasagna gardening

The vegetable garden is one step nearer completion! Well, in theory. Ok, so there’s one less thing I need to do in order to have a vegetable garden.

It’s called a lasagna garden!

No, I haven’t gone crackers. There really is a system called “lasagna gardening” and the concept is so simple, you can hear the wails and cries from that great compost heap in the sky.

In order to create your near-perfect patch, first of all you need to put away your fork and spade. That’s right, put them away. You don’t need them. Well, you might need the fork, but only for chucking stuff about, not digging.

This is a dig-free zone.

Figure out where your patch will be, allow for paths and easy reach, and then mark it somehow using string or a hose or whatever you like.

Get your hands on loads of newspaper or cardboard.

Put a nice thick layer of newspaper/cardboard on the ground where you want the patch to go.

Wet the newspaper/cardboard until it’s nice and soggy – or, better still, put it out before it’s due to rain then let nature do some work for you.

Once it’s soggy, cover it with a nice thick layer of a “brown” compost material, such as grass clippings or used hay or straw or animal poo, etc. Then cover with a “green” layer (veggie peelings, etc). Then brown, then green. (Do you see where the “lasagne” bit comes from?!) You can add more layers of newspaper but I understand you don’t really need to. Unless your heap is going wonky!

When you’ve got a deep enough pile (about 12 inches) you can either leave it as is or cover with black plastic. My research shows there are advocates of both. Your choice, though to my mind, surely the plastic (a) aids decomposition and (b) stops it blowing everywhere? But then again, if it’s covered with plastic, it’s waterproof so the rain can’t help you. Like I said your choice.

If you do this in the autumn and leave it over the winter, come spring you’ll have lovely rich soil just waiting for you to plant your veggies.

I’ve got the cardboard, I just need to move the chickens off the patch so I can get going. But that’s a whole other story that requires a bit of patience before a post is written…