Monday, 7 February 2011

Ode to the black stuff

This week my decluttering attentions turned to the back yard. It is a job I have been dreading. Firstly it means lugging heavy pots and heaps of stuff around and secondly, in February, it means lugging wet and cold heavy pots and heaps around, usually across slippery patio stones in dank weather. Last year the yard was an experimental jungle, with far too many pots, plants and other projects crammed into a tiny space, most of which are still waiting to be cleared up. This year most of those experiments will move up to the allotment; and the yard will be transformed into an oasis of calm and morning sunshine. There will still be greenery - salads, fruit bushes and herbs - and an absolute riot of flowers and colour and perfumes and butterflies and all pretty things.

Okay, I am probably getting a little ahead of myself again, but what is a life without vision : ) ? Truth be told, the summer of 2011 will be declared a success if drying laundry doesn't have to compete with a forest of tomatoes or next door's privet hedge; I get one Dahlia to flower; and if there is just a tiny bit of room to sit and soak it all up for a few minutes in the sunshine. The fruit bushes and salads and riots can come a little later.

One of the projects that is moving up to the allotment is the compost bin. I started the bin three years ago when we first moved in. It was an virtuous move, recycling an old dustbin to in turn recycle some of our household waste on site. The bin was small and filled very quickly. Since then it has sat waiting for the fauna to do their thing, whilst most of our household green waste made its way to landfill. As the allotment is where we need most of our organic matter from now on, this small bin is on its way out. So I set out to bag up the contents of the bin for easy transport to the allotment.

On removing the bin from the pile, I was delighted to be  confronted with this:

A dark black friable heap of earthy-smelling beauty. No bag of garden centre bought compost will ever compare. This is the first time in my poor sheltered life I have seen homemade compost; which is probably why I am positively rhapsodic about it now; but I am truly in awe of the processes that took a heap of dying waste matter and turned it into a substance from which new life will spring. Instead of moving it up to the allotment as planned, I skimmed off the top uncomposted layer and spread the lush dark stuff around the large containers and bed that were intensively cropped last year. If I can't grow big showy Dahlias in this, summer 2011 will indeed have been a failure.

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