AKA “Compost, Quacks, and Purrs”.
So, I was just up hoeing over some garden beds; remember those hugelkultur experiments we were making with our WWOOF volunteers two summers ago? Well, the first one, we’ve been using steadily ever since we built it, replanting as needed with season-appropriate veggies, mostly mustard, bokchoy, arugula, and lettuce, with some basil and cilantro thrown into the mix. That bed has been holding up well, with plenty of mulch and compost added periodically, though it is having some shrinkage issues as with any raised bed. Most of the other hugelkultur beds had been left fallow after the first season. This was mostly an issue of the three of us getting overwhelmed with watering and with having an excess of greens (imagine that!) along with several mostly-failed crops of okra and sorrel. I finally decided that it’s time to up our greens production and get in a batch of okra to (hopefully) see us through the hot summer months. Guess what I found in those old hugelkultur beds; kind of flattened, covered with grass, wandering jew, and other weeds? Under that thick mat of roots (hoed under to increase soil fertility) was the best, blackest, softest soil our garden has ever had! There are still some rotting logs left in the centers of the rows, but the coconut husk, wood ash, leaves, soil, and smaller branches have melded into perfect, rich soil.
The plants will be the judge of just how scrumptious that soil is, but my skepticism of the hugelkultur beds is certainly somewhat abated. The three negative points I would cite in this gardening method are the limited water (and soil) retention during the first growing season, the destruction from rats during the first season (they love to burrow through the coconut husk), and the run-off of soil from the sloped sides of the beds. The first two issues could be remedied by building the beds a season in advance, and letting them lie fallow, maybe covered with cardboard, until somewhat decomposed and ready to plant. Or perhaps a nitrogen-fixing cover crop could be used the first season, its roots helping to break down the components of the bed more rapidly than time and insect activity alone. The latter issue I have solved by simply hoeing the runoff soil (now in the pathways) back onto the bed before replanting: this only becomes difficult if the entire bed is not being replanted at once, meaning that mine are being done in sections. All in all, this remains a great use of both excess wood and (particularly) waste coconut husk; a terrible centipede attraction when left to compost down in the open.
In other news, this week we greet several new arrivals: kittens Bacardi and Bombay, and 6 big bold ducklings!
Ducks! Around 4 weeks old.
Meet Bacardi, around 10 weeks old. He and his brother, Bombay, were patiently waiting for a home to call their own, under the great care of the St Croix Animal Welfare staff. They didn’t know that they were looking for a canine best friend, but Bombay soon figured out that Juno is the one!
Tortoise hatchling #1(2016), 3 weeks old.
Rescue Rooster (2 months old?), doing bug control around the yard and keeping the “Trushies” away from my cherry tomatoes.
Hope you enjoyed this peak into life over here at the Nidulari Homestead! Remember, you can place orders via the Produce page to share in the bounty of our land (and Queen CariBEE’s too), or stop by the Nidulari Gypsy Vardo on Wednesday for lots of delicious baked goods and more. Every purchase helps to allow me to stay here doing what I’m doing and gives me time to write about it all too!