Our backyard is about the size of a dollar bill... but somehow that doesn't make it exempt from a winter thrashing. It doesn't snow here, but the trees... those trees... they lose a lot of leaves.
I'm all about a fabulous garden bed, but I never seem to have the extra funds to purchase the ingredients necessary to make it fabulous in the way my mind imagines. I see organic top soil, raised perimeters, automatic drip lines to every single plant, mulch, mulch, and more mulch dancing in my head.
But nope, around these parts we are lucky to get a soaker hose that is long enough to do half the yard at a time and the smallest amount of composted soil you can imagine.
This year our uber tiny 'composting pot' has finally begun to pay off (a little bit). Of course that is probably because it was ever only an accidental compost pot and really only came into being because the plant I had in there croaked (what's new).
When your backyard can hardly hold any plants, much less a large compost bin or compost area, you need to get creative and that is precisely what this pot represents. My extreme creativity (kidding...kind of)! I drilled some holes in the sides to allow for airflow and I add soil or manure in a thin layer on top every so often. It's worked beautifully except, for the fact that I can't seem to convince Mr. TDC that you can't just throw in an entire head of cabbage and have it work quickly. Ugh. I also can't seem to convince the dogs not to climb in (and get stuck, which is pretty funny sometimes) and strew egg shells around. But whatyagonnado but make do?
The first task in this winter dig out was to spread the leaves around evenly. Weird you might think? Well perhaps but when you can't purchase a few yards of mulch and you don't have a traditional composting site, composting in place and ammending your soil in a non traditional manner become your only hope!
While I was busy spreading the wealth on the opposite side of the yard, the Mr. and the Boy got to work clearing our 'not so successful' food growing planter. Some of you might remember the year I planted millions of seeds (ok slight exaggeration) and only 2 things grew which I couldn't even identify.... *sigh* so goes the life of a brown thumbed gardener! Then there was the ginormous tomato plant that grew last year that I actually never planted. So this year required some clearing of rocks and, run away tomatoes that managed to get away from us once the cold set in (for a day).
**I would just like to note that it's a rare day when the Mr actually joins in with the DIY movement I have single handedly decided we were joining and promoting in this household. He is not the DIY type (just not his thing) and so this was a very special treat... that probably won't have a repeat affair.
Once the rocks were out and the tomatoes picked over, we actually set our makeshift perimeter into place a bit better. We just used untreated 2x4 scraps I had in my 'lumber yard' and didn't even bother to connect or attach them to each other. We are renters in this house, so anything we do must be of the non permanent type. Since the perimeter is really only to raise the bed a tad and keep toddler toes from trampling, this works fabulously.
To continue along that path of non permanent changes, we switched out the head on the single drip line for this section, to a sprinkling variety. This is not the best solution for watering but is the only solution when you need to water a larger area than a single plant and you aren't able to do actual 'yard construction'. To change out the head you simply remove and replace, it's so simple. Once the watering was set we added a left over bag of seeding soil (typically meant for grass starter, but it's what we had on hand) to the mix and a partial bag of manure (super nutritious and definitely cheap!) and we were ready to roll for planting any seeds or vegetables (which probably won't grow anyhow) and in the meantime the bed looks clean and neat!
Meanwhile on the other side of the yard (all 30 feet away), I brought out my scrap paper from a project I worked on earlier in the week and put it to good use laying it over the top of the leaves. This will degrade in a couple of weeks and add some much needed organic matter to my very clay filled soil, and in the meantime it will provide a bit of weed prevention! Win win... You can also use newspaper or cardboard for this purpose and it's a fabulous way to prep your beds for future function. Mine has killed 8 plants in the period of a year due to complete and utter suffocation so amending this clay is an absolute must! Not to mention it's the pits trying to weed dry clay hard soil. It would be easier bulldoze the whole area and begin again. Of course that isn't an option so paper layering it shall have to be!
Once the paper was generally spread and moderately even throughout, I covered it with a layer of manure and a bit of top soil. This top layer will help hold the paper in place and also act to help it compost well by breaking it down more quickly.
While we were testing the drip line to be sure the spray was set properly in the vegetable bed, we noticed a bit of a leak in another bed. Eek!
The Mr had the genius idea of digging it out and inserting a drip line into the leaking section of the main line (so smart...) and of course switching the head to.... wait for it.... a sprinkling head so I don't have to water by hand! Yahoo... and while he was at it, he swapped out the adjacent head as well so now the entire bed is well covered and automatic! I couldn't tell you how happy I am to have a self watering section of the yard that is in full crazy hot sun. I kill plants on a regular basis here because I forget to water them... oops! I'm a terrible plant mom.
Now I just need to amend the soil in this bed and the perimeter beds and tidy them up a bit (aka replace the stuff I've killed) and we are in pretty good shape for a few months (I hope).