Three Gardening Rs

Renew, Repair, Restore

Compost – bursting at the seams

I’m not quite sure where the term “maintenace-free gardening” originated, but in my experience gardening is often an Augean labour of love! After 10 years of hard toil, parts of the vegetable garden are in need of renewal, repair and restoration. As autumn progresses into winter and the vegetable beds are gradually emptied, the ravages of time and weather on the infrastructure are revealed.

The amount of work required varies from fixing a fencing board and replacing rusted catches and hinges to something more substantial. This year we have not had any storm damage, but the annual garden structural survey uncovered some serious signs of ageing. The choice between repair, restoration, renewal or demolition is not always straightforward and can involve some difficult choices. Unfortunately the cold frames have been scheduled for demolition and will not be replaced. After 30 years of service, they are about to become firewood.

At the back of the vegetable garden, beyond the orchard and running along the hedge, are four compost bins, with a section on either side for growing mint and horseradish. These two essential perennials have thuggish tendencies and need to be confined and isolated from the rest of the garden. The compost factory is one of the most important parts of the garden producing the organic matter to restore the structure and fetility of the soil and maintain a healthy population of invertebrates and micro-organisms. Each year two compost bins are in use, while two are inactive allowing the compost to mature until we are ready to add it to the vegetable beds the following spring.

This was one of the first parts of the garden to be built and in the intervening years we have refined our construction techniques to suit our weather conditions. We have been using marine-grade stainless steel fittings and screws for sometime and are now using larger and thicker boards for fencing and the raised beds. We knew that the boards around the compost bins were starting to rot, and this winter it was clear that some of the boards and support posts would have to be replaced.
So while the Head Gardener removed the old boards, the Apprentice was handed a shovel and tasked with removing and spreading the mature compost and finding a temporary home for the half-rotted material.
On a sunny, frosty afternoon, it was not really a case of hard labour, more a much needed work-out at the green gym.

7 thoughts on “Three Gardening Rs”

  1. I suspect the only way to achieve a maintenance free garden is to concrete it over. But where would the fun be in that?!
    Compost bins are invaluable, something I’ve only really discovered in recent years. The resulting mulch certainly does help to keep the weeds down. The trouble is I need far more of it than I can ever produce.

  2. Composting is something I need to work on this year and I realize I simply need more compost bins. Even if there were such a thing as ‘maintenance-free gardening’ I don’t think I would like the results… the work always pays off! 😉

  3. Couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s gardening or life, you need to put back (plus a bit extra) what you take out!
    There is something very satisfying about making compost, but there is never enough!

  4. I think we all need to think more about looking after our soil and compost is part of the answer. It’s not difficult to make and the shovelling and barrowing are good for the physique. It’s also cheaper than a gym subscription and “mycorrhizal” additives!

  5. Maintenance is part of the pleasure of gardening, why would anyone want to be free of it? Sounds like you’ve got a great compost set up, we recently upgraded ours and it feels really good to be putting all that goodness back in the soil. But there’s never enough, we all agree! 🙂

  6. Yes, I am sure you soon warmed up after a spot of muck-spreading! That’s a great activity for a cold day, unless the compost is so cold sticks together in big lumps of course. This was the first time I have ever got our previous year’s bin emptied and distributed before the end of the year and I was well-chuffed…except I usually bag the last of it for new additions during the year but this year I clearly mulched here, there and everywhere and there was only enough for one or two small bags!

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