As the allotments here in Balbriggan, on the Dublin – Meath border start to take shape, I and many locals are curious to see other allotments wherever we go. With the new edition of ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ now in British bookshops, a little promotional trip to Bath seemed like a good excuse to see a beautiful part of England and meet some local kitchen gardeners there.
Walking around Bath (in the rain!) this historic spa town’s architecture in any weather is impressive. What was even more impressive is the central location of the allotments. The equivalent location in Dublin would be like having allotments in Merrion Square or in Stephen’s Green. Within yards of park benches were all shapes and sizes of compost tumblers, cones and more handmade compost containers. Cabbages, chard, leeks and parsnips were ready for harvest. I imagined them as steaming ingredients in a hot-pot to warm the cockles beside a roaring fireplace in the nearby Marlborough Tavern.
If the place looked this good on a rainy Monday morning in January
Bath’s city centre allotments, a sign of a trusting, friendly community, looking after its health and helping to make the future sustainable.
, imagine how stunning it would look when the runner beans are in flower, the sunflowers are reaching for the sky and the first outdoor early potatoes are being dug in June. I’ll be back … to see how ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’ is selling there … of course!
Compost rejuvenates the soil in the garden every six months.
The oldest occupation in the world is not what you might think, it is (as far as I am concerned), composting! Before humans fashioned forks, moulded plastic composters, or constructed wooden, brick or straw compost containers, Nature has recruited myriads of micro-organisms to turn un-used food, fallen leaves, seaweed etc in to friable soil-like compost. Worms then mix this with the existing soil, returning nutrients to the roots of new plants, which later die, get composted, and the cycle goes on.
In my garden, I allow one year for converting vegetable waste in to friable soil-like compost. During the first 6 months the vegetable waste is collected from the kitchen and stored and partially composted in a plastic compost tumbler. Turning the tumbler helps aerate the mixture preventing any bad odours. Before the next 6 months, that tumbler mixture is transferred to the brick compost maker, a 1 cubic metre box. This mixture is interlayered with hedge clippings and coarser garden waste. This compost box is closed off and opened in 6 months time, when the mixture will have become proper compost, ready for digging in around the garden
I hope you enjoy this short video which Lorcan and I made the other day. The benefits of composting are many but include, (1). tidying the garden, (2). getting some good exercise (3). improving soil structure and (4). making food for healthy plants. Two things I forgot to mention in the video (a) place on old piece of carpet or even cardboard on top of the compost mix before replacing the lid to keep off rain. This ensures the composting making bugs are happier in this dry, dark and warmer environment. (b) Some people (discreetly) add a high nitrogen activator to the compost mix in liquid or in powdered form. The composting bugs tend to like it as it speeds up their work. They won ‘t really mind if you buy it in powdered form in the garden centre or otherwise!