the winter garden (let’s make compost!)

The shortest day of the year is fast approaching (according to the pagans and the guys on the radio), it’s a serious concern when we run out of fire wood and hot chocolate sales in Hahndorf have sky-rocketed. It must be winter. 

Last year- or the year before… it’s all a bit of a blur- we spent the shortest night of the northern year sleeping in a car on a very spooky side road somewhere near Stonehenge. We drank tea from a thermos and ate scotch eggs and chocolate before curling up under mounds of blankets to sleep, because England is COOOLLLLLDDD in the winter time. Then we woke up in the dead of early early morning to celebrate the winter solstice with a bunch of pagans within a circle of upstanding rocks. Then we drove to Bath and learnt history and ate poached eggs.

I don’t think this year’s winter solstice will be quite so memorable. It certainly won’t be quite so cold (something you should never ever bring up if you spend a winter in England- they get really shitty about their horrible weather. Weird right?). But it is a good chance to bust out your camp fire skills and toast some marshmallows. Damper with jam perhaps? But the most exciting thing about the longest night of the year is that it is the longest night of the year! That means after Sunday (ahem, I googled it), the night will slowly creep away from 5pm toward a more forgiving 6,7,8pm. Hurray for sunshine!

Except it is still winter. Which in the garden means broccoli, lots of leafy greens, a surprising amount of coriander, naked trees and damp. Maybe not a great time to be planting anything but, I have just discovered, a fantastic time to be making compost. I have been trying to make very good compost since we got home. Noooooo luck. Until I read Peter Cundall’s advice on the topic. I especially liked his idea that awesome compost could be made in a week or two. None of this waiting patiently for months and months. Now I am a master! All you need is:

garden waste 

horse (or other large animal) poop 

water

black plastic 

and a confined space- like a bunch of pallets or old gates nailed together.

And then: Make a layer of garden waste, soak it with a hose, layer on some poop and repeat til you have a big ol’ pile in front of you. Then cover it with plastic and every few days give it a turn over with a garden fork. And then once the days are longer and the ground is warmer and the damp is gone, you will have the most nutritious soil and the healthiest plants out there.

Happy winter solstice gardening peeps. 

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