One spring, tired of buying bags of soil and stretching it out with the meagre results of my own composting efforts, I decided that for once, I was going to have enough fresh new soil to cover my entire garden -- beds, lawn, trees and all. No more scrimping, tossing out handfuls as if they were gold.
How much would I need? I did the calculations, then, using the same gene that causes me to double even untried recipes, doubled the results. What the heck, we were paying the same delivery charge, whether the load was big or small. If I couldn't use it all now, I'd have a soil pile for next year. What luxury!
It was a nightmare. What I remember is one gigantic pile on the front boulevard and two or three small mountains -- as high as me -- in the back alley. John says that in fact, there were only two piles, front and back, each no more than four feet high and maybe 10 feet wide. But it is true that we had to get the soil out of the alley fast, to avoid disrupting back-lane traffic; and also true that John and I soon realized we couldn't do it on our own. A few wheelbarrow-loads into the heavy pile hadn't even begun to make a dent, and our backs and stamina were already feeling it. The days when we were young and vital enough to handle anything were over.
We were rescued by our gardener Brian, who answered our emergency plea with wheelbarrows and an assistant. It took two strong men all afternoon and well into the evening to clear the alley. The dirt pile they created in the back yard lasted me for several years; the entire garden was swathed with soil several times over. In my desperation to get rid of some of the excess, I even created a substantial new banked-up area for ferns and ivy.
Now, I order 12 bags of manure (delivered) from the Scouts each spring. For the rest, I make do with whatever emerges from my food-scraps and garden-waste composting operations; the products of red wiggler worms and patience.
But the impulse, however squelched, is still there. On a recent walk, when I spotted a dump of wonderfully composted new black soil on a boulevard, I was drawn like a bee to clover. "What beautiful soil," I said to the young homeowner standing there. "Wherever did you get it?"
|Red wiggler worms do a good job of turning food scraps into black gold. I have three food-compost barrels in operation.|
|Garden waste goes into a decaying wooden compost bin. I never have the right combination of green and brown material, but somehow compost eventually emerges.|
|Every spring, I order a dozen bags of manure from the Scouts, and use it in composting and on garden beds.|
|The results of my composting operations.|
|My compost, ready for spreading.|
|The compost I admired on a Dunbar boulevard during a recent walk. The homeowner plants wonderful vegetable gardens in this sunny location. His children's toys are in the middle bed.|