OK, so you say you want a garden next spring. And you say you’ve tried to do it before and you just never got around to it…and this makes you feel worthless and unambitious and un-American?
Well, bucky, today’s first lesson is for you.
Any one with a piece of paper, a pencil, a phone directory and access to a phone can do this. Or, access to teh internets (which you have already proven you have because you are reading this). For those of us who crave human interaction, pick up the phone directory and check the front or back colored pages for “your government”; they are usually categorized into federal, state, and local and under local, into county, township (or whatever sub-county thingy you live in), city and village.
Find the numbers for: Town Office and the County Landfill (or, if you can’t find that, just the county offices and start there with the lovely receptionist). Call those numbers and ask these questions:
Question 1: Do you have a composting facility? If the answer is yes, go to question 2.
Question 2: What are you composting there? If they give you a long list that includes “sludge from the sewage treatment plant” go to Question 2A.
Question 2A: Do you keep the yard waste separate from the sludge? If the answer to that is “yes,” it’s time to pop a cork on whatever drinkable you have. You are “home free.” Go to question 3.
Question 3: What are the days of operation and hours that I can get in?
Question 4: How much compost can I take away per trip?
Now, if the county/town has a web site with a page on their composting facility/landfill etc., you may be able to find the same info on that, but I’m all for getting to know my local government, so I like calling because…it IS your tax dollars at work.
OK…so you know you can get composted yard waste at either your township or your county landfill (or, in my case, BOTH, but I’m lucky that way) and you know you can go this Saturday and they will either let you have as much as you can haul away or whatever amount they will let you have. My township is on the “whatever you can haul” end; my county landfill is on the however many garbage cans you can fit in your personal vehicle end (to prevent the local landscapers from coming and taking dumptruck loads).
How much of this are you going to need? Well, how big a garden do you want? Here’s Aunt Toby’s first and most important rule of gardening: Never build a garden bigger than what you can take care of in one trip out. Ripping up huge amounts of lawn so that you can preserve a year’s worth of tomatoes sounds terrific and Laura Ingalls Wilder and all that…but I can guarantee you that you will end up with…weeds. Better to start small…very small, and add. So, what do you think you can handle?
One bed. 3 feet by 10 feet. That is a good size and you can actually grow a whole lot in that. You are going to need enough compost to cover that piece of territory by 6-8 inches. You may need to make more than one trip to the composting facility, but that is how deep you want it.
How do you do this? You are going to need big cardboard boxes. It doesn’t matter what kind of stuff has been delivered in them (though I would avoid detergent or chemicals of any sort). Driving down a street that has bars on it in the early morning is a good source (liquor boxes are good and thick); grocery stores are good – toilet paper boxes are huge and cover lots of territory, too. Bust out the bottoms and tops and flatten them out. You need enough flattened boxes to cover 3 feet wide by 10 feet long, two flattened boxes deep. You will also want to overlap the boxes as you go, so throw a couple extra boxes in there for good measure.
So, what are you going to do with cardboard boxes and compost? You are going to build a garden sandwich: cardboard on the bottom, compost on the top. No digging. No digging. No digging. Just find a place that gets a lot of sun near your house. Mark out a 3×10′ oblong, lay out the cardboard and empty the compost out of the garbage cans/bags/whatever-full-of-compost on top. Do this now – in October…you can even put it off until early November if you have to, but now is best, because….Homework: Done.
Your garden bed is now ready for the winter. From a “get started” standpoint for the spring growing season, you are done!! Now, didn’t that feel good.
Homework assignment: check out used book stores (brick and mortar or online) and find a copy of Crockett’s Victory Garden. Yes, there are more modern books; yes, it’s out of print. But, it’s got great color photos (I’m all about great color photos of veggies), it’s based on a calendar (so you know, oh, it’s January, so I should be doing this NOW, which helps the process NOT get away from you), and Jim Crockett built a garden in what was left of WGBH’s parking lot. If he can grow all that stuff on THAT, think what you can do in your yard???
(originally published at ,a href=”http://oxdown.firedoglake.com/diary/952″>Oxdown Gazette)