This year I am back to gardening with a vengeance, so I thought a little update was in order! Why did I take so much time off? The trouble with container gardening is that once the soil has been depleted there’s nowhere to move the soil. So last year I followed the old farming technique of letting my garden fallow to rejuvenate the soil.
It’s actually much easier than you might think, mostly because it requires more patience than anything else, and it’s more effective than I could have hoped, too! I was able to bring life back to my container soil without throwing it out and starting again following these steps:
Step 1: Much to the despair of my neighbours, I let my pots transform into a tangle of weeds and beds of moss for at least one full season (here in London that means roughly February to November).
Step 2: About 14-18 weeks before I wanted to start growing, I pulled out the weeds but kept them to one side and lay down almost 30 litres of manure — and if my neighbours had a problem with the weeds, I can only imagine what they thought of this move! For me, that horsey dankness was the smell of my soil rebuilding itself.
Step 3: Over top of the manure, I layered the leaves and twigs of the weeds I’d pulled up (taking care to remove any roots) and let them dry as a sort of mulch. Those pots with moss I left alone.
Step 4: Then I let the whole thing overwinter.
The result was wonderful! When I lifted up the nests of dried twigs and leaves and rolled back the moss, the soil underneath was rich and full of goodness (not to mention full of happy invertebrates)! You can see the results best under the strawberries and lettuce below. That there is 100% revitalised container soil.
Although I have several large plants, only a few of them have been grown by me as seeds. This year I found a whole bag full of seed packets under my sink, most of them nearly two years out of date! So I did what any cavalier gardener would do and chucked them into the soil to see what would grow. So far I’ve had the best luck with cress, radish, bean, pea and beet seedlings, which have all come up like mad. I have two pots with mixed seedlings and no idea what they might be because I, of course, neglected to keep a record. Carrots, definitely, and some herbs, but other than that I’ll just have to be patient to see what comes up.
In my next post, I’m going to show-and-tell my Jerry-rigged greenhouse roof as well as my dug-in slug traps. (I was so pleased with my slug traps that I drew a diagram for my secondary-school students to demonstrate how effective they are. Response: ‘Miss, no offence, but you sound a little crazy.’)