It all started when I told Cruella (my wife) that I hadn’t slept very well because I was worried about emptying the compost bin to mulch under the fruit trees. She told me not to be so stupid and find more important things to worry about. I explained to her that emptying a compost bin is like entering a marriage; both must be planned carefully, weighing up all the pros and cons and both can end badly if care isn’t taken. For some reason this made her angry and she called me an “unromantic pig” and said she didn’t like the metaphor I had used to compare compost and marriage. I pointed out that it was a simile not a metaphor; and that basically is how I ended up sleeping in the shed.
31st January: Things I have been doing lately.
🍊 Mulching under fruit trees. Nearly everyone in Spain has fruit trees in their garden: Oranges, Lemons, Persimmon, Fig etc are all common features. But often people will ask me why I have so much fruit when they have only 5 or 6 Lemons on a tree or that they have no Oranges at all. The key is to replenish the soil. Most citrus trees are tough with deep roots and can thrive in poor soil. But even the toughest tree will benefit from a little replenishment now and then.
The problem is that soil under trees becomes compacted which means that water runs off rather than getting through to roots. Similarly, years of fruiting takes it out of a tree and it needs a boost to revive it and get it going again. A good mulch will benefit your tree whether it is in the ground or in a pot. The photo below shows my fruit trees in fruit but waiting for their annual boost.
The benefits of mulching with good compost is that it adds micro nutrients back into the soil and it seals in moisture helping the tree to cope with hot summers. But you can’t just throw a bit of mulch on the soil and that is it. No, you have to prepare the soil, and your two biggest aids in doing this are the hoe to skim off weeds and the three pronged rake to plough the earth up and break impacted soil. Both these virtuous tools are shown in the photo below. Even if your tree is in a pot, still use a trowel or similar to break the soil up before mulching.
Before we move on to the excitement of emptying the compost bin, it is very important that after breaking up the soil and before applying the mulch that you water the soil copiously. Once placed over well watered soil, the mulch will seal the moisture in.
🐛 Emptying the compost bin. When you empty a compost bin it is the culmination of a long process involving 6 months to a year of applying garden waste etc to the bin accompanied by careful watering and usually adding a compost “accelerator”; which now I look at this sentence again it could be misunderstood as a laxative. Anyway, the idea is to get good rich compost to use for a range of activities in your garden including, sowing, potting and mulching.
The photo below shows my compost bins. The one on the left is full whilst the one on the right (which is due to be emptied) has had 9 months to compost down. Note how much the bin has been reduced by the chomping of insects and actions of beneficial microbes.
One of the byproducts of emptying out the compost bin is the giant blood oozing maggots which are a frightening but important part of my compost heap. This year the compost is exceptionally rich and friable which must be accounted for by the over 300 large maggots I removed from the heap and by our very hot summer. Normally, the maggots meet a watery end before being added back into the developing compost bin as giant maggot corpses. But this year, given the predicament of my upsetting Cruella, I decided that, as a love token, I would present her with a bowlful for use in her spells. From the photo below you can see her obvious delight.
🎍 Repotting plants into larger pots. Sometimes you need to repot a plant or growing cutting into a larger pot. Here is a little tip that will save you time and stop you over or underfilling with compost. First stand the plant in its old pot in its proposed new pot half filled with compost raising the plant to the level you want it to be at, photo 1. Then with the pot standing inside the new pot, fill around the pot with compost up to the top of the new pot, photo 2. Tamp the compost down around the pot and then swivel the old pot inside the compost, the aim is to be able to remove the old pot with the plant still inside it but leaving a hole the exact size of the plants roots, photo 3. Then pop the plant out of its old pot and place it directly into the hole in the compost that has been custom made for it, photo 4. Lastly, it is a good habit in Spain to mulch the plant with some light gravel to seal in water, especially in full sun plants, photo 5.