Tuesday, July 18, 2006


My father was a benevolent gardener. When it suited him he was keen, when it didn’t he performed the minimum necessary to keep things tidy and moving along. As we rarely lived anywhere with a garden larger than arms spread could cover, or in the few times we did, long enough to do anything about it, most of his gardening was of the pot or allotment type. He particularly liked his pansies, and had quite the collection at times. They are such hardy things, and I still vividly remember some growing through the snow mid winter.

No, what he was really keen about was compost. Gardening was play, rotting matter was a passion. He researched it, experimented with various methods, and at times even constructed Heath Robinson type contraptions to aid in the decomposition of our kitchen waste. With some success too, the quality of soil he got out the other side was usually quite extraordinary. Which was a good thing as he often had to give it away due to the quantity he’d developed.

So, it was with some alarm that this weekend I found myself becoming my father. It is such a definite sign of age to succumb to your parents foibles. Mostly it doesn’t bother me, there is much of my father I admire, and try to emulate. Compost though, that is not one of those things.

Yet I found myself outside in the garden, down at the compost heap, busy digging and turning, sprinkling with dried bacteria, and generally feeling quite pleased with myself. I don’t go for the complex scientific methods. No rolling tubes, or multi tiered worm nurseries, I like big heaps. Pile it up high, throw it all the kitchen leftovers, soft garden waste, guinea pig droppings, anything at all really. Once a year (usually at the prompting of LL (no… always at the prompting of LL)) I get out there and turn it over, adding the magic formula of yeasts and nutrients I’ve found, and moving the heap from one wood box to another.

It is eminently self satisfying. By next spring I will have created, though benign neglect, rich dark friable soil. It will get spread about the garden, turning the heap into a mound, then into nothing. In so doing, it will help keep our garden fresh and lush. I can be my father without being my father. Other than one hard slog of a weekend, one bit of hard graft leaving blisters on my blisters, I can ignore it. I can deliver the result, be proud of myself, and not have to work and research.

Not often in life you get that, especially through something as simple as rotting banana peels…

Yet I’m still being my dad, sigh…


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