Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Log Appreciation Post: Whale Carcass of The Garden

Logs are a good way to start some life in a flat area. When I think about how life forms around edges (i.e. people inhabit waterways or shady areas, fish seek refuge along root systems, we pee against trees), logs are actually a very reasonable choice for easy injection of life in an otherwise ho-hum area.

You know how they say whales decomposing on the ocean floor provide a home to a myriad of organisms? I think logs are like that. They are easy and decompose without help, albeit slower if there's more sunlight. I see logs as willing outlayers on the fringe, like avant garde artists who can slowly change norms around themselves in a flat area just by plopping themselves down there.

Maybe a month ago, I decided to develop a new area for baby plants. The area I nurse seedlings at, beside my room, has far too many mosquitoes for comfort, and I got sort of tired going out there looking like a beekeeper all the time. Furthermore, the soil there was clayish and hard. So I began to build (first by accident) a colony of logs in a separate area out front.

I don't cut the trees down myself. I take them from villages where people seem to have this habit of not wanting "things in the way" and cutting trees on whims. I began leaving the logs just by the walkway, because after a night out, moving them to a "proper tidy place" can be taxing.

So a pile of logs developed, and the grass around them began growing quite vigorously, and interesting fungus began appearing on the slowly decomposing heavyweights. I know this is common sense, but no, it's not, really. I had earlier tried to start a seed bed out of an old drawer I found in a parking lot, but that was going slow and dry. Here it was a few weeks after I started:

I started to move logs out and use them to build a supporting compost pile near my growing seed starting area. I built the pile just like I built this one out of weaving sticks, but this time I had enough logs to form "walls" with minimal effort.

Around that time, I was transferring the seedlings to little pots, and with the compost pile starting up, chickens were surely all over the place and knocking the babies over. I then used logs to secure the seedlings and press them against the old drawer. Eventually I had rows of them surrounding the drawer, growing outward, and held in place by logs.

It's not very easy to see because I've allowed this "weed" to grow over, it does a good job of protecting the seedlings from too much sun. The logs, I believe, have also contributed to the diversity of little organisms, with pretty mushrooms always coming up and convincing me of the health of the area. This log support system, and the ensuing burst of grass-herby growth surrounding it, allows me to leave seedlings during the hot days (without watering), something I've never been able to do.

You can see the drawer to the left in the above photo. Below is the compost pile, now also obscured by the weed thing, but you notice it because of the papers:

I've also placed seedlings around the compost pile so they benefit from the micro activity happening there. They are more or less hidden under the weeds. For the first time, I am able to grow tomatoes, and without fuss too!

More or less it's a system of logs-plants-logs. In some areas, where I've planted herbs into the ground, logs retain moisture as well as mulch. More on that later in this post.

In a past post I also showed how I was making above-ground mini-compost piles to be directly planted in. Well, this picture, which I posted last month--

--gives a pretty good idea of the starting point. Logs arranged on hard earth, leaves dumped inside. Continuous leaf dumping, as well as an occasional bag of coffee grounds from Starbucks (at least we are getting something good out of them!), and it was ready to grow an atsuete or annatto plant in. Here it is today:

I put the plant in and cover the root area with the bark of some palm tree that falls apart in straight pieces. Beside the annatto plant, to the left, is some holy basil. To its right are some chives I separated from a five-year-old bunch!

Above is another one of the log triangles, this time planted with the native dayap lime, with roots covered again by fronds of a palm tree.

In some cases, I actually "mulch" by placing logs around a plant. It helps especially when the plant is sensitive to getting stepped on by chickens. The plant is also provided with considerable "coolth" and moisture from the mass of the logs. After the baby is established, you can also transfer the logs to different places (until they get progressively smaller and just sort of fall apart).

Now just to drive the utter convenience of that home, I end this with a picture of a chicken tearing up a mountain of mulch I just left around the rosal plant.

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