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Hand-Digging Fall Gardens

In North Carolina, we can continue to grow greens through the winter to make the bulk of our daily salads. I use the winter months to turn the gardens over by hand and mix in the compost that has been sitting all summer at the back of our gardens, which was collected last fall.

I like to turn the gardens over manually because (a) I need physical exercise, (b) I like to listen to audiobooks while I do the work and (c) I want to avoid gas-powered equipment whenever I can. To turn over the soil, I do exactly what I would do with a plow on a tractor, I simply do it by hand. The goal is simply to bury the organic matter on the surface, so that it can die, decompose and supply future plants with food.

Hand-digging is great exercise and allows me to get rid of the stress that builds up through the course of my work day in the office. I’m stuck at my desk from 10am to 5pm, and I soon as my meetings end, I get out into the gardens until sunset. Then, I come in, take a shower, have dinner and evening prayer with my family and begin my evening office work.

I’m currently listening to Pliny’s Natural History while I dig, so I can think about the reading while I’m getting good physical exercise and improving the gardens in the fall.


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