For many years, I have taken used compost and pots of dead plants and put them in old peat bags until all that remains is peat and bark, the rest having rotted away. This was then taken to my father-in-law’s vegetable garden and dug in to improve the heavy clay soil.
However, as age got the better of him, weeding and planting just became too much. My mother-in-law really missed her fresh vegetables so there was pressure on to think of another way. A trial within the flower borders was not very successful so still another way was needed.
The answer came this year after the hard winter (2010/2011) resulted in large numbers of dead plants and their compost needing to be got rid of.
Using a pallet for the base and others for the sides, a box was fashioned and this was then lined with landscape fibre, filled with dead plants and their compost; it needed a bit of treading down to fill in the air spaces.
We have a pallet lifter so were able to move the box after making it but it would be better to think carefully about position before the box is made. I put ours on wood blocks to keep it off the ground and made sure that there was access from all sides for ease of planting and harvesting. A good range of vegetables were successfully grown: sugar peas cascading down the sides gave an amazingly good crop with carrots sown thinly in the middle (aim for 1 seed per square inch). As the compost was “used” we had an interesting plant combination of carrots, Ipomoea and Nasturtium which made pulling the carrot difficult at times!
The great advantage of using pallets was their height which made weeding and harvesting very easy. The only difficult crop was runner beans which grew and had loads of beans but harvesting had to done from a stepladder. Other crops we tried were bush tomatoes, chard, lettuce, parsley, courgettes and french beans. The lettuce was cut and come again and was particularly successful.
Not only did we have some good vegetables, but we felt much better about having to get rid of so many dead plants after the winter.