Saturday, March 29, 2008

For future reference

The whole thing with gardening is that if you screw something up badly, you pretty much just have to live with it until next year. That's also what makes it rewarding and the reason old people are good at it. You have to wait until next season or year to apply any lesson you learned this season.

This is why people keep garden journals and the reason why every year I've wished I had kept one. Motivated by the near disaster with the tomato seedlings, I think this might be the year I start.

So ... entry one -- bed prep.

Raised Beds
First week of March this year, I double dug (OK, maybe not a textbook case of double-digging but I turned over every bit of soil in them and then some) our three existing raised beds and the soil beneath the new raised bed.

I haven't made a habit of doing this, in part because no-till gardening sounds like it kind of makes sense, and also because I'm lazy and it's hard work. However, I had a couple of thoughts that motivated me.

First, I've had it in my mind for a while that our beds, filled as they are with a soilless peat/compost/perlite mix ( a la Square Foot Gardening) are lacking in water-holding ability. Our native black clay soil knows all about water holding, and probably has a lot of good mineral content to boot. So, by digging down to the bottom of the beds and a couple of inches into the ground, I probably introduced a good 10 percent native soil to my growing mix. It's still very light and crumbly, but I can definitely feel the clay in the mix now.

Secondly, in my exploratory probing of these beds, I noticed a lot of roots that I suspect are from the neighbor's pecan trees. A friend of mine had a raised bed completely overtaken by pecan roots, so I figured it might not hurt to knock them back every few years.

Besides the digging, I did my usual routine of mixing in some fertilizer mix and sifting a wheelbarrow of compost out of the pile and topping off each bed with a layer of it, scratching it into the surface just a bit. I also pulled out my soaker hoses and reset them on top of the soil, nestled in a bit until they were level. (I'll have to devote a whole post sometime to my irrigation system)

Oh, and that new fourth bed -- I haven't really filled it, but I tilled it up pretty good at ground level, added some leftover bought compost, leaf mold, dry leaves and fertilizer mix and mixed it in.

So that's quite a bit for now. More later.

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