Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Digging in the Garden

This weekend provided the perfect weather for digging in the garden. I love these little Spring teasers in the middle of Winter, though they do tend to leave me a bit depressed and yearning for warmer days.

Here is the mess of a garden after our day of hard work. A couple weeks ago we dug out the top left bed, and this weekend I finished digging out the bottom left bed. The soil was nice and soft from the recent rain, which made digging easier, but it made separating the long grass roots from the heavy wet clay a very difficult task.

winter view of the garden

We covered the finished beds with plastic to sterilize the soil. This method is supposed to kill any bacteria, weeds and bugs living in the soil via suffocation. It also keeps the water out, which sounds bad, but prevents the freshly dug soil from becoming compacted by heavy rains. I don't want to dig that soil twice this year!

garden bed in winter

Ian has been burning garden refuse and old rotten wood in the unfinished beds while I dig out the other beds. The ash provides potassium to the soil and also softens it, which makes digging a lot easier. The bed where we grew tomatoes last year used to be the burn bed for generations of previous owners, and the tomatoes were very successful, so we figured we would burn in each of the beds to see if we could reproduce these same results throughout the entire garden.

garden needs to be dug out

We are going to build 10' x 10' wooden garden boxes for each of the four beds this year. We are also going to lay down garden cloth on the paths between the beds and cover them with mulch in an attempt to stave off the grass. I had a terrible time keeping the grass out of the garden beds last year! We will need to outline the entire garden with plastic edging in order to keep the grass from invading the pathways. This is going to be quite an endeavor, but I hope it will provide a permanent solution and keep us from having to dig the grass out of the beds every year.

Seriously, look at this mess. I don't want to have to dig the grass ever again!

garden needs to be dug out

Since we will be spending what seems like a million dollars building garden beds and lining the pathways, I was hoping to spend no money this year on compost, peat or cow manure. The compost tumbler was supposed to provide me with a constant source of lush FREE compost all year long! It has not performed all that well though. I am hoping the cold weather has stunted its ability to compost, but we'll see when Summer rolls around if it performs any better. This batch has been brewing for 4 weeks, so it should be finished, but it's got another 4 weeks at least before all that grass is broken down.

compost tumbler in action

I was digging the bottom left quadrant, disgusted by the heavy red clay and thinking about the fact that I would have to spend another fortune on peat to improve the soil when Ian announced that he found a bunch of compost up in the corner of the yard. I thought he was joking. Compost doesn't just appear out of no where, right? He was not joking! He had found the motherload of compost, just sitting there waiting to be discovered! Apparently he has been dumping grass clippings in the same spot for the past two years, and they turned into compost! It's magic people!

Here is the pile after having removed four wheelbarrows full. I was able to dump two wheelbarrows on each of the two garden beds that have already been dug up, and I think there are 4 more wheelbarrows worth left for the other two garden beds! Oh, it was so sweet! I also used some compost when I repotted the fern. I hope it gave him the energy boost he needed to stimulate his growth. Oh beautiful compost, how you have made my gardening day!

compost heap

I am hoping there is more compost under this heap of garden trash too. Ian has reminded me though that we dumped the gravel from the perennial bed in this spot, so even if there is compost, it might be difficult to access. The evil gravel strikes again!

is there compost under there?

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At 6:07 PM , Blogger ctboss said...

What is the purpose of sterilizing the soil? I know you said that it kills bugs and bacteria but I always thought they were good for the soil.

At 3:20 PM , Blogger Goodboy Norman Featherstone said...

Some bugs are good for plants, but not many. The little white larvae that you find in your soil will one day become nasty beetles that munch down on your crops! Also, if you grow potatoes, potato bugs will tend to take up shop in the soil where you previously grew the crop. You don't want those buggers coming back next year! This also keeps grass and other weeds from popping up in your soil when you're not looking!


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