Monday, May 18, 2009

Busy Building Raised Beds, Making Deposits in the Soil Bank

My friend and organic gardening Guru Mort Mather likes to say that the soil is like a bank account, you can't withdraw unless you make deposits. So, in case you've all been wondering what the hell I've been up to these last few weeks, there you go.

Our new friends, Sonia and Dave of Nectar Hills Farm (web site coming soon), who sell grass-fed meats have a great pile of composted manure (steer, chicken, lamb, goat...) that we've been shoveling into bags and hauling home, where we mix it into the soil in the new raised beds we've been building. I've been meaning to post about this, but after working all day and doing all the other internet work (ironically, also organic) I have to do, I just never had the energy left. Looking at this picture now, it doesn't seem like much, but I don't have a tiller, so I've been turning over chunks of lawn with a straight hoe, chopping them up and mixing with compost, manure, and peat moss. Due to my arthritis, I have to go slow, and let Robin and Spencer do the heavy work. So, it's slow going.

But as you can see from the picture, it's going well. The soil is very clay-like, and the pH is really high (8), so it takes a lot of work to get the pH and the drainage right. Under every bed is a layer of gravel, topped with sand, topped with soil that is almost all peat at the top inch.

One advantage to slow going (and early starting) is that once a bed is prepared, I don't plant in it right away. I water and wait a week to see what weeds can shoot up through an inch of peat moss, then I hoe them under and rake again, repeating the process, and killing all kinds of weeds before they can get going well enough to sap resources from my veggies. This is Mort's weed control trick that I have used ever since I learned it, because I, like Mort, am essentially a lazy person. I don't want to be pulling weeds this summer that I could have killed now, while they're still just babies.

All the cold hardy plants are in and up already: lots of spinach, greens, lettuce, arugula, peas, radishes, carrots and other cold tolerant veggies. I did put some beans and early spring toms in, and then had to cover them for last night and tonight's frost that may or may not happen (didn't happen last night). For some odd reason, the spinach plant I let our little nephew Luca plant is much bigger than all the rest... Must be the something about the enzymes on his little hands!

It's been a while since I had a garden this size, and I'd forgotten how much work it is! Plus, we've been getting started on a grass-fed beef jerky and various baked goods business (yes, we hope to sell the jerky on-line once we've established a local addicted population following. So, I'm exhausted and, in an odd way, happy that it's too cold to even haul the seed starter trays outside today. I'll just stay here with my cold feet in a heating pad and catch up on all the web work I have to do!