October 17, 2010

Putting the Garden to Bed

Aka - five million loads of compost. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but it was at least 50 loads.

It has been raining every weekend for a month (sunny during the week when it is of no use to me). So when this weekend looked clear and warm, I decided to take advantage. My mom came over to help, which turned out to be key. If not for her the garden would be half to bed. And my arms would have fallen off.

We decided to expand the garden by 6 feet to accommodate two new rows of strawberries in the spring. Mom and I had taken a class in "lasagna gardening" last week and we put our new knowledge to work. First, we put down a weed barrier of card board and newspapers over the grass. Of course, as soon as the newspaper was in place a huge gust of wind blew the sheets all over and we had to redo half the plot. Second, we should have added a layer of sticks or pine cones to allow for drainage. But since the compost was made up of at 50% straw, and we didn't have 450 sq ft worth of sticks, we skipped that layer. Third, we put 50+ wheelbarrow loads of compost over the cardboard and newspaper. I did the pitchforking and hauling. Mom did the spreading and in between hauls she pulled up beans, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.

Two hours later the compost bin was empty. And my forearms were killing me! But the new lasagna bed looks great. It's about 8 inches thick of straw, manure and kitchen scraps. In four months it will be ready for strawberry plants.

The rest of the garden was stripped of vegetation. The non-edible parts went into the now empty compost bin while the edible parts went up to the garage. The last step was to broadcast field pea seeds. This cover crop will fix nitrogen all winter and in the spring it will be tilled under to add even more organics to the soil. Man we're good to the dirt! I need ibuprofen!

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