Friday, 10 June 2011

Intro to making raised beds

Start with some soil cleared of previous vegetation. In this case a grassy field was ploughed over. Start by loosening the soil with a pitchfork or shovel.  Ply the soil with the tool. The objective here is to loosen the subsoil to prepare the way for adventurous vegetable roots.

We dug ditches around our beds for several reasons. First, we have very high clay content in our soil which causes the soil to drain very slowly. Digging ditches lowers the water table allowing the beds to drain more effectively. Second, the excavated soil is piled loosely on top of the beds creating a loose soil medium for plants to root into. Finally, it exposes more surface area to the sun to warm them up faster. 

We break up the chunky soil further with a rake or three pronged hoe and add equal parts of lime and compost to ameliorate this sticky clay soil. Despite being farmed organically the past several years the soil has little organic material in it. A few years of permaculture and mob grazing cows should fix that. However this first year we have to do the cows job ourselves and suffer the back aches.

This is one of our beds planted with strawberries. It's best to plant your prepared beds as soon as possible before the soil compacts under the pressures of wind, water and wellies. It is also best to cover the soil with compostable material. This hampers weed growth, slows evaporation, and creates a hospitable environment for worms and other critters who will feed on this organic litter and build your soil for you while you're sleeping. 

We built a hoop house to cover the tomatoes planted in one of our beds. 

That's it. We are gardening students so please share any thoughts or suggestions with us. 

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