Friday, February 21, 2014

Garden: Feed the Soil

The heavy snows and bluster of winter turn my mind often to summer and gardening. Nick is pushing through with a full summer quarter class load, and no planned vacation means more gardening!

Feed the Soil, Not the Plants

So goes the starting principle of organic farming. Literally created from the ground up. This soil seems to have been nothing but a weedy space for many years. There are signs that someone in the past used this space productively: the tree is an edible cherry tree. Pulling weeds before they set too much seed last September, I saw random strands of mint and chive growing. So maybe this ground was also garden space? No need to worry about dumped motor oil?

I'm on the fence about tilling the soil of this large space. There were many things that sold us on our current apartment, but this full sun, huge open space and permission from the landlord to do whatever I like sold me. 

Tilling would disturb the soil to a depth of 12-14" (ideally it would happen before March 1 or once the soil is not soggy or too frozen). Sorry earthworms! Come back later, please! But tilling so deeply could bring up buried ick like motor oil that someone dumped behind the garage years ago. Soil testing over this huge space (10' x 20') can easy or hard, and at least $50 through the Botanical Gardens or the Extension, but probably the prudent thing to do - for safety, and to know how to amend the soil. Now is the time, I keep telling myself.

Not disturbing the soil deeper than 6" means that I could easily turn under composted manure myself during Evan's nap time (no renting a rototiller, just maybe a leaf shredder), and that maybe I could use a kit and test the soil myself (?). Not sure, with all the choices.

Using 12"-24" high raised beds would mean that I don't have to soil test, and am assured of exactly what's in the soil. Plus, it would mean an earlier growing season due to warmer soil! But, buying wood and soil is an expensive option for living in an apartment only two growing seasons. Probably not the best option if I'm thinking of only my family's benefit. Maybe a really nice option for the next tenant!

Compost spot needs a chicken wire side, and rain cover. Reused carpet? Old door?

In-Progress Dreams

Nick has a quarter break from grad school over the next two weeks. That will be some prime soil and hardscape prep time. Things like:
  • Tilling and amending the soil
  • Chicken wire gate
  • Reconstructing my two 3'x6'x6" raised beds
  • Mulching paths
  • Finalizing cool and warm season plans
  • Buying seed
  • Clearing the shelf between the warm fridge and radiator for seed flats
  • Opening a growing light and/or fan as an early birthday present (hopefully??)
Raked the property for rent credit... and stashed the leaves here. Now to get shredding.
Hhmm, need some kid play ideas for this sunny 20'x20' patio!

What are your garden dreams for 2014?

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