Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Beautiful Spring Day Spent in the Garden

This morning the sun was shining and it was decently warm outside. I decided to go work in the garden for an hour or so. Turns out, I spent a few hours instead! I loosened the soil and mixed compost into the beds, setup hoses, and much more!

This fall we tried something new. I believe it's called Green Manure; we cut down the plants when they were finished producing and left them in the beds they grew in.  We then covered the 'green manure' with wheelbarrow loads of compost from the chicken coop. This facilitates the decomposition of all of the green stuff.
Garden
This is really an easy way to use up all of your animal waste when cleaning out the coop every spring and fall.
Garden Helper
We loaded all 6 beds with compost, right over the plants we had cut down. In the photo below you can see the different beds that I have worked on. On the right: I have already turned the soil over and mixed it all in. Middle: Covered with compost as it has been since the fall. Left: mixed in; just needs to be raked smooth. I usually leave the beds as shown on the left for two or three days. I read that it can help aerate the soil and stimulate all of those wonderful soil microbes to multiply.
Garden Helper

I also spent a lot of time getting the drip irrigation hoses set out in the finished beds. We had a lot of issues last year with plants that needed a lot of water not getting enough. We lost half of our tomato plants because of this.
Garden
So, we are changing the pattern of the hoses this year to more evenly distribute the water. This is the layout I chose since the land is sloping down as the hoses run the length of the bed.
Garden

On another note: I want to talk about our improved soil quality. This will be our 3rd gardening season and each year we dump wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of compost and chicken waste into the garden. I have noticed that the size and the overall number of earthworms has increased dramatically. Our first year the worms were very small and scarce. Last summer there were more worms, but they were still pretty small. This year our worms are huge and plentiful!
Garden
The photo below shows how much humus and other organic matter we have mixed with our soil. 
Garden
As a benefit: all of this rich organic matter in our soil helps keep the soil in the raised beds from compacting, which is great for the root crops and for planting in general. When I take a handful of soil the soil and look at it, I can see why the worms are growing and and reproducing. There are hundreds of little bits of food for the worms in each handful
Garden

Thanks for reading! I hope you had sometime this weekend to enjoy your garden as well. Dirty hands! Dirt under my finger nails! Blister on my palm!

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