It is a delight to be the spouse of a hard working, joy-filled, dedicated man.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How I Make My Bed

This has been my big project this week. A modified French drain around our old log barn that does not have gutters or any place to put them. The job was a tough one to get to. When it is really rainy and the need to do the job is very apparent, the soil is just to sloppy and heavy to work with, not to mention a slippery slope to try and get traction on.

With our somewhat dry but warm winter, by Saturday the soil was dry enough but not too dry, it is still winter. In the summer when the soil around the barn is dry it is as hard as a brick and a whole different sort of problems to getting the job done.

So except for Sunday I've been digging a hundred foot ditch, being very conscious of keeping a nice slow constant grade so that the water runs down to the pond and not into the barn.

But I promised you a baby announcement and the title says I'll show you how I make my beds.

Here they are, my beets are up! These are Kestrel, a great little beet when pulled when it is small and more than okay if you let them get nice and big for slicing.

These little guys are Touchstone Gold, I don't usually go for yellow beets, I like my beets red, deep red, beet red to be exact. But I thought I would give 'em a try and heck, they could be a hit in the Market Shed. (Their little out of focus friends are weed seedlings or mustard, but ultimately still weeds.)

They are growing under this poly tunnel in a raised bed. These pictures were taken early in the morning and soon this whole garden will be in full sun and it stays that way now for about six hours, pretty good considering our days are still rather short.
Raised beds are the first step to extending your growing season. The soil is warmer sooner in the season and longer once the sun is off of it in the evening. The better drainage enables you to touch the soil sooner in the season than if you are planting in a flat plot.

You may have noticed something about our raised beds. There is an absence of boards or other support structure. I've gardened in raised beds since 1977 and I've tried a lot of ways, but without hesitation I can say, boards or any other structure materials are mostly a pain in the neck to work around not to mention they can be very detrimental.
First off using any sort of treated lumber, especially those things called "landscape timbers", a person may as well buy those poisonous vegetables at the store and skip trying to go "organic" because all treated lumber leaches the "treatment", wood preservatives that are far worse than most of the residues found on commercially produced produce.
Concrete blocks, not much better. At the very least they leach soil ph altering material. Make some stepping stones or help someone build a sidewalk, read the label, get the stuff on your skin. Not good stuff. And not necessary.
Aside from all that leaching, solid framed in beds are a great hiding place for slugs primarily, not to mention earwigs, unpleasant to come across in your salad, and other little bug a boos that can really reek havoc on a garden.
Porous untreated lumber? Well aside from the aforementioned critters, fungal diseases thrive in wood and unless the raised bed is emptied out and the boards given a good Clorox soak, well you get the picture eh?

Soil erosion? It really isn't that big of a problem, Even in torrential PNW downpours little soil is lost, especially good humusy soil.
Oh, and those boards? Expensive, the ones sold in "garden kits" or the ones at the lumber store.
Yeah, I have a pretty good soil base here at the farm, it's why Sam Sorenson homesteaded here and not across the highway in Spanaway rock and gravel.
But North Garden? It was nearly soil less when we moved here. All this deep rich soil? Dirt (my husband), my brother (Chris) and I made it. Wood chips sometimes called hog fuel from the roadside maintenance workers, layered with whatever manure I could find to haul here or have delivered. Horse, chicken, cow, anything and everything (free or nearly free) that I could get my hands on.

The first fall we were here I cleared away the remains of the nasty burn pile, I still find molten glass that burgles up from the soily depths, and then began to layer the chips and manure until I couldn't get any more materials.
That next spring we planted potatoes. The beds and paths marked off, taters put in the bed area and then slowly that spring the paths were dug out as the potatoes grew and needed soil "hilled" up around them.
My brother and I had used the same technique a few years earlier to change my mom's back yard from a hard pan building site with struggling grass (not to mention the hard pan where my dad parked his work trucks) into amazing deep lush flower and fruit beds. Except we didn't grow potatoes, we layered the soil just like I described and put in plants right into the layered "soil". We would make a hole put in a little regular soil to cushion the roots from immediate contact with any manure.
Her back yard was featured in Sunset magazine, the reason for the feature were all our living Christmas trees, but the feature writer and the photographer he brought along were both quite impressed with the flower beds.
If there is already great soil, the raised bed garden couldn't be more simple to make. Mark out where the beds go, not too wide, not too narrow (I like a four foot bed for the most part). Mark out the paths, I need at least a good foot or so to work in and occasionally I throw in a wider path for the wagon to get through.
When everything is marked out begin scooping the dirt from the path area and heaping it up on the bed area. And then tell everyone that if they step in the bed area they will have their feet chopped off with a hoe, very painful.

Tomorrow at the Farm we are going to be starting some seeds in flats in the prop house and some will go out in the tall hoop house or I may just stick them under my low poly tunnel. We have lots to seed so Anna got a jump on things by filling the flats today.
Wednesday, and Thursday too are supposed to be great days for starting seeds for plants that produce their seeds in fruits or pods. But I am also going to start seed of plants that put their seeds on the outside, still an above ground crop and what is supposed to be planted between - oh check out my side board, but I think we are between a new moon and the coming up full moon on Saturday.
Have a great day Dear Reader, hope you are getting bit by the bug for a great spring and summer and doing what needs to be done in your zone for your own victory garden.


Kimberly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly said...

Oh, who is that in the last picture? What a good worker she must be. Ahhhhh...children. They make the best "helpers". Good point about the raised beds. Farmer Corey and I were trying to figure out how to keep the dirt in the new vegtable bed that he is putting in for me. We were thinking about 2 x 6 lumber but now I think maybe not. It certainly would be alot cheaper not to use so many ways. Thanks for your great expertise (and years of learning).

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

It was great learning about how you've made your beds and improved your soil. The soil in our yard was horrible. I think the builders 40 years ago dumped all the rocks and clay from digging the foundation and just spread it around. I've been working on improving it the last 10 years, but it still needs more help.
Your drain looks really good, I hope it helps with the drainage. It's started raining again here, I already miss the sun.

Daisy said...

Very impressive, Lanny! So much work. You've done a great job. As for the baby announcement---HA! I thought it was going to be lambs you were talking about! We got two more inches of snow here last night. There won't be any baby beets or any other baby plants here for a while. I enjoyed seeing yours. :D

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i love beets, i wonder why so many people don't like them???

smiles, bee

LindaSueBuhl said...

I obviously was born without the soil making gene - I think it has to do with my enlarged Lazy Bone. Am planning to get a load of mushroom compost to put in my containers and go from there - our life doesn't lend itself to working our beautiful land anymore - maintaining what we have is about the max right now - but dang it is inspiring to see your plans working out in the flesh - woo hooity the farm is up and running! ( I must admit to a tad of disappointment - thought we were going to at least see some chicks or poults as the babies!) but baby beets are charming indeed.

Susie said...

How nice to see the baby seedlings. I wish it was warmer here. I walked 30 minutes outside awhile ago and about froze. The wind is killer.

Funny, word verification if numbi. That's me! hehe!

Mrs. Mike said...

Now that you've made your bed, don't lay in it, unless of course you're trying to compact soil, or perhaps your rain gear is on or...

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Lanny: You do a great job with all your vegetables. We are headed for another snowy weekend so gardening is far away for now.

Flower said...

You are way ahead of us!! I agree about the raised beds! I see those treated timbers used all over the place and wonder!
Happy planting!!