Thursday, 12 April 2012

Starting Out - prepping the garden soil

There are many ways to prepare a garden, and no way is the 'right' way, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Either way, starting afresh can be very satisfying, especially when all the work is done and your plucking big fat juicy produce right out of your own yard! 
So, lets look at the no-dig method here, there is also a double dig method which we'll cover later. 
The no-dig soil building method involves, yes, you guessed it, no digging! This technique is based on layering! Lots and lots of layer! Think of it like a giant garden lasagna - instead of pasta, tomatoes, veggies, and cheese, we'll be layering compost, newspaper, cardboard, rotting leaves, manure, the works! 
It is essentially a sheeting compost system, best done in the fall, which allows the whole winter to decompose and do what soil does best, get ready for planting in the spring. Raised beds can also be started like this but you dont need to enclose it for it to work. 
The hardest part will be the gathering of 'layer' materials! Cardboard, newsprint (not the glossies as the inks contain a lot of junk!). You'll also need a LOT of compost material: food scraps, leaves, grass clippings, manure. You may have the kind of neighbors who know little about the value in those bags of leaves left out at the curb. After dark 'gathering' missions might be required! 
1. Pick a good spot for your garden. Take note of what you want to grow, versus how much sun the spot gets.
2. Lay down a thick (approx 2 inches!) layer of cardboard and hose it down really well.  
3. Cover the cardboard with a layer of compost materials: leaves, grass, twigs, manure to about 4-6 inches.  Thats a LOT of stuff - you might need to clean out your fridge, raid your neighbors leaf rakings, clean up your own garden, anything organic you can lay your hands on and dump it all on the lasagna heap. You might be able to strike a deal with your local city leaf collection department, or talk to local farmers for manure, spent straw, the throw outs at the end of market day. 
4. More cardboard, but even thicker this time, around 4 inches. You can now start to introduce newspaper and straw in this layer - bulk it out!  Its good to introduce air pockets too - try corrugated cardboard  Air pockets are good at the base - using corrugated cardboard helps, then its just a free for all and as much organic matter as you can lay your hands on! 
Rinse and repeat until its a whopping 2 feet tall! 
For an extra booster, you can cover the whole thing with a black tarp for a couple of weeks, but that’s not really necessary.
Sit back and make yourself a well deserved cup of tea!

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