Monday, April 20, 2009

Preparing the Raised Beds for Planting

This has been a busy weekend. Our handyman was available to help me recondition the two raised beds I've been using for about four years now. He also finished a new one that wasn't quite ready to use yet. I think today I will focus on the before planting part of this, even though I did the actual planting on Saturday. The picture above shows Larry working on the new bed. We use four boards to make the frame and then, because we have lots of pocket gophers, we put wire mesh on the bottom and attached it to the sides to keep the gophers out. Larry had to work in the shade because it was very hot out.

After he finished the frame, he took it to the garden and leveled the bottom. It appears he used rocks to get the bottom level, filling in with dirt. This is different than the way the other two beds were leveled, and I hope it works. For the other two, we actually worked on the ground until the dirt itself was level. This new way saves some of the work we had to do for the others.

After setting the frame in place, we had to start filling it for planting. On the very bottom of this one we put some freshly pulled weeds. Over that layer we put about an inch of steer manure. Then we hauled in about three barrow loads of compost . Now it's half full. We need to add some sand and mix with more compost before planting.

The soil in the first two beds, which have been in use for at least four years, was depleted. I couldn't get seeds to sprout at all this year -- not even radishes. When I put my tomato seedlings in last year, they just didn't grow. I finally added milk and fish emulsion and that helped, but I knew I'd have to completely replenish the soil this year. My husband used a pick to break up the compacted soil I couldn't get a shovel through. I had to remove some lettuce I had transplanted in one of the beds earlier and move it into a pot temporarily to facilitate this.

After the soil was broken up, I mashed the clods to break them up. Larry then added steer manure, compost, and sand, and I mixed them up. This brought the level of soil up about four inches to replace the volume that was lost. This is how those two beds looked before I had them all raked level and ready to plant. I will cover the planting next time.

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