Today we worked on the garden beds. We decided to go with raised beds in the fenced garden area. We did this for multiple reasons, not the least of which was the fact that we have heavy clay soil and I wanted to go with a no till method. Dirt was at a premium so I decided to try a woody raised bed based loosely on the Hugul Culture principles that Sep Holtzer has made popular. I say loosely because we are going to try a few different ways and see which bed has the best success.
For this bed we did not dig the typical trench to place the wood in. I laid a thin layer of manure on the ground the entire length of the 4′ wide bed. Then I placed cardboard down hopefully to entice some soil building earthworms to the area faster. Typically my area gets a large amount of rainfall, but recently we have seen weird weather patterns with longer periods of drought, followed by monsoon like rainfall. We also have tropical storms move through the area, so slowing the water down using raised beds, keeping the contour line in mind, should help minimize erosion and give us a bit of an edge directing water.
Next was a thinnish layer of straw followed by some cut up sections of hardwood. I used two recently fallen trees, limbs and twigs, as well as some semi rotted firewood to seed some good mycelium. I did not burn the brain cells trying to over-think this. I broke up some smaller stuff to go between larger gaps to, in my estimation, keep the aeration of the soil good. We then used the finished wood chip compost to fill in the gaps between the woody bed. Over this I tossed some more rabbit manure…not a lot, but enough to eventually entice the worms up into the top layers. I tossed on some more wood chip compost, gave everything a shower, and topped it all with a thick layer of chemical free straw. I run the risk of getting a few weed seeds in the straw, but so far have not had an issue using it as mulch around the fruit trees or in the compost piles. I might possible add fresh wood chips over the entire bed later, but for now I am using the hard to get chips for the paths.
We left a 3′ path between the bed and the fence. This was a compromise as we wanted working space but hated to give up any more growing area than we have to. The bed is aprx. 4′ wide then we will have a 4′ path on the other side. Because the other paths will not be in a row but on contour and almost perpendicular to the outside path, we only went a couple of feet on the outside path until we mark everything off. I decided to take the first 2″ of top soil off the paths and use it in the garden area. After digging the winter grass and weeds out we laid down multiple layers of newspaper. A tip on this! I get the “Butt Rolls” from the local newspaper company. When they print the local paper, and the rolls get so low that they cannot complete a run of papers, they toss it. I get it free…for now at least until I manage to tell everyone about it. 🙂 This is fresh, unprinted newspaper on a roll that makes it super simple to store and later set out multiple layers on our garden paths.
We will be planting later, and I will make a post updating the growth as we go along. I don;t want anyone who reads this to think I am an expert or giving advice on how to do a bed. I read and research a lot because I am passionate about growing my own food. I then take that info and use it in a way that makes sense to me and using the resources I have available. I am still in the trial and error phase of raised beds, “perma” and “hugul” culture. It sure is fun though!