Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hand-Digging New Garden Beds

I started a garden realignment last year, switching two "S" shaped garden beds over to three long straight ones. Aries ran the rototiller down the new beds last year in time to get them planted. But I don't like the job the rototiller does. It's good for breaking up new ground, but doesn't really go as deep as I like or sort out the rocks. So the past week, I've been out there diligently hand-digging.

Each bed is 50' long, so I can use standard soaker hoses, and 3' wide. I did one-third of one bed last fall, for the garlic and shallots. Each bed gets four wheelbarrow-fuls of compost, spread out to cover the entire surface with about an inch. I use an equal-parts mix of bonemeal, bloodmeal, and greensand as an organic booster fertilizer, so sprinkle a light dusting of that over the compost, and then start digging. It takes four passes down the length of the bed with a shovel to turn and mix everything in, making sure the edges of the beds go down as deep as the centers. Some of the beds were where the old garden beds had been, so it was easy to sink the shovel in past the depth of the blade. But other parts used to be the paths, untouched since the whole area was a horse corral. When I hit one of those parts, I have to stand on the shovel and rock it back and forth and side to side, until I slowly work it down into the hard-packed dirt. Every once in a while, I can tell I've hit a rock, so work and worry it about until I can get it to the surface to toss it to the side.

Once everything is mixed and fluffed up, I then go to work with the rake. When I'm finished, I have a level, wide, raised garden bed making a terrace across the slight slope of our property. The three beds that will have smaller, closely-spaced plants get two soaker hoses; the other three for the bigger plants will get only one down the center. I'm about ready to get Aries out there with the rototiller to re-shape the remaining two "s" beds (on the right) into three more long ones, so will have plenty of digging yet to do. Once the beds are formed, they never again get walked on, so garden preparation in subsequent years will be a lot easier.

2 comments:

Toodie said...

Golly you sure did alot of work. I can't help think there should be an easier way.
Thanks for sharing.

Annodear said...

Wow! Major project! Cool.

The password to publish this comment is "grows" :-) A good omen I'd say.