Friday, March 18, 2011

Sifting the Beds

Spring is coming!!!!And I am a nerd. An earth nerd. I would rather be outside working in my garden than anything else. I think it's affecting my social life.
We have been spending our free time fixing our garden beds. Every year we learn something new to help us create our little urban farm. Last year we went with the square foot gardening/raised beds approach. The only problem being we had a lot of beds and not a lot of means for bringing in new soil. And I hate using outside soil because you don't know if it was hot enough to kill seeds or if there's disease in it. So we used a lot of our own dirt with some added compost but we still had a lot of problems. We wanted to build more beds from the reclaimed 4x4 posts we have, but didn't have the dirt to fill them, either.
Now I have to use an aside because blogger isn't letting me use smaller font to caption my pictures. You'll have to live with italics for now.
(Make sure you get the slave labor to help!)
Notice I said dirt. We don't have soil. We have heavy clay and rocks. And lots of morning glory. I hate morning glory. Unless you also have it, you cannot imagine to extreme loathing, the tears and the thrown gardening tools. It's a war I can never win, but I win more battles every year.
But the clay isn't so bad if you add compost. In fact, it's really good once it's amended. We covered the ground with cardboard as a weed mat and it worked well, but the weeds still got through because it decomposes so well and we have SO MANY WEEDS.
This year, we are sifting!
My husband built one of these last year as we were collecting rocks. Now we're going opposite and collecting the good dirt minus the rocks and weeds.
Know what that is? Morning glory (bindweed) root. And it's gone!!!
We just used some old 2x4's we had lying around and got the mesh from home depot. He stapled it on -actually, he hammered staples on. Don't let a lack of tools scare you off!- and that was it! The first one her built was smaller and harder to manage. This one was built to fit over the wheelbarrow and instead he discovered it fits right over the bed so we can sift the dirt right back into the bed.
We found our dirt to be really compacted this spring which is why we started looking into biointensive gardening. The way you prepare your beds is by double digging which is best demonstrated in this video.
By using this method we no longer feel the need for a tiller. That saves us a lot of money, plus with gas prices being what they are, gas powered tools are less and less attractive.
As an FYI, we are also looking into permaculture to see what we can use from that. I'm not so into the "food forest" thing, but we plan on using swales on our hill. If anyone has any recomendations for learning more about permaculture I'd love to hear it!!! And yes, I do plan on posting about what all that is in the future once I understand it better :)


  1. Yeah, this year has been a learning experience for me FOR SURE. But I'm not giving up yet. Wanna know something funny? We have no weeds. It's awesome.

  2. Sooo jealous. I live in a townhouse with a shared backyard - and by shared I mean shared with lots of people who don't pick up after their stupid dogs. I like dogs, but not their poop.

    I thought about doing square foot gardening just on my own little patch behind our deck, but ran into 2 issues - 1, the landscapers that come every week to mow the grass probably would not appreciate an obstacle, and 2, our house is facing a weird direction and I doubt my little plants would get any sunlight.

    now i am thinking about growing a garden outside of our neighborhood (we live on the side of a mountain and ours is the last neighborhood before you hit dirt and basically unclaimed territory.) but there are lots of deer around here. But dang. I really want a garden. Post more pictures so I can look at them and swoon!

  3. I love your raised beds. I have an old friend who lives in Philadelphia who is thinking of trying a similar thing this year and making it a community garden.

    We're fortunate that we live in a rural area and have the space for a yard garden. But, growing a garden is such a wonderful experience...not to mention economical and healthy...that it's wonderful that more people are finding ways to make it happen.