Showcase 1: First Planting

The weekend before last, right before it snowed, we got the soil turned for Showcase 1 and we got a couple of things in the ground. I had been a

More desiccated than expected, but clearly somebody's happy about it.

little concerned about the manure that we used, because it was quite fresh when we got it. Insufficiently composted horse manure can burn plants with the high nitrogen content. I was even more concerned when I stopped by to check on it and discovered that you even need to water your manure piles around here if you expect them to break down. However, I was comforted to see a tulip that had been planted a couple of years ago but hadn’t deigned to come up last year. It was removed when we turned the manure pile that day, as this is going to be just vegetables this year.

The first thing we needed to do was remove a fair amount of the manure that had been sitting there for a while. I was over-zealous in my application of it. However, it means that we have plenty to add to other beds and to work in later as we rotate through the crops.

Slightly overzealous. Only slightly.

By not overwhelming the soil with that much organic material all at once, we can hopefully get the decomposers in the soil to keep pace with what was left. While we were turning the soil, we ran across three or four earthworms. That’s not a lot, even for a little plot like this, but it is more than none. With any luck, they’ll put out the word to their friends that there’s food to be had. The more decomposers we can attract, the more organic material we can work in, as it will be turned into something that the plants can use.

The turning technique that we used was double-digging. It’s a tiny plot, and I’ve been wanting to give this a try for a while, so we opted to do it all by hand. The short version is that you dig out a trench one spade or shovel deep then you use a garden fork, or in our case a mattock, to loosen another four to eight inches of soil. We also took the opportunity to mix some of the manure deep into the soil to give any plants with deep roots further nourishment. The soil from the first trench is set aside and the soil from every subsequent trench is rolled into the previous trench after the bottom had been loosened. This is not only easier than pulling each trench out and replacing it in the same row, but it also helps you mix the soil in the garden so that it is more uniform.

From the pictures, you can see how much volume was added to the soil. I assure you, it was mostly air. The year before, this garden hadn’t had a


path, so the way to reach the back corner was to step carefully between the plants. This leads to seriously compacting the soil around the roots of the plants. It had also been sitting untouched all winter, so the aeration was necessary to loosen it up for the tender seedling roots, since we haven’t built up a worm population to do so for us just yet. I expect that we should be double-digging this for at least one more year, if not more, to really work the organic material and air into the deep pockets.

Plotted, planted, and watered.

Once we had replaced the last of the soil and evened it out, we added some ammonium sulfate to increase the nitrogen content and, being a sulfate, hopefully lower the pH a little. That got watered in. After that, we measured the space for the path and tamped it down. Because that particular section was for feet, not plants, it didn’t need to be aerated. We also measured out the squares for the first of the things to go in. We are doing two rounds of peas to stagger the harvest a little, so we planted the first round. We also put in a square of carrots and a square of onions, since they are fairly cold tolerant. With the warm weather that we have been having, we opted to try some lettuce and cilantro. The snow later that week made me wonder if we’d jumped the gun, but since it has warmed up again, I suspect not. We were going to plant some kale for a spring harvest, but with as hot and dry as it is, I think even lettuce might be pushing it, so we will be planting the kale later for a fall harvest.

Once everything was in the ground and we had watered it a second time, it was pretty clear why the soil sample had come back as loamy sand. It was almost like looking at a beach. However, it was a fluffy beach, now, and it should start sprouting green pretty soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: