First Raised Bed Populated

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Progress on the raised bed garden has been slow and steady. I was able to transplant my leeks, some arugula, my strawberries, some mustard, yellow and red onions, shallots, some chamomile, beets, celery, calendula sprouts and a couple of stray garlics and bok choys out of the ground and into the bed. This now leaves me lots of room to erect raised bed #2.

The first bed has also received some amendments, I added 1kg of crushed eggshells and have been moving the partially decomposed woodchip mulch layer from the former ground-level bed on as a top dressing. The initial fill of soil has settled around three inches lower and it would be a shame to bury all that rich worm-filled media at the bottom of bed number 2.

Everything you see planted in this bed are edibles that overwintered in the ground and are now starting to take off with new growth. I was surprised to see the celery survive and I look forward to lots of it this year, I use it often when making stocks or mirepoix for soups and sauces. The arugula self-seeded as always and I’ve already been eating it for weeks. The leeks are really filling out and I’m looking forward to making them into soup too. I’ll probably also let a few go to seed so I can replant them next year. They are expensive to buy in the grocery store and keep in the ground year-round.

My strawberries never fared well on the ground for some reason, and I kept losing plants. I maybe got 6 strawberries out of them last year. They were the first transplants into the new bed and despite my concern that the soil would be too “hot” from being taken directly out of the chicken pen, it seems that they are very happy now and have been putting out fresh new growth. Please let’s have a real strawberry harvest this year!

An unexpected benefit of the raised bed is more light can reach the plants. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that before, but I’ll take all the extra light I can get. This bed is right next to the coop, so it’s a bit shadier than the other two will be.

I also leveled out the pathway between the beds and lined it with old paper feed bags. My hope is to eventually cover this with a nice thick layer of coarse wood chips to provide good drainage and weed control.  If I can’t get a free wood chip delivery I’ll make do with straw. In the meantime, the feed bags can start to decompose. I have about a million of them taking up space and it’s great to finally be able to use them.

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Some of the damp bags were even beginning to colonize with wispy white strands of mycelium. I guess if I don’t use them all up in landscaping projects, I can set up a stack of them to grow mushrooms!

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Raised Beds Day 2

DSC_0002Technically it hasn’t taken me two full days to get this far along, I’ve only worked a total of about 6 hours and that includes driving to pick up materials. I need more daylight hours!

The first bed is nearly complete, it just needs the triangular bottom board on the far side put in and a couple of bracing boards installed to keep the sides from bowing out. I’ve decided on 2 foot wide pathways between the beds instead of 3.

I have been discovering renegade potatoes as I excavate, as well as a lot of grubs and cutworms, which are quickly dispatched by my two-chicken clean-up crew. I even managed to get 3 or 4 wheelbarrow loads worth of chicken pen flooring dumped in, just the spots that were soggiest and had compacted down. I’m leaving the nice, dry and crumbly earth for a top dressing.

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Next I’ll start emptying my overflowing compost pile and dump in most of the fresh stuff consisting mostly of rabbit manure, urine-soaked sawdust and cat litter (I use chick crumble for kitty litter) so it will rest deep on the bottom and continue to break down with the help of the worms.

I’m not concerned about putting cat waste into the bottoms of the raised beds since my cats are parasite free and they’ll most likely use the gardens as a litter box anyway. Heck, the chickens think the clumps of cat pee/chick crumble are special treats.

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