Sunday, April 17, 2016

The benefits of Trench digging, Black plastic, and raised beds

Every year I analyze what went wrong and what went right with my garden.  I'm always tweaking it to see if I can get better results.  Although I can't really say production has been an issue, I do have problems with weeds (as I'm sure does everyone).  I also want to have my garden be as sustainable as possible without added chemicals and I want to do this with as little money as possible.

One of the things I've been using for weed prevention is Black plastic.  You can find it easily at any hardware store.  Last season I used it again, but more of it.  In other words the whole garden was covered at the end of the season.  It sat under the plastic for the whole fall and winter.  Once uncovered a miracle had happened.  Weeds were gone.  The plastic not only keeps the sunlight from reaching these pesky weed plants, but also heats the soil up to the extent any left over seeds quickly die.  Now don't get me wrong, the weeds can come back, but in limited number.  This makes things much more manageable;especially if I keep the black plastic in between my beds and rows.  If I keep this process up each year, I'm thinking the results will get better each year.  Another advantage of the plastic is the fact that the ground underneath is easily turned due to the weeds being gone and the garden being loose from last year.  This is a win win for me.  You see, like most gardeners, I normally use a tiller for turning under my garden.  So far this year I've been able to turn under my beds with a shovel.   That's right a shovel. Makes for a good workout I must say.  And not only my raised beds, but the part of my garden where rows still reign supreme are seeing this shovel phenomenon.  Maintenance in my raised beds has always been less than that of my rows.  Since they aren't walked on the soil stays looser, less water is used, and it's easier to work around.  I must say though the maintenance level between beds and rows has gotten closer since the advent of black plastic cover.

So how does this shovel phenomenon work you ask?  (I know you didn't ask,  but I'm a gonna tell ya any how).  Trench digging.  That's the real name of the shovel phenomenon.  I would like to say I invented it, but alas that would not be true. I just learned it for myself, but this process is old as the hills.  Contrary to popular belief, motorized tillers haven't always been around.  I know, I know.  I was just as shocked as you are.(smile).  So here goes.

Now if you are a stickler for a straight bed, this is the point you would carefully mark off your area, stake it and tie string around the stakes to create the shape bed you desire.......I don't have the time or patience for that.  I eyeball the size and attempt to make it close to the size of the bed next to it.  It is not an exact science.  But you know what?  The dirt still works the same, and it gives my garden a rustic look (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).  So anyway, my first step is to dig a trench the depth and width of a shovel, and the length you desire,  As you dig you will remove the dirt to either a waiting wheelbarrow or tarp placed on the ground.  You will use this dirt later in your bed.

Once your first trench is done, you move over a little and begin digging another trench with your shovel edge slightly overlapping the side of the first trench.  As you dig this time, you will turn the dirt into the first trench, filling it as you go.  Now would be the time to break up any clumps of dirt with your shovel or cultivator.  Kinda hard to tell with this picture,but what you see below is the new trench to your left just getting started and the loose dirt in the first trench to your right.

 Disclaimer*** you will burn calories.   Keep digging trenches, filling the previous trench as you go til you get your bed the width you like.  I usually do about 4 trenches.  But wait!  Your last trench has no dirt!  Never fear!  That is what the dirt from your first trench is for!  Yay!  Problem solved!  What you see in the above picture is a bed I currently have in progress.  Below is an example of a bed I have finished.

Once I finish this last bed all I will need to do is cultivate three rows from last year and I will be ready to plant corn which is my last thing to get in the garden.  If I can do this, I will have put my garden in this year without the use of a tiller which means NO GAS USE!  I hope this post has been helpful.  Go dig up something!  Who needs a gym when you have a shovel!

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