Preparing the Beds
As a part of my Independent Student Project I will be gardening at a local temple and blogging about my experiences each week. In addition, I will be researching garden techniques and garden curriculum. I will be doing my reading in The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, which focuses on wide rows, organic methods, raised beds, and deep soil. The curriculum that I will be reading is from Life Labs out of Santa Cruz. They have EXTENSIVE curriculum available for K-5 teachers that could keep a class busy for the entire year! This week was incredible, I spent time at the temple, the monks are out of town frequently, walking for peace and are unable to tend their garden. This is the first time in 3 years when someone has tried to plant veggies there though the beds are already raised and the fence is already built, it just needs some minor repairs! We spent hours this morning clearing the beds of 3 feet stinging nettle, herb robert, weeds and moss, saving the nettle to make nettle tea and lemonade this evening. The moss was amazing, it was 2 inches thick in some areas and created a perfect blanket on top of the soil, protecting it over the years and making it even more fertile (I hope)!
The garden we have been gifted to tend is quite large. It currently holds three 3 foot by 20 foot beds but allows for even more planting near the entrance. We have planned to prepare the beds first and if after, feel the need to do more planting, will build more beds near the entrance. We are also working slowly and taking it one day at a time. When I went to the garden alone the other day I immediately felt overwhelmed and remembered a section of my veggie bible, which reminded it’s readers to only build and tend to a garden that feels comfortable for the gardener! As this is my first garden, I did not follow those instructions and I am hoping that I am prepared for this large space!
The moss pulled up in sheets, we peeled it back and unveiled potato bugs, pinchers, worms, and banana slugs (my favorite as you can see in the photo above)! They have made a home in the rich soil that we are about to turn into a vegetable lovers delight. We plan to plant squash, pumpkins, beans, broccoli, and herbs. The area is more shaded than we would like but during the summer should still be able to get a substantial amount of sun! We were able to procure some straw from a temple board member to lay down in the walkways (though we haven’t done it yet, still much clearing to do) and the seeds came from Bainbridge Gardens. As told to me by my Veggie Bible, we are preparing the soil so that the roots of the vegetables can grow to 18 inches and once prepared, we will NEVER step on the beds. The beds are perfect in width so that it is comfortable for us to weed and work in without straining ourselves or giving us no option than stepping in the bed, compacting the soil and limiting root growth! Today we will return and finish the clearing process and what comes next… only the Veggie Bible knows!
Continuing to prepare the beds…
The above statement did not come to fruition… the rain began to fall that afternoon and we did not return as we said we would. We are apparently fare weather gardeners! We did however return a few days later and continued the clearing process. We pulled root systems that had begun growing in the beds, moss as thick as the comforter on my bed and found worms and banana slugs incomparable in size to ones I have seen before! The wheel barrel was as busy as we were, carrying the weeds and unwanted plants from the garden beds to the forest floor, just outside of the garden gates. Once the clearing was sufficient, the soil in each bed was loose, and we had weeded until our fingers were red, we returned home with a bag of soil from our future garden with the intention of planting starters.
As amateurs in a very big gardening pond, we are currently attempting to mix the harvested soil from our vermi-compost with the soil from the garden where the veggies will be planted. We are hoping that the compost soil will add much needed nutrients and the soil from the garden will allow the veggies to begin to grow in the soil that they will end up in! Is this a safe assumption, only time will tell?