|Planted side-beds in a previous greenhouse that Chris built and managed.|
: In our 100-foot-long greenhouse we've
got two side-beds that still have living grass growing in them. Since we
began building the greenhouse at the start of Oregon's rainy season we
didn't want to roto-till the ground which would have created a muddy
mess during construction-time. We have begun a process now which we
hope will leave us with healthy, worm-filled beds in time for this next
summer's plantings of tomatoes, peppers and other herbs and vegetables.
|Creating raised beds with salvaged lumber.|
Step 1: We used salvaged lumber to create the sides
of the raised beds. As we build the soil, this will contain it from
spilling into the paths. Each bed is four feet wide.
Step 2: With leaves that people have donated, we lay down a layer about 4" thick, the full length of the beds.
3: Next we added a layer of rabbit manure. One five-pound bucket per
six-feet of bed, spread evenly (Sometimes it clumps so you have to break
it up with a spade fork or your hands.) We are fortunate to have a
rabbitry in our neighborhood (Julia Sunkler - "My Pharm") where we can
go shovel large quantities of manure for use in our gardens. Rabbit
manure is preferable because grass seeds do not survive their digestive
tracts. If you don't have access to rabbit manure, cow, llama and
chicken are also excellent (for the same reason). Horse manure is the
least desirable as, unless it has been well-composted, weed seeds are
still viable and can be a major problem in your garden. (Update:
Since writing this post in 2011, we have almost phased out using animal manures entirely and are using coffee grounds and wood-ashes to build soil fertility. Coffee grounds are available for free from most coffee-shops and can be applied liberally in garden-beds and compost piles; worms love them!).
4: Using a hand-held pump sprayer, or one of those hose attachments that
allows you to spray a mist, spray evenly a strong solution of fish
emulsion, liquid seaweed and water on your garden beds.
5: If you have a small tiller, that you can easily run in your beds, mix
everything together at this time. We don't have a small tiller so we
are using something called a broad fork
This is an indestructible hand tool that is excellent for breaking up
new soil. It is also great for harvesting potatoes. If you don't have a
broad fork, you can loosen the soil with a spade fork instead. It will
just take you a lot longer. If you have heavy, clay soil, be sure to
wait until it has drained a bit or you will end up with heavy,
|A broad fork in action.|
Step 6: Once you have mixed everything, it's ideal if
you can "seed" your bed with micro-livestock i.e. "red wiggler" worms.
These are a variety of worms that thrives on compost, manure and mulch. If you
don't have a starter batch, they will eventually come on their own but
you can significantly jump-start the process by spreading them
through-out your beds. When we went to dig up the rabbit manure, we came
across several concentrated clumps of the worms. These we put in
specially marked bags and distributed them throughout our greenhouse
|"Red Wigglers", our micro-livestock.|
7: Using thick black plastic (that we found dumped at our local
recycling center) we have covered the beds completely. Blocked of
sunlight, the grass still growing in the beds cannot survive. The worms
and other microbes have plenty of food to keep them busy and
multiplying, doing the work of preparing the beds for late-spring
|Finished job (for now!)|
Please also read: Herbicide Contamination in Manure, Compost and Grass Clippings?
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