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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Nice Soft Bed

In a previous article I let you know that our soil is not ideal for gardening. Marisa and I knew we would have some work ahead of us when we moved in. After all, we live in the high desert of Utah and lush gardens aren't the thing that one thinks about one hearing the word desert. Here is what we did to prepare our first plot. Hopefully there will be many more like it.

Here is the before picture of the garden area.The first order of business was to till this area up and loosen the soil.

As discussed in a previous article, we had someone deliver a load of mink poop that had been composted with pine shavings for 3 years. 

 Marisa called her brother ( a landscape architect one of our contributors) Cameron  and he gave us the equation to figure out how much compost we would need. Our first plot is 15 ft x 25 ft which is  375 square feet. We decided that we wanted 6" of compost. Using the information on yesterday's post we calculated how many cubic yards we needed to add. (375 square feet *.5)/27=6.94 square yards of compost. This seems like a lot of compost, a but we considered it an investment that would pay off. Then we loaded the compost into our wheelbarrow and added it to the tilled garden area. Using a rake we spread it out about 6 inches deep throughout.

Next we tilled the 6 inches of compost in. We are trying a wide row method in this plot. Our rows are 2 feet wide and since we have a lot of space we made rows that were about 10 inches wide. We raked all the dirt from the paths into the raised rows so they are about 6 inches higher that the surrounding area.

Our goal with this plot is to refrain from tilling. Now that it is dug up and loose, we will probably just continue to add mulch and compost as our backyard farm produces waste. As we add this material our expectation is that our soil will get better and better without having to be tilled up each year.

As a side note, it is still pretty cold at nights here in Utah so we haven't planted our starts for fear of them being damaged. Where are you in the process of getting your gardening?



Desiree Fawn said...

I'm doing container gardening in our yard again -- won't start my plants out til the long weekend, I don't think. been a few chilly evenings still, and I'll be buying my plants from the market. I'm still a beginner when it comes to gardening, but I'm learning more and more each year!

I'm thrilled to think about days in the future, when I'll live more rurally with BIG gardens, maybe a farm.

Our yard is MUCH too rocky to do anything big with where we are renting. Boo!

JesR said...

Dear, sweet LORD!!
We are quickly losing our patience here in Ohio. It's our first season here, and it pretty much stinks compared to the temperate South. Patience, patience, I know.

But, honestly, when do you start to worry about "days to maturity" not being met?!!

Homemade Alaska said...

I just recently found your blog and I really enjoy it! Here in interior Alaska, we too have had a cold slow spring. I've had plastic on my raised beds for a few weeks, they are finally above 40, so we just planted some cold hardy seeds like peas, parsnips, beets etc... All are currently under plastic. Time to start hardening off my starts.

Zach said...

We just had a frost advisory here in Illinois. On May 17th. That's not supposed to happen. Fortunately my wife and I found out about the advisory just before we went to bed so we covered all our tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. The weather has been all over the place...from sunny and 90 degrees to rainy and 38 degrees all in one week.

JesR, hang in there. This is a particularly bad spring for the Midwest...hopefully your future growing seasons will be a little easier!

Becky said...

I am very interested to see how your garden turns out in the coming years. I expect that this year will be excellent - due to the mink poop, which I love. What a strange thing to find in abundance.

Anyway, I did almost the exact same thing 4 years ago, bought 2 truckloads of "garden mix" soil and laid it out in long wide rows (lots of shoveling!!) with paths between to avoid stepping in the beautiful fluffy soil. My first year's garden was fabulous! More tomatoes than I could can, potatoes, everything!

HOWEVER, in the years since, I have lost the battle with the grass. It has taken over. I gave in and used roundup just this weekend to try to expose some soil for myself. We are in Manitoba, where the last average frost date is the 24th of May, so I'm still not too behind in planting.

I wish you the best with your garden!


daisy said...

It looks faboo! Y'all did a great job!

We garden year round, so right now I have potatoes, onions, tomatoes, parsley, thyme and rosemary in the garden. Just waiting on cantaloupe and eggplant seeds to arrive.
Enjoy your gardening adventure! I wish you an amazing harvest!

Jen J said...

We are receiving snow right now and I don't think that we will be planting any time soon. I guess that's to be expected in the mountains of Utah. Mother Nature is always teasing us here! But it's so fun to see the progress that you guys are making!

Alice said...

I'm a little behind this year. I just uncovered the raised beds. I cover them every fall with leaves (I usually have to put some netting over the leaves to keep them from blowing away). The worms work the leaves into my soil all winter and in the spring, I just rake off whatever isn't broken down enough and put it in the compost bin. The leaves also keep the soil soft enough that I don't have to do too much to get it ready plant.

I planted tomatoes and peppers yesterday. I need to find a dry stretch to go back out and plant squash and cucumbers.

The beans and corn are going in the big garden, which still needs to be tilled (the down side of the big garden...).

My most exciting garden discovery is that the artichoke plants I grew last year- one of the five survived the winter, so I'll get some artichokes this year!

Mike said...

Desiree: The most important thing is you are doing what you can. Container gardening works great.

JesR: It snowed here today. I am getting worried about the same thing.

Homemade Alaska: We are trying to harden off our starts as well. Good luck.

Zach: You are lucky your wife found out about it.

Becky: I grew up south of Manitoba in North Dakota. I love that area.

Daisy: I am jealous that you can garden year round.

Jen: It might be snowing but Marisa says your area is one of the prettiest places she has ever seen.

Alice: We have never done artichokes. Let us know how they turn out.

Bach Bunch said...

We got our garden all tilled and just need to quickly shovel it into rows. Then put in the watering system again which is a drip line that helps with not wasting water and keeping the weeds down. We did get one row shoveled in time for peas. Usually we do peas, onions, broccoli and caulflower mid March. We are waiting this year to do the rest of the planting since the news said it was going to be wet and stormy for a few more weeks. Glad we waited!! Our peas are doing excellent and are about 4 inches tall. Our strawberry patch is looking very nice. We have all our seeds purchased and probably twice the seeds we will actually plant. We started a compost pile this year so we will try to keep chicken goat and rabbit waste in there then after harvesting the garden, shovel it in the garden for the late fall and winter to till in next year. Have you heard of any tricks to cooling goat milk faster to improve taste??

Trucker Mom said...

We planted peas, carrots and onions about 3 weeks ago, at the same time I set up a whole bunch of wall-o-waters. The next week we planted roma tomatoes, lg tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkin, crooked neck squash and zucchini. So far all of them are doing good. I purchased all my plants at Cooks nursery in Lindon. This is my third year doing a garden and am improving each year. This year a also purchased a dump truck load of mink manure, love it! Spread some on the grass and it loves it too!!! I still need to get back out there and plant lettuce.

brooke said...

What a fun gardening year!!! We added lots more beds. Everything is planted except for the tomatoes. They should get started today. We live on a little farm that makes just enough "compost" to keep our garden well fed.

marisa said...

Trucker mom, it is so fun that you live close. Cooks nursery in lindon is great!

Brooke, we are hoping to produce enough compost so we don't have to keep buying it. Any suggestions for us?

Tamy, when we went to a goat farm, the lady strained the milk right into a mason jar and put it right into the freezer for 2 hours. Her milk was DELICIOUS! It was way better than some goat milk we bought from a large commercial goat farm.

Brian said...

In my backyard I started peas, lettuce, spinach, and radishes around the 15th of March...all from seed. Everything is doing fine. The radishes and spinach are finished, the lettuce is getting large, and the peas are starting to blossom. The first weekend in May I started green beans and edamame and they have sprouted and are on their way. Also, my blackberries are in bloom and starting to produce small green berries.

On May 14th I started tomatoes, peppers, squash, cukes, and watermelon in my community garden plot. Here in Maryland, the weather has been holding steady in the low 70s during the day and the low 50s at night. The community plot is new so I'm hoping everything works out.

Dale Johnson said...

Michael and Marisa,

If PETA hears about you using mink poop to amend your soil, you are going to be in real trouble!

Mike said...

Brian: You are rocking the garden! This is our first year doing edamame. Have you grown it before?

Dale: I have wondered about the moral implications of using mink poop. I am not a fan of having animals live bad lives to harcvest their fur. If I use the refuse of this process for my garden, am I supporting the business myself? It is a serious question. Might be a good article.

Elisabeth said...

Although our frost free date is May 15, my son planted the garden several weeks ago. Everything is coming up good, except the cucumbers. They didn't sprout.

We also bought some tomato plants and a few other things that we still need to put in the ground

We do a raised bed, square foot garden.

Brian said...

This is my first year with edamame too. I wanted to grow it last year but didn't have the space. We decided to grow it this year but had difficulties finding the seed. I ended up buying it off of Amazon for a pretty good price. Over the past few days the seeds started sprouting so it looks like we're off to a good start.

giantveggiegrdener said...

I am in the process of getting my vegetable garden in right now having planted 50+ heirloom tomatoes last Sunday. Hope to get the rest of the vegetables and the GIANT VEGGIES out this week as well.