Easy Organic Raised-bed Gardening
Types of Soil
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Raised-bed gardening, the name given to gardens that utilize an elevated planting area, consist of thin, long rows of soil mounds, rising about eighteen inches above the ground soil.
They provide many benefits to gardeners, including improved water management and increased vegetable production.
The following outline provides an easy two step seasonal process for creating the organic foundation for a raised-bed garden.
Step one begins in the fall and consists of little more than piling your leaves and grass clippings into a compost pile. Plan ahead and place the pile in or near an area with water and sunlight sufficient for growing your summer garden. Please note that placing a compost pile in a sunny area means it will need to be monitored for moisture content.
Pile decomposition time depends on pile moisture content, with low moisture piles needing more time to decompose. Gardeners living in climates with rainy winters need not worry as much about compost piles with sun exposure.
Ideally, the compost pile grows over time with the addition of layer upon layer of grass clippings and leaves. Experts provide recommendations for a range of one to one, up to three to one, leaves (carbon ingredients) to grass (nitrogen ingredients) ratio for the pile.
When the pile measures roughly three cubic feet, it's time to consider pile maintenance.
Cold or slow composting, the easier of the two maintenance methods, allows the pile of organic materials to sit and break down naturally. Depending on local climate condition the process can take a year.
Fast or hot composting requires flipping the pile and mixing the ingredients. Consistent or weekly compost pile management cuts the decomposition time in half or more.
Compost weed management also need not be an exhausting task. Experts offer conflicting advice, saying keep your pile free of all weeds or do not worry about weeds.
Because compost provides a foundation for a raised-bed garden strategy, a middle of the road weed management approach offers gardeners a generally high weed control confidence level.
Consider, for a moment, the extreme example of a compost pile composed primarily of weeds. The old accounting adage, garbage in garbage out, might then equally apply to your end result compost. On the other hand, practicing due diligence with the compost pile, adding layers of leaves and grass clippings over time, and occasionally turning it, generates sufficient heat to kill most of the embedded weed seeds.
Step two consists of compost pile repositioning, which means little more than arranging the pile in a nice row, approximately six feet long by two feet wide by eighteen inches deep and adding wooden border.
Once repositioned, cover the bed with a long piece of plastic, (an old plastic bag) suitable for spring/summer solarization.
Depending on the outside temperature and amount of sunlight the newly solarized raised-bed compost pile receives, it should be ready for next season's planting.
Once established, the focus turns to raised bed maintenance.
Solarization works most effectively in moist soil conditions. Automatic drip irrigation systems and watering can applications work equally well maintaining bed moisture.
Soil ph levels change from compost pile to compost pile. Measuring the soil ph level and adding amendments to reach a ph level conducive to vegetable growth, results in a chemical free, healthy, nutrient rich soil ready for planting.
© 2007-2012. Patricia A. Michaels