Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New Garden Layout for 2016

I was not happy with my garden in 2015. I had intended to just use the west side of the garden and cover the east half with a heavy mulch and let it rest this year. But doing that caused me to crowd my plants too close. The soil is very rich so it could easily support the plants, and they grew well. That was a big part of the problem, I couldn't walk between the plants to take good care of them. The garden got overgrown and weedy. I also had major problems with rabbits, groundhogs, and deer this year. 

So I decided to reorganize the garden to create more open space and pathways between the beds. 

I used a rope to lay out each raised bed and dug out a pathway between it and the next bed. I dug down about four to six inches and piled that dirt onto the raised bed. This now gives me a planting bed that has rich top soil eight to ten inches deep. On top of that I added two inches of compost and raked it in. This will all break down even further by spring.

Each of the dugout pathways was then filled with wood chips, about ten to twelve inches deep. The walkway along the left side, by the raspberry bed, will stay bare but I put concrete pavers on the three walkways going across the garden. These walkways will get heavier use so I wanted a cleaner, sturdier surface.

The open garden area on the far right has been tilled under and leveled out

As you can see I put railroad ties and landscape timbers around the perimeter of the garden. I will install a fence of some sort and this will, hopefully, cut down on the wildlife damage to the garden. These are very old timbers so there should be very little leaching of preservatives and they border on the wood chip walkway anyway.

I covered the open area of the garden with six to eight inches of chopped grass and leaf mulch. I might dig out another raised bed in the spring or use this area for bigger crops like cucumbers, melons, and potatoes. 

While these are not true raised beds with exposed sides, the wood chip walkways between them will serve the same purpose. The planting beds are deep and drainage should be enhanced by the wood chips pathways. As the wood chips break down and rot, they will add nutrients to the soil that the plants can reach out to and use.  I will add wood chips on top as they break down into compost and eventually pull up the pavers and till all this under and mix in the composted wood. But I should be able to put that off for at least three years I think.

I pulled out all my carrots this weekend. They are stunted because animals kept eating the green, leafy portion so they were always recovering from damage. But they are crunchy and sweet so at least I got something out of that bed.

I try to spend as little as possible on my garden, and most other pursuits of mine. I got most of the timbers for free but bought a couple railroad ties at $9.84 apiece. They will last the rest of my lifetime so they are a good investment, especially if they improve yields with the raised beds and help me to keep out rabbits and groundhogs. We shot or trapped ten groundhogs from my little garden this year alone. Some of them became compost and some were trapped and released three miles away on my farm.

The wood chips were free. I got them from a tree service that did some work in my area. They dumped a truckload up on my farm property and I brought two wagon loads down for this project.

All the pavers were free. I accumulate pavers and bricks over time. Anytime I see them put out for trash I stop and grab them. Over the past ten years I have collected about 80 assorted paving stones in various shapes and sizes. Craigslist is another good source for free pavers and brick.

All my compost is free. One could say, well the yard vacuum and lawn tractor you use aren't free and that is true enough. But I have to cut my grass anyway and my yard is too big to rake when the cut grass is too long to leave behind and the leaves need to be taken care of. 

I will probably end up buying some fencing in the spring but I have collected enough fence posts that I shouldn't need to buy any of them. I will watch Craigslist for fencing too.I have a couple rolls in my equipment shed but I'm not sure if it is enough to do the job. 

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