Boy, did I have no idea what we were getting into this weekend prepping the raised bed. I went out there to do a quickie till job, and well, couldn’t get my shovel down an inch. Bad times. After poking around a little more I realized that I had a super-ultra-maxi root mat on my hands. An hour of shoveling only to clear a 3×1 area? No gracias. So I called in the troops and Mike and Oats joined me outside. When I asked for help, Mike suspected that it was a thinly veiled ploy to get out of tilling, which, admittedly, I have been known to do. Then he went out there. Ha! Told ya, babe!
Why was it so thick with roots? No idea. I didn’t till in the fall, but I think I remember at least turning the soil last spring. Maybe I didn’t do it as thoroughly as I thought and just turned the top few inches, which filled in during the summer. Bummer. But now it was time to face the piper, and Rototillers were $50 to rent for 4 hours. Wasn’t gonna happen. Thank goodness Mike thought of using the reciprocating saw to cut the ground into manageable chunks. He cut along the orange lines in this picture:
(Don’t worry, we removed the golf club trellis shortly after this pic.) He repeated the grid for the middle and right-most sections of the garden. Thank goodness the chunks came out like slices of cake with little more than a nudge from the shovel. Want to see this incredible, no good root mat already? Check it:
Those chunks are DENSE, just straight roots that came up whole. After we got half of the mat up we realized that taking them out removed more than half of the soil volume. Cha-ching. I’d much rather spend that money on plants. So in an attempt to not have to trade Poatsie to fill the bed with soil, we took each root chunk and teased it apart while knocking it with a hammer. It kind of worked!
We definitely got a significant amount back, which was good news. We rinsed and repeated for the other side and then ventured to the store for some soil. We went for 8 cubic feet, which we roughly calculated would be enough.
Remember how I’ve mentioned that I’m kind of impatient at DIY and projects around the house? Well it cam back to bite me in the nose this time.
I read online that good raised bed soil should be 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat and 1/3 topsoil. Well, I figured we had plenty of peat and topsoil already since that’s what we originally filled it with two summers ago, so this time I was gonna up the compost factor this time by buying 4 cubic feet of it and 4 cubic feet of a topsoil/peat mix. Um, guys, I bought manure instead of compost thinking “How could they possibly sell uncomposted manure?? That doesn’t seem safe to use on edibles!” Well, they can (and it’s not unsafe). And it had the sweet benefit of being $1 cheaper per bag, so I just grabbed it. We loaded up the car with the soil, did another errand, and came back to find Oats nose deep in manure! I was having flashbacks to our mousecapades from earlier in the month!
Yeah, so after we got Oats out of the goods and spread it around the garden, the second clue that this had been a misstep hit us squarely in the ol’ factory, which apparently got Oats’ appetite up. Lest we forget that dogs are not people, he was pulling on the end of his line to get a bite of the chickeny goodness.
WHOA did it smell. Like poop. Lovely, I know. I hope you’re not eating. And if you are, sorry! So yeah, even after leaving it a day, it smelled something fierce. In researching how to get rid of manure smell, I also found out that the nutrients in it are too concentrated and can burn your plants. That sealed it, we couldn’t leave it. It wasn’t fair to our neighbors! And I wouldn’t have any plants to speak of, which is the opposite of cool.
So, I scooped up all the manure and piled it on a tarp.
That smile says, “I can’t believe I just bought 160 lbs of poo. Crap.” Thank goodness we had some pallets on hand for a compost bin we were planning so Mike could whip up a quickie box for us to let this manure do its compost thing before we ever touch it again. (Sorry, I was planning to blog about building the compost bin, but in the fray of poop removal, we didn’t stop to take pics.) The old bin is on the right, and the
poo new bin is on the left. Surprisingly, all heaped up like that it doesn’t smell.
Hallelujah! It was contained! Now, I totally transplanted everything and set seeds out in the manure. It all had to come up, so I carefully scooped up the seedlings, recovered the onion sets, and said goodbye to the seeds I had so carefully sown the day before. It was worth it though, ’cause now we won’t be called The Sewage Stall by our neighbors, which is always a plus. While Mike built the bin, I ran out for some soil more appropriate for mixed company. I just bought garden variety (ha.) garden soil figuring that there was no way I was going to get all of the manure up so it would still add some nourishment. Here is the the garden with some fabulously non-offensive soil in it.
And that’s the current configuration. The artichokes, kale, and Brussels are all transplants. The onions are sets (basically just tiny onions that grown and multiply through the summer), and the rest are seeds. This is what I call the ‘cold season’ setup, even though it is 90 today, it’s really supposed to be 60, not that I’m complaining. I’ve never had much luck with cold crops, so this round is mostly just a ‘let me see what grows’ kind of thing. Cross your fingers for me! After all that, I can proudly say that garden is prepped for the season. Score!
So, now for the big question: Have you ever bought unprocessed, unadulterated manure, by accident?!?