The sun was out on Saturday, some of my lettuce starts were crowding the borders of their six-packs, so it was time to transplant. In the past I would rototill virtually all of the garden. Lots of vegetables came out of the garden using that method, but as I’ve tried to garden more year-round, the limitations are becoming apparent. Right now is prime growing time (just look at all the green happening everywhere) but the garden is way too wet to till.
A few weeks ago I built up a couple of beds. I’m not talking about lots of boards and hauled-in soil. Our heavy Eugene bottom-land soil can be plenty productive given the right conditions. I just broke up the big weeds with a fork, dumped a few wheelbarrow loads of compost on top, and then shoveled dirt and weeds from the surrounding path areas on top of that. I did all of this about four weeks ago and made up two 5′ x 8′ beds. Yesterday I turned the surface lightly with a fork, removed the big weeds on the surface, and shaped it with a rake.
I planted a bunch of things in the new beds. A few broccoli along the centerline and smaller stuff, lettuce, beets, onions and kohlrabi on the edges. It promptly rained another inch last night, so now everything is well watered if not a bit beaten down, but at least they are not crowded anymore.
I’ve been inspired by the tireless example of Charlotte Anthony from the Victory Gardens for All program. Charlotte has started hundreds of gardens for people around town, so she has a system that minimizes labor and maximizes results, constructing beds in manner similar to what I described above. Part of her “magic” is the use of soil microbes to help the natural system do the work. She uses both EM-1, a commercial anaerobic soil bacteria mix, and a mycorrhizal fungi inoculant. I’d like to think that the microbes make a difference, but I need evidence. Lacking that — how about an experiment!
With this in mind, I built two identical beds and planted them with the same kinds of plants as well. One bed was treated with the EM-1 when it was put together and treated with the mycorrhizal inoculant when it was planted. The other bed was not treated. Stay tuned.