Monday, August 15, 2011

What's the Dirt on Dirt? Filling the Raised Garden Bed

I've been thinking A LOT lately about dirt, soil, organic matter, compost, manure, microorganisms, soil amendments, etc.  It's been a while since we finished building the raised garden bed and since then, we've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what's going to go in it.  Not the fun stuff like plants, herbs, or veggies but the soil.  We're probably making this harder than we have to, but I think we're just a bit overwhelmed because we want to make sure we do it right.

We have another yard project going on that will require us to dig up a whole mess of dirt, so we were originally planning on incorporating some of that into the garden bed.  We figured it would be a good way of upcycling something and also help us keep our costs down so that we don't have to buy as much of the amendments to make it good soil.

I sent a soil sample in to Florida's Extension Office to be tested and found out that our soil is a little too alkaline and that I would need to add some organic matter to increase the acidity.  Okay, I get that but at what ratio?  I spoke to a nice guy at the Extension office and he said to mix it half and half with compost.  Apparently, you can never have too much compost.  Needless to say, I was still feeling a bit unsure about all of this.

The next step in my journey to learn about dirt was at an organic soil prep workshop.  One of the first things that the Master Gardener made us understand is that grass is persistent.  Unless you completely pull up ALL of the roots, you will not get rid of it and it will grow back.  This is why when you compost grass, it should only be grass clippings and not roots: you don't want your compost bin or where you incorporate your compost to start sprouting grass.  The areas that are going to be dug up in our yard won't be terribly deep, so we figured that unless we spend A LOT of time sifting that dirt it won't be terribly useful thanks to that persistent grass.

Ultimately, it looks like we're going to be ordering a few yards of organic soil to fill the raised garden bed.  This way, we know that it's exactly what the plants need, don't have to worry about figuring out the right proportions of things to add to our soil, and it will save us time and energy so we can focus on our other project.

We're in the middle of the hottest and wettest time of year down here, so I think we're going to wait until some time in September or even October maybe to get the bed filled.  I don't want to plant any new greenlings in this and have them stressed before they even have a fighting chance to grow.  Not to mention, I don't want to work in this heat, either!

I've been learning a lot about amendments to the soil, mulching, feeding, and watering, too.  But that's for another day and another blog post.


Della said...

Gardening in Idaho was so easy compared to Florida. I thought that when I moved back home it would be so cool to have a garden nearly year round, but the soil make up is so different. I still struggle with some veggies, but my zukes and cukes were amazing this year. I'm headed back to the drawing board, and may be visiting my local extension office. I would love to have raised beds! I have been asking....maybe next time around.

It IS too hot to garden right now. I cannot take this heat and humidity!

Athena's Armoury said...

I hear ya. I'm learning a lot and I haven't even planted anything yet. Florida soil really needs a lot of amendments to make it good soil unless you want buy some (organic or otherwise). It may be a lot of work but when we can feed ourselves on organic produce year round and I can make my organic medicinals from the garden, it will all be worth it!