Sunday, April 8, 2012

A No-Dig Garden

I have a new [to us] gardening technique to share with you today.

But first, happy Easter.

I personally prefer to celebrate Ostara on the Spring Equinox, but I can't deny that the easter bunny is fun, and so is the awesome easter egg hunt and potluck that our community puts on. And thankfully, Jai is still young enough that he'll forget about his chocolate stash in a few days...

So happy day of Rebirth.

And it was a beautiful, glorious day. After the Easter festivities, we came back to the house to do some serious gardening under the sun. We have been hard at work these last couple of days: transplanting blueberries, building potato boxes, preparing beds, planting. My body relishes the work outdoors, the flexing of under-used muscles. [I have noticed it's much easier to be a relaxed mother when my energy has been spent in hard labor.]

Today we focused on preparing a new bed for onion starts. Over the winter I read a truly wonderful book, and it inspired me to try no-dig gardening this year. As the name implies, there is no digging. You start with cardboard or newspaper on the ground as your base [to deter weeds], and then you add on the layers: grass clippings, leaves, soil, compost, wood ash, straw, hay, and whatever other organic materials you might have laying around. After planting starts in a top layer of soil, you mulch heavily. Everything in the pile breaks down into beautiful soil, and the mulching keeps the weeds away. Because there is no digging, the structure of the soil is preserved, making for a fluffy and absorbent garden bed.

At least, that is the idea. I'll let you know how it turns out.

If you are interested in learning more, this is a helpful website and this is a really good video.

We started our garden bed by laying down wet cardboard. [Each layer is supposed to be wet, so the finished bed is moist and ready to compost. After we were so good about wetting down the cardboard, we forgot to water the other layers. Oops. But it's ok, I'm sure there's some rainy days ahead.]
Mina wets the cardboard

Jai layers it [over morning glory still alive despite being covered by plastic for six months]

Over the cardboard, we added a layer of straw. [Just like with compost, you want to alternate "green" and "brown" layers.]

Then we added a layer of fresh cut grass [I broke out our mama-powered push mower today. I was going to do just a small patch, but that thing is kind of addicting. And I can see my arm muscles growing stronger by the minute!]

Next came soil, dug out from the foundation holes of our coming greenhouse...

Over the soil we layered some wood ash from the stove,  homemade fertilizer, more grass, composted sheep manure, and a final layer of straw.

Whew! I must say, it was a lot of work. Not exactly the easy peasy half hour the guy talks about in the video [notice he has like five people helping him, all over the ages of 16 months and 3 years]. It took us about an hour and a half for a small 3'x5' bed. But it was fun and Jai loved it. Hopefully it will turn into a beautiful bed with great soil structure, delicious onions, and no morning glories...

One of the great things about gardening is giving yourself over to Trust. Trusting in the process, trusting that the seed will sprout and produce delicious food, trusting that our layered garden bed will nourish our baby onions. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the work there is to do around here, sometimes I worry about getting everything done, and then I take a breath and fall back to Trust. I trust that there is a time and a place for everything, and I trust that my process will lead me where I need to go. I trust in my journey. [The journey is the destination.]

May you trust in your journey. May your gardens grow abundance.

Our little babes in their new bed

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