Lessons In Raised Beds
Living Green

Lessons In Raised Beds

Growing a successful organic garden is a little like searching for natural ways to cure mood swings: you know there are several options, but figuring out the best ones, and then the one that works for you, takes time. Once you find “the way”, though, you realize your time was a good investment.

I’ve been experimenting with my garden for several years. Some experiments have been great successes, others great flops. But now I’m in a groove that works for me.

One of my latest experiments is building lasagna garden beds. Simply put, you clear an area for a bed, then layer various compostable materials on top of each other. I built mine mainly with dried leaves and kitchen scraps. In one section, I dumped out all the soil in the 20-gallon pots where the cucumbers had grown last year, and buried produce scraps underneath.

I started these beds about a year ago. The other day, I cleared off the leaves that had not yet started rotting, or not much, in order to get ready for planting. I hoped that I would have at least six inches of new soil underneath.

Lessons In Raised Beds

The reason is that I live in north Texas, where the clay soil is so hard that homeowners have to water the foundations of their houses during the hot, dry summers lest they crack (and sometimes they do anyway). That means that in order to grow anything (except weeds and maybe some greens) you have to do an initial tilling of the soil to break it up and mix in several different amendments to create a garden-friendly soil.

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I didn’t want to do that. So I decided to try to build more soil on top of the clay. I knew six inches would be deep enough to start with, and that I could keep building it up from there.

Did it work? Yes and no. The two new beds are in the side yard. In the winter, half of the yard is in complete shade. The other half gets some sun. What I discovered a couple days ago was that the shaded bed had decomposed nicely. If you count the not-quite-but-almost decomposed leaf layer, I got my six inches.

The other bed had probably half the depth of partially rotted leaves that the shaded one did. A lot of sun plus a relatively dry winter equals a longer decomposition time.

Am I still planning on using the bed as-is? Absolutely. I trust nature to do her work. I may not get the best results, but I know stuff will grow.

Figure out the organic gardening method that works for you, and get growing!