Raised beds

Raised beds are wonderful for growing in the backyard. Cultivation and weed control are easier, and soil quality is simpler to maintain.

Build a raised bed on top of clay soils. Planting in a bed raised six to eight inches (15-20 cm) eliminates the necessity of trying to dig in clay while providing the early warmth and good drainage clay lacks. Plants can be put into the ground two weeks to a month early and may even produce an early spring crop.

One friend plants on lop of the compost pile. He plants six, 12-inch-tall (30 cm) clones into three to four inches (8-10 cm) of good soil that

Dig big, deep planting holes and backfill with amended soil.
Place a board at the bottom of fast-draining soils to hold water longer.

Make raised beds up to S-feet (90 cm) tall. Layers of fresh plant debris below decompose and release heat as a by-product.

is on top of a two- to three-foot (60-90 cm) high compost heap. By the time the roots penetrate into the compost, it has cooled enough that the roots are safe from burning. He places a portable greenhouse over the plants. The compost keeps plants warm while the structure protects foliage. This works exceptionally well to coax a spring harvest

Another grower prepares a vegetable garden by dumping three cubic yards (90 cm1) of finished compost and manure with a dose of dolomite lime into a raised bed, then he roto-tills and plants. When the vegetables are growing well, he transplants hardened-off clones to blend in alongside vegetables.

Mutch

Mulch attracts and retains soil moisture and smothers weeds. Mulch is a layer of decomposing foliage, straw, grass clippings, weeds, etc, and/or paper, rocks, plastic, etc. laid around plants.

Native foliage is an excellent and convenient mulch. My favorite mulch is dry grass clippings, which are free. Fill your backpack with lightweight grass clippings before every trip to the patch. Always pile the mulch as high as you can (6-12H- inches (15-30H- cm), because it biode-grades over time.

Biodegradable plastic breaks down into frayed strips that flap In the wind after continued exposure to sunlight. Plan to use it one year only and remove it before it shreds into unsightly pieces of long plastic.

Rock or rock dust makes excellent mulch. Use rock mulches where they are readily available. They become hot to touch on sunny days, but they still protect the soil from evaporative moisture loss.

Newspaper or brown paper shopping bags make excellent mulch. Slightly wet paper is easier to work with and less likely to blow around. Inexpensive and readily available, newspaper layers should be at least six pages thick (preferably a dozen or more), before adding a soil or mulch covering to hold it in place.

Woven weed barriers or strips of scrap carpet let water drain but will not let the weeds grow through. Cover these barriers with rock or bark chips.

Cover the entire garden bed with black plastic and cut holes through which seedlings are planted. A soaker hose can be laid underneath the plastic to irrigate. Make sure to cut large enough holes so that plant stems do not touch the plastic. Black plastic gets very hot during the day but actually warms the soil very little. When a young, tender plant stem touches the hot, black plastic, it will literally cook at the soil line.

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Organic Gardeners Composting

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