Friday, August 14, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 2

Last Friday during week one your job was to walk around your yard and just observe sun, shade and water. If you live in the Phoenix Metro area, I hope you walked through your property after the big thunderstorm Wednesday night to see where the water created puddles or washed way the soil. Water flow on the property is an important element in garden placement.

Now on to Week Two - this is the week you get dirty and do some physical work. If it has rained recently - lucky you. The soil will be that much easier to dig.

Prepare the soil. Remove all weeds and grass by old-fashioned weeding or an herbicide. If you use an herbicide, you will need to bio-remediate the area before you grow edibles in the garden (at least one full season.)

Dig the garden bed area. You can use a shovel or a rototiller. Break up the clumps of dirt into small pieces. The dirt should flow freely through your hands. There is an intense process used to do this called double–digging. It aerates the deep layers of soil and allows the roots of the plants to go deeper. For heavy clay soil it also improves the drainage as clay soil is very dense. Double-digging is the first step in creating the most productive garden bed possible.

1. Start your digging at one end of the bed and dig a trench the depth and width of the head of the shovel. (approx. 12" deep) Put that dirt in a wheelbarrow.
2. Use a pitch fork to loosen dirt in the bottom of the trench.
3. Dig a second, similar-size trench directly next to the first. Place that soil into the first trench you dug. Loosen the soil at the bottom of this second trench with the pitch fork as well.
4. Repeat this process until your entire garden bed is dug.
5. Put the dirt in the wheel barrel into the last hole.

Do not till the dirt at all when it is either bone-dry or very soggy/muddy. This will ruin the garden plot by destroying the soil structure. The soil should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Clods of the dirt should crumble in your fist, but it should not ooze-out or crumble into dust.

Use a garden rake to even out the garden bed. Place a border around the bed now if you choose. It will help to define the garden space and keep people and pets from roaming through the bed.

Now soak in a warm Epsom salt bath to relieve those achy muscles!

Only two more weeks to go - You could have a garden bed by Labor Day!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

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