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Blogging about gardening in zone 4, marriage, our golden retriever and life in general.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mixing it up

I'm annoyed with myself for not doing a very good job documenting my gardening for the past 6 months; I think looking back at the "archives" would have taught me a lot. I fell off of that wagon for a couple of reasons, first and foremost being that my veggie garden sucked, big time, this year.

You might remember that last year my container gardening feel off because of when we moved and a pooly timed vacation. This year I had a 16 x 20' gardening plot with irrigation to utilize... and I still have only eaten one pepper off of the three plants I put into the ground.

I believe part of the reasons my plants failed in the ground this year was because of the ground I had to work with. Our lot is mostly very dense clay. Seriously; I could throw some wicked pots. Unfortunately, this clay seems to be best suited to Canadian thistles, sunflowers and not much else. My veggie plot couldn't retain enough moisture, didn't have the light fluffy dirt needed to allow carrots or onions to grow, and generally was lacking in neutrients.

I also believe that our drip line system didn't deliver the 1"/ week of water the veggies need in July, August and September to thrive. Next year I'll supplement the watering.

We spent about three hours yesterday preparing for more success next summer. On Friday a local nursery delivered two yards of compost and three cubic yards of peat moss. The compost adds neutrients and organic material, while the peat moss amends the clay soil to hold more water. We rented a roto-tiller and went to work.

After a pass or two with the tiller, it became obvious that I needed to shovel up the clay first so that Dusty could get into the rock-like surface effectively. So I went to work shoveling over chunks of clay, and Dusty followed up by trying to till it into smaller pieces. We kicked out some pretty large rocks!

We spread about half of the compost onto the clay, then added a layer of peat moss, and tilled it all together.

Rinse, and repeat, for about an hour. By the time we quit it was raining, and we'd gone through all the peat moss and about 2/3 of the compost. The other 1/3 we used to start a compost pile that we can add to all winter, then throw onto the garden in the spring and till in again.

I'm hopeful that this effort will increase create a yeild next summer while reducing the amount of water that runs off of the garden area.

*You'll note we pulled all the rocks out that terraced the garden plot. Clearly we couldn't till around them. But we're also contemplating how to put in permanent/ annual terracing next spring. We've got to think about frost heaves...

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