Elliot explains the process he used to enrich our soil in our raised beds to begin the Fall Planting Process:
Prepping Sheet-Mulched, Raised-Beds for Fall Planting
Now that it is August and we can expect temperatures to begin to dip as fall creeps in, the TX Worm Ranch has been kicking it into gear to get fall beds ready for planting.
Fall planting and Fall crops give us a serious energy boost because it means its time to plan and create. We were thinking about how we’re going to maximize our growing space so that we can pump out delicious greens for our and your fall dinner plates.
Take a look at the video example and explanation (please excuse Heather’s poor camera work!):
The video is a brief explanation of some of the techniques employed in the creation of our new raised beds but, we also wanted to provide a written dissection of what it takes to build raised beds.
The planting space we were rehabilitating had seen a lot of use over the spring and summer so it was important to ensure that the garden would have proper drainage. We set about forking the soil with our spade fork, gently lifting sections to encourage water to move through the layers of soil rather than pool in one subsection or another. After using the fork we applied decomposing wood chips. This application serves two functions. It’s a coarse material that would allow water to move through it: but it is also well on its way in the composting process so we could count on the chips adding a boost of nutrients over time that would aid in the successful growth of our fall crops—and crops of seasons to come.
On top of the mulch we added topsoil that we had removed in order to fork and apply wood chips. This topsoil was good, healthy soil. It was already moist, an indication that it was rich in organic matter. It is exactly that composition that we are hoping to reinforce with our bed preparation. On top of the topsoil we added a mixture of leaf-mold compost and our TX Worm Ranch Castings: about 10lbs castings to 30lbs leaf compost per 10ft bed. This mixture was turned vigorously in a wheelbarrow and then applied generously on top of the soil.
With the compost in place, we turned on the hose and watered in the new beds. We all know it is hot and sunny in Texas, so the water rehydrated the soil and compost that had already begun to dry out. After a thorough soaking, we applied a generous amount of mulch. In this particular case, we reused some seedless straw that had been mulch in another bed, and applied it onto our new beds in a thickness of at least six inches. A quick note about mulch: it can be any brown organic matter you prefer (leaves, wood chips, etc.), they all have their pluses and minuses, but what we are after is a material that will compost in place, over time, that will also insulate the topsoil from the variables of the external world. Serious mulch will result in loose, organically dense topsoil that has no need for a till or plow.
There you have it, a simple explanation of how and why we use raised beds and sheet mulching at the TX Worm Ranch. These are techniques for the gardener who wants to work smarter, not harder. The way we garden, and the techniques we advocate, are not only sound approaches for today but can become integrated parts of a more sustainable garden, family, and community.
Elliot Seldner, TX Worm Ranch