Garden Update - August 2013

posted Aug 10, 2013, 5:10 PM by James Roe
We've made a lot of progress since we started on the garden about May 1.    We continued making raised beds and now have a total of 8 which covers about the front half of the space available.  Instead of putting down the sawdust as we did on the first raised bed we switched to the grass and leaf compost available from the Sullivan Parks Department (more on the sawdust below).  We've had a wetter growing season usual (certainly wetter than 2012!) and the two practices of raising the beds and applying generous amounts of organic material have worked well.  The raised beds drain quickly and we can work them much sooner after a rain than before.  The added organic material has broken down into fine humous which holds soil moisture very well but has completely changed the nature of the heavily clay soil.  The soil is loose, friable and doesn't stick to one's shoes as the in other parts of the garden, especially between the raised beds.  We've been putting a variety of coarse organic materials in the aisles beside the raised beds to permit access when it is muddy.

The sawdust approach partially failed in that the sawdust, while quite old, had not "mellowed" and seemed to tie up all the nitrogen in the soil until the soil organisms finished it up.  Consequently, the potatoes and onions planted there did very poorly.   It was a success in that it modified the soil structure beautifully.  The soil organisms have finished their work on the sawdust and released the nitrogen back into the soil for use by other plantings and we have sown some pickling cucumbers as a fall crop.   (Editor's note:  In my home garden I applied some extra nitrogen (lawn fertilizer) shortly after tilling in the sawdust and it compensated well in my sweet corn crop.)

Many other crops including pole beans, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, various melons and squash were planted in the remaining raised beds and are doing well.  We've planted a few fall crops including the pickling cucumbers, turnips, and dill.  The photo below was taken on August 10, 2013.

Lessons learned and future plans:  Besides the lesson learned to apply extra nitrogen when using the old sawdust, we've decided the rows are much too long and inconvenient to access from either end without stepping on an intervening raised bed.  Accordingly, we will split the garden into two sections with a pathway running perpendicular to the beds and will construct an entrance through the existing flower bed, perhaps with an arch or gate of some sort to make it more attractive.  We will also rebuild the flower border on either side of the garden gate.  Towards the center of the space is where an old barn once existed that is overgrown now with brush and small trees.  It leaves two shorter segments on either side.  On the more northerly side we will construct raised beds for strawberries and, possibly, other berries or permanent crops.