When we moved into this house in October, I immediately had plans on where my garden was going to go. As winter has progressed I read more and more about different gardening methods I have come up with some grandiose plans. With our budget I find my self constantly telling my self “no, not this year, but soon.”
I think that is something people who write a lot of these garden books don’t take into account, the cost of gardening. It can get excessive fast! Don’t get me wrong, you will save money in the long run, but getting a garden bed properly started can get expensive.
So, my focus is getting this garden started for the least money out of pocket as I can.
I wrote about my annual garden plans here. The garden will be surrounding my back porch on three sides. My goal for this garden is to build up nice, healthy, nourishing soil for years to come. I also need to build up this soil on a budget.
My first step in building my garden beds was to lay cardboard across where the garden will go. There was an ornamental garden on the front side of the porch so I pulled out most of those plants, except for the rose bush which I didn’t have the heart to kill, and layed down card board. The card board will prevent any unwanted plants from sprouting up in the middle of my garden while retaining moisture and encouraging earthworms to enter the garden. The boxes were leftover from our move into the house but you can usually find used cardboard boxes for free on Craigslist or Freecycle or from friends and family. There are always extra boxes laying around somewhere.
After laying down the boxes I layered on a good heap of leaves from the trees in the front and back yard. This great nutritive matter is perfect to add bulk to the garden and organic matter to your soil feeding beneficial microorganisms like worms and fungi which break down the plant matter into food for your plants. Grass clippings or other green organic matter work great here. You can find leaves in peoples yards every fall. A lot of people even bag them up and leave them on the side of the house for trash pick up! You can just go, knock on their door, and ask to take the leaves home with you for your garden. You get free plant matter, and they get the leaves out of the yard! In the spring and summer you can get grass clippings the same way, but be sure they don’t spray chemicals on their grass or mow over animal feces. You don’t want that in your garden!
I then soaked the cardboard and leaves with lots of water very thoroughly so that they would not blow away and to help encourage decomposition of the cardboard. That may not be an issue where you live, but here in CO we get a lot of windy days.
So at this point I just started doing thin layers of dirt from the front garden bed that I dug up and kitchen scraps (veggie leavings that we didn’t eat, tea and herbal tonic leavings and egg shells mostly). The garden on the side has a foot and a half drop from the ground to the porch so the side garden got a lot more layers than the two in front.
On top of these layers I placed a nice thick layer of compost. Some of it is compost that I brought from my apartment compost bin last year, and some of it was purchased from the hardware store. This is the only money I spent on my garden soil.
When it is time to plant the seeds I know they will have a nice, nutrient rich base of plant matter to grow from. I know that not so great soil from the front yard will help create some nice, healthy, black garden soil by the end of this gardening season with the help of the plants, worms, and other life in the soil. I am very excited to see these beds in action.
How do you build your healthy garden soil?
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