Ethan and I have been working on getting the garden that came with our house into a usable state. Not only was it completely overgrown with weeds and grass that is taller than me, it seems the soil is totally dead.
Between the two of us we have dug up three small beds, each about 4 feet by 20 feet. We haven’t gotten much of a harvest from them so far, only some tomatoes and spinach last year, and some more spinach, arugula and radishes this year. I say the soil is dead because it has terrible texture and barely holds moisture. I spent an hour or so digging an edge around one of the beds to keep the weeds down, trenching 25 – 30 feet, several inches deep the whole way. In that time, I did not encounter a single worm.
We’ve been working to amend the soil in hopes that we’ll get more out of the garden this fall and next year. So far we’ve amended one bed where we currently have tomatoes planted, but we only top-dressed the area because the tomatoes had already gone in the ground (oops). We added the rest of the compost to another bed where Ethan planted some brussels sprouts, and possibly something else… but the ducks ate them all.
I started another large compost pile mostly from duck bedding and kitchen scraps, plus weeds we’ve pulled from the tomato bed. Unlike all of our previous composting, I’m trying a hot compost method and acquired a compost thermometer. We’re about a week and a half, and two full turns in. So far so good. It will be a few more weeks before we know how well it worked.
We’re also trying ‘green manure’ to speed up the amendment process. Last weekend we planted buckwheat in the bed of failed brussels sprouts. It started sprouting yesterday and is coming up with a vengeance. I’m excited to till it under in a couple of months and get that soil ready to go for next spring.
I can only speculate about how the soil got in this condition. The only thing we can figure is that the previous gardeners just used lots of chemical fertilizers and never added any plant material or other amendments to the garden. It seems impossible that in just a few years of being left to the weeds that healthy soil would end up like this. It will take many years, but hopefully we’ll be able to get it back to a respectable condition.