Thursday, April 23, 2009

Raised Bed

Well, friends, I have been working my plot for several days now, and learning all I can about the environment we're dealing with, and it is not encouraging. Tonight my wife, Jennie, and I worked about 30 minutes to make a 10 ft x 4 ft raised bed. We dug down in a pathway and threw the dirt onto the bed. The idea is to get the plant root zone up away from the water table which right now is less than a foot below the surface. Most vegetables won't do very well with wet roots. They need water, but they also need good drainage. By piling the soil up into mounds, we can get better drainage. At 30 minutes per 40 sq ft, it will take us 138 hours to mound 1/4 acre, if we could work at the rate we worked this evening. That is more than 3 normal work-weeks of back-breaking work.

The soil that we're working with has been plowed once and gone over twice by Bruce King with his tractor-mounted rototiller. It is mostly 'bricks' of sod. It takes a lot of chopping to work it fine enough for most seeds to sprout in it. So figure on at least another 138 hours or a total of 276 man-hours of work to prepare 1/4 acre by hand before planting.

Now that is for garden-quality seedbeds. Most farmers are satisfied with a lot more coarse ground than that. I can plant corn in a furrow made in the existing tillage, but that corn will be planted within about 6 inches of the water table. Corn needs better drainage than that. So I am not encouraged about corn. I'll do it, but I won't have high expectations.

I suspect that one of the best crops for this area will be broccoli and the other brassicas (cabbage, kale, etc). They will have to be on raised beds to get good drainage. I plan to prepare lots of seedlings to be set out in July for fall and winter harvest.

1 comment:

  1. Have you thought of straw bale gardening. It works great for situations like yours. No need for all the double digging, and as the bales rot away they make their own raised beds.