By Kaylie Edgar
Our garden has experienced quite a few changes since the ground was first established in 2006 as a student garden. From short raised beds to row planting to now our large raised beds, the garden has had the intention to maximize growth in a minimal space. However, these wonderful beds need to be filled with soil. As we learned from a visit from Steven Wynbrandt of Wynbrandt Farms and Biodynamics, a garden is more concentrated in growing good soil rather than growing great produce. That is, if your soil isn't good, neither is your production. What constitutes good soil as good soil we have learned comes down to a few factors namely it's ability to retain water, humus, and fineness of particles.
In Fall of 2013 our beds were coming back from a very productive previous Spring and our members were ready to tackle a new year of production. We began to realize that our soil seemed to have been counter productive to our goals. It was dry, lacked life, unable to absorb water, and contained large pieces of mulch or bark that made it difficult for seeds to germinate. After instructions given to us by Steven, we began to start a conditioning process in order to remove the large pieces and keep the fine particles of soil.
Here's what we did beginning in February of 2014...
We decided to combine the new soil in some of our beds with Wynbrandt Biodynamic Compost in order to provide extra plant food. We also mixed each bed with a Dr. Earth organic fertilizer for vegetables and fruits. The results of this efforts paid off by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Entering the new 2014-2015 school year we have found that the quality of the soil after this spring seasons seems to have recovered well. We continued to practice adding Wynbrandt Compost and Dr Earth Fertilizer. However, we discovered the weed barriers, even multiple layers, were not enough to keep tree roots out of some beds particularly near the trees. We have decided for now to remove as many roots as we can and brainstorm about other root preventing techniques later on.
On October 5th, 2014 we attempted to amend the L shape bed with Dr Earth and practice the "Sea of Greens" sowing technique using Wynbrandt's compost with buttercrunch and butterhead lettuce. This summer and beginning of fall has proven to be particular hot so we shaded these seeds with a sun barrier. Thus far our results are little scattered yet we expect to have a highly dense collection of lettuce later in November since butter lettuces have proven to flourish in the past.
We still have a lot to learn and research about making our soil transition through many different hands at the garden
Thanks to the support from community members like Steven Wynbrandt and funding from TGIF we have been able to learn a little more about how best to grow great soil!
Here's to another wonderful year of learning and collaborating!