Improving vegetable garden soil

Last year was our first vegetable garden since we bought the place in September 2008. The garden was tilled for us but the soil had no improvements done to it other than some fish emulsion I used as fertilizer. We did fairly okay with growing vegetables but you could tell some things really needed better soil to grow well. We didn’t try to do anything with the soil that year as we were beyond busy working on different house projects at the time.

This garden year we are taking a multi-pronged approach to improve the fertility of our soil. First, we are using Steve Solomon’s “complete organic fertilizer” with each vegetable at his prescribed rates. The recipe for making it can be found here or in any of his recent books. Second, we are adding lime to raise the pH which increases available soil nutrition and reduces stress in some plants. Third, we are using permanent raised beds so we can focus improvements around the plants. And lastly, we are starting to add organic matter to the soil. Sunday found us going down to my parent’s place to pick up some horse manure for use in the garden.

Today I finally got my onion starts planted. Hopefully the starts will survive as I bought them 3 weeks ago. I’m kicking myself for buying them so early before I was ready to plant them. We are growing Big Daddy and Copra this year. After looking at what I planted, we realized that I should probably go pick up some more starts. Onions are a staple for us and it didn’t look like nearly enough. Besides, Lee dug up two new beds for me and I only filled one of them.

I am very excited about the Copra onion variety after talking to my sister-in-law. She says that she plants them every year and they last them about the whole year. She then pulled out one of her Copra onions (this was about a month ago) and it was the most perfect looking onion. It looked like she had just bought it, although it had been stored in a box for 6 months.

Tomorrow I will go out with my saved cardboard and some straw and lay down my new pathway. I am very interested in seeing if this technique will help with the weeds this summer.

Lee decided to use the chickens as little manure spreaders. He started dumping wheel barrows full of the horse manure in the new future row layouts. The hens go through it and scratch it out and then he will just hoe up the beds later. Since they spread the manure it’s one less job for Lee to do.

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6 Responses to Improving vegetable garden soil

  1. Lynn says:

    I was going to use cardboard & straw this year in the garden, too, to save on weed issues! Last year my weeds were out of control!!!

    …That’s neat how your utilizing your chickens as spreaders!

  2. Benita says:

    Now that’s making the chickens earn their keep! I love the idea of using the cardboard on the walk – also helps keep it from getting so muddy.

  3. robin says:

    We checked on the manure today and the chickens had spread it out into a thin layer. I think perhaps we could sheet compost the whole garden by just dumping out a set of evenly spaced piles!

  4. Leigh says:

    I have manure envy, *LOL. Nice to know that chickens are so useful around the place. Earning their keep!

  5. Dan of Henbogle says:

    Ah, chickens as cheap farm labor! There’s nuthin’ like a pile of manure full of tasty snacks! Believe or not, their eggs will taste better too!

  6. lee says:

    Leigh – It is nice to have a safe source of organic matter from my in-law’s horses. Horse manure doesn’t really smell even when it’s fresh, and I know they don’t use any chemicals on their property or give any drugs to their horses.

    Dan – I love your account name. Now I want to be “Lee of Folly”! Even if the weather was warmer, I don’t think we’d have much of a fly problem to worry about with this many chickens on the job.

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