Garden Quest #3 – Soil Amendment Experiments

The easy solution when building out vegetable (or ornamental) gardens is to get cubic yards upon yards of good soil delivered. Mushroom and animal manure-derived compost are both especially rich, loose hummus to work with. Even in bulk, however, the expense adds up.

I’ve been purchasing bagged soil for most of my garden expansions because it’s not terribly priced compared to small (less than 5 cu yard) bulk orders in my area and the plastic waste can be recycled. This year we’ll have some interesting experiments in yield.

Our one raised planting bed has 2-3 inches of topsoil and compost mix on top of tilled sod. I think we had a little bit of our homemade compost ready when I made that as well.

The second bed is mostly tilled sod, a little leftover potting mix, a heap of mostly decomposed compost, and unburned charcoal in fragments too small to burn:

IMAG0170

This shot is before I tilled it a second time.

Nothing has sprouted here yet, but we just planted it a few days ago, so it’s early. I know the soil is poor, but I put pumpkins (a long season crop) and basil (pretty hardy) here so I’m hoping for the best.

We’ve got some helpers in the soil, but not as many as I’d like:

IMAG0176

Two of my three goblins are absolutely fascinated by worms, and the third is hot and cold toward them, so I think I’m going to try and find a store within biking distance that sells worms and set up a worm bin or two. We’ll definitely get it set up before cold weather to compost more effectively during the winter (instead of setting the scraps outside to freeze right away) but I’d like to experiment with the benefits of “worm tea”.

Our remaining beds this year will be even poorer. The budget allows for maybe an inch of store-bought compost (not enough of our home blend yet), with homemade compost added over top for a boost later in the season. But each year the soil will get better as we continue composting and raise the soil level.

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