Over two weekends, Jordan and I, with some help from good people, prepared the ground to receive the beginnings of a garden. Remember, this is what it looked like before:
We started by raking all the leaves from the two corners of the yard and set them aside to put on the new soil. The two corners needed to be exposed to soil because we wanted to replant the grass we were digging up in the middle section in the corners since we’re not using the corners of the yard. In the picture below, you can see the soil in the (left) corner was a rich, dark color because the leaves had been left on it throughout the winter. I was sad because we weren’t planting there! BUT as soon as we started pulling up the grass we were exposed to more of the nutrient packed soil. You can’t see it here because we already placed some leaves on top but trust me, there were worms everywhere.
After getting a shovel full of dirt down my pants from Jordan carelessly tossing dirt aside as I was kneeling planting the grass, catching up with a friend of mine (coincidentally her name is Megan, too) through sweat streaked faces, and two hours later this is where we finished the first day. The corner in the right is all freshly planted grass, looks like it was there all along!
The next day we finished taking out the middle section and tilled up the soil and leaves. It is important to loosen up the soil about a foot down so your plants’ roots can grow down easier and in turn become stronger, “rooted” plants. This what we used to till the soil. It’s not technically a tiller, it’s a “mixer,” says Jordan’s dad. But it got the job done!
The following weekend we placed a border along the front of the garden to prevent grass from making its way into the garden uninvited. We did this with the old railroad ties Jordan’s parents had in the yard already. The pieces were pretty decomposed, but they’ll do for now. No sense in buying something new when you already have something good enough! Plus, I am planning on taking the wood I bought for my garden last year and using it as needed.
We then set out to find some wood chips to put on top of the soil to help it retain moisture, for nutrients from the wood chips, and to help prevent weed growth. So we called the all knowing wood chip dude: Drew (one of Jordan’s friends who has an odd obsession with wood chips. In reality he just knows all of the benefits of wood chips and is very enthusiastic about it but we like to joke here.) Good thing Jordan and I have friends who enjoy the outdoors and manual labor because not only did Drew tell us where we could find some (for FREE!) but he also joined us in loading them up and getting them on the garden.
We got the wood chips from a local tree service who sends the trees they cut down into a wood chipper. So if you’re looking for wood chips, calling a tree service wouldn’t be a bad idea because they have to do something with all the dead trees they cut down. As I mentioned in my previous post about urban gardening, one of the benefits is making relationships or connections with those around you to share resources just like we have gotten from friends and this local tree service.
Look at the difference in richness and retention of moisture between the wood chips on the right and the soil on the left. After a while, the top layer of your wood chips will get dry, but right underneath you’ll have a layer of damp wood chips decomposing and letting loose nutrients for your plants as well as providing a layer to protect the soil from drying out. This is nice because you won’t have to water your plants as much.
It was a great feeling getting this done because all that’s left is to plant and wait for all the fruit of your labor to come. Well, maybe not completely….but it’s nice to think that after a day of hard work.