June 21, 2015

Best Type of Vegetable Garden Bed? No Dig, Lasagna or Hugel

This year I have planted vegetables in three different types of garden beds.  Two gardens are new to my homestead.  Even though we're only a month into the growing season there is a definite difference between the gardens in terms of plant growth and plant healthiness.

First Garden Method: Rototill then no till

My first garden bed I made last year, so this is it's second season.  This bed performed very well for me last year.

Construction/Maintenance

To make the garden we rented a rototiller and tilled up a big rectangle of sod.  The location was chosen only because it was the only spot in the backyard that was flat, ie. not on the septic bed.  I had bought one of those little soil testing kits and ended up mixing in some bone meal.  We add a few bags of topsoil and bags of compost.  It took forever to clear out the clumps of sod.



The girls have  found there way into the garden.
This year, I've learnt a little more about sustainable gardening and I did no rototilling in order to not disturb the worm pathways and to save renting a rototiller.  I layed down some hay to make pathways to walk on and I spot weeded the whole garden.  I only dug into the soil where I planted seedlings.  I also built a twig fence around the garden but still haven't finished one side.

Results after 1 month of growing:

Plants in general are small, there was a fair bit of frost damage a few weeks ago, but bean seedlings are growing fast, the artichoke is huge, the potatoes look big and leafy. Some tiny critters nibbled my pea sprouts down to the ground and something loves my brocolli leaves.  I put up some foil plates that blow around in the wind and that seems to be keeping the critters away for now.


Second Garden: Lasagna style

Raised Bed with Cedar LogsI had to get creative on where to put more garden beds as I had no more flat land in the backyard.  So I put in a second garden in the front yard.

Construction/Maintenance
I really wanted to avoid rototilling, so I made this bed by laying down sheets of cardboard directly over top of the sod and about 3 square bales of hay over top, all spread out.

Then I scattered about three bags of premium topsoil.  I planted directly into the topsoil and hay.  Then I laid some cedar logs to edge the garden.

This garden was drying out quickly each day, so I mowed some lawn and put grass clippings in between the rows of sprouts.  That helped a lot with keeping the moisture level up.

Results after 1 month of growing:

All the seeds sprouted nicely in this garden. There is also less critter damage.  The brocolli is growing very nicely.  But in general the beets, kale, herbs and peppers seem quite small still.  I've recently done a lot of thinning of the beets, lettuce and kale, I'm hoping that will get them growing faster.

Third garden: Raised bed with wood fill

Hugel Garden Bed
The third garden, I made close to the septic tank.  Now wait, it's not bad because I made a raised garden and I lined the bottom with thick black plastic.

Construction/Maintenance 

I used cedar logs and four T bars to make the garden walls.  I first filled the garden with as much rotting wood as I could find, very old firewood, wood chips from rotting fallen trees.
I put in lots of old branches and I dumped in some soil I had in four planing barrels, grass clippings  and some compost from the chickens (that had overwintered) and a few bags of topsoil.  I didn't quite fill the garden but it was all the material I had.

One challenge with this garden was the chickens constantly hopping in.  So I put up all these short twigs all around and that stopped the chickens quite nicely.  But then a young chipmunk has moved in.  He's eaten every single strawberry and all our blueberries.

Results after 1 month of growing:

The tomatoes are huge!

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