Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lawns to food in 13 easy steps

This year Sweetie and I decided to expand our vegetable patch and get rid of more of our lawn at the same time. Much of our lawn is too shady to become a viable vegetable garden, but we marked out a 4' x 16' stretch on the west side of our front walkway. Here's the plot with half the sod removed:

Step 1: Remove the sod and put it aside to use later. With the right shovel (flat-edged and sharpened), this was not as hard as I expected it to be. Glad I didn't have to do the whole lawn, though, because it is tiring.

Step 2: Spread compost over the de-sodded bed.

Step 3: Remove a trench of soil one shovel-length deep and one shovel-length wide (approx. 1 sq. ft). Set aside:

Step 4: Use a forked spade or similar tool (ours is kind of like a pitchfork, but designed for soil) to turn and loosen the soil an additional foot deep:

Step 5: Dig a second trench of soil, moving this dirt onto the trench you just loosened. Then repeat steps 3 & 4 until the whole bed has been dug and loosened (this part took Sweetie and me about 3 hours; we took turns with the shovel and forked spade so as not to wear ourselves out)

Step 6: Fill the last trench with soil from the first trench (wipe brow, straighten aching back, feel great about finishing the most manual part of this labor).

Step 7: Sprinkle lime over the bed. Lime is used to balance the pH in soil. Portland soil tends toward the acidic, but of course it depends on where in the city you are.

Step 8: Remember all that sod we removed? Now we get to replace it, grass side down and roots up:

Step 9: Sheet-mulching. Also known as lasagna mulching, because you make layers of compost, organic material (yard debris), cardboard and straw. First a layer of cardboard, courtesy of Sweetie's bike shop, which is soaked with water:

Step 10: Add a layer of compost or composted manure. Water thoroughly:

Step 11: Add a layer of yard debris; we had lots of dead leaves hiding under our rhodies and in our hedge. This picture only shows about 1/3 of what we eventually piled on. Water thoroughly:

Step 12: Add a layer of straw. We went out to Linnton Feed & Seed, a nifty store on Hwy. 30 north of Portland, to get a bale of straw. A bale of straw, in case you weren't aware, (as I wasn't) is a LOT of straw, at least for gardening purposes, although I'm sure a horse could make short work of it. Water thoroughly:

Step 13: Stand back and enjoy what you've created. 

fyi: the bed on the far side of the path is our existing vegetable garden; we created permanent walking paths using extra cardboard and straw, so we don't walk on our vegetable beds and compact the soil:

When we dug our first bed, five years ago, we had no idea what we were doing. We made lots of mistakes but somehow managed to get quite a bit of food to grow that first summer. This year, armed with information (knowledge is power, after all, or so my 4th grade teacher told me), I'm excited to try new veggies and see how much food our little plots (221 sq. ft. total) can grow.


Anonymous said...

this looks great! - Abigail

Liz said...

Thanks! Can't wait to start feeding folks from it.