Okay, we do a whole lot of talking about raised bed gardening here at Farmer D Organics. Sure, that’s because we sell them. But we sell them because we believe in them. Raised beds offer some unique benefits–the wood frames keep your soil from eroding, the soil heats up earlier in the spring and stays warmer later in the fall, the soil drains well after rains, and crops in raised beds can be protected from burrowing animals by attaching some chicken wire to the bottom. They are not, however, the only way to garden or the only way to use Farmer D Organics products.
Here are some other growing methods that can be combined with the basic raised bed garden or can be used without a wooden frame but still benefit from Farmer D Organics soil, compost, and fertilizer. Using a variety of methods is a particularly good way to engage middle school and high school students in real-life research in their school gardens.
1. No-till. There is a whole body of evidence that shows that the less you disturb the soil, as in “no till” gardening, the more you preserve the valuable microbial life happening below ground, and the more beneficial this is to your growing efforts. Topping off with rich compost and organic fertilizer each season are ways to feed this process, and growing cover crops at least once a year replaces nutrients and adds organic matter to your beds or rows. You can get the compost and seasonally-appropriate cover crop seeds you need at our store. If you don’t have nutrient-rich soil naturally in the place you want to grow, you can create a Farmer D Organics raised bed with our planting mix and then choose to practice the no-till method after that, knowing that you started with an incredibly fertile environment that, with the right care, will get better over time. Another fun way to create a no-till garden from scratch is to make a “lasagna garden” in the fall that decomposes all winter and is ready for spring planting. You simply start with cardboard on the ground in the area you want to turn into a garden, add a layer of compost (Farmer D Organics, of course) and then layer with browns (leaves, shredded newspaper), then greens (grass clippings, garden trimmings), then browns, then greens, and so on, until your pile is about two feet tall. This will break down and shrink a great deal over time, and will be crumbly and ready-for-planting, without any tilling, in a few months.
2. Double-dig. This method is particularly useful if you have compacted soil. It requires you to dig down about twelve inches and then dig another twelve inches. Put the first batch of soil in a wheelbarrow and then put each next batch in the space before it (this makes sense when you do it). You end up with a planting bed that is fluffy and loose so that plant roots can permeate deeply. This enables you to grow more in less space since the roots go down instead of out. Add Farmer D Organics compost and fertilizer to increase the fertility of the soil. You can do this with or without a raised bed frame, but using a raised bed frame would truly maximize the growing potential of each square foot and would be a great strategy for small-space gardening.
3. Hugelkultur. I’m just experimenting with this method now, but here’s the theory behind this German growing method–you bury large branches and cover with rich soil and compost, into which you plant. The wood retains water, thereby significantly reducing your watering needs, and it decomposes slowly over times, thereby continually fertilizing your garden. Sounds like a good idea to try in drought-prone Georgia, doesn’t it? Use Farmer D Organics planting mix and compost, available online and at our store (you can also find transplants and seeds at our store as well). Let us know how it goes–we’re very curious about this one!