Saturday, April 26, 2008

making beds

The soil here is thick clay, it needs to be seriously amended before I can use it. So I don’t use it, I make raised beds instead, trusting that by the time the plant’s roots are long enough to touch clay the plant will be strong and healthy enough to penetrate and draw strength from this heavy stuff. The beds are based on the permaculture / hegelculture / bleedingly obvious method.
- First a loose layer of broken up sticks which help with drainage and provide a nice habitat for beneficial microbes,
- A layer of cardboard and paper to help encourage worms and provide food – also good here as we can’t recycle paper,
- A good thick layer of dead leaves for nutrients and to attract worms,
- A layer of toilet paper (in Costa Rica we don’t flush paper and it’s better here than in a landfill or burned, plus it’s good for composting, and it’s most certainly a renewable resource),
- Another layer of leaves – both dried and green cuttings and prunings,
- A top layer of kitchen compost mixed with new soil from rotting logs.
The whole thing is edged with rotting logs (the best), coconut husks or stones. I’m also playing with planting a pumpkin in each and training the vine around the outside of the bed – giving shade and later mulch, and of course food. Beds are always mulched with a layer of dead leaves (I have lots of dead leaves), but cardboard, paper, sawdust work just as well (pine and softwood sawdust will make your soil acidic). The mulch keeps in the moisture and provides nutrients as it breaks down. Here it also offers some protection from the dreaded leaf cutter ants. I think slugs too maybe. I’d like to add wood ash, but haven’t been able to keep wood dry enough to burn.