Filling the high raised bed.

Today worked out to be a longer day than planned. I had intended to do a Costco trip to the city tomorrow but decided that 1) I didn’t want to deal with weekend crowds and 2) Halloween is around the corner, and I didn’t want to deal with even bigger crowds because of it! So I headed into the city this morning. After this, we’ll need to go over what’s left that we need to pick up, then make one more trip – after Halloween!

Once that was done and everything was put away, I headed to the finished high raised bed, to start filling it, modified hügelkultur style.

While making the bed, I tried to put all the scrap bits of wood inside, so the first order of business was to spread those out more evenly. Then the short logs that had been used to frame this bed over the summer were added to the bottom. There weren’t a lot of those, but we have plenty of piles of wood to raid. I tried to put the bigger pieces on the bottom, then smaller pieces on top, using them to fill gaps as best I could. Then I started adding bark to fill gaps, too. Ideally, there would be no gaps, but with so many odd shaped pieces of wood, that wasn’t really an option.

Thankfully, we have lots of bark debris. This spot used to have a pile of logs between the two spruces. There is just one long one with a weirdly shaped end left. It needs to be cut up before we can use it.

The nice thing is, along with the partially decomposed bark, I was able to pick up quite a bit of spruce needles. Not enough to increase the acidity of our very alkaline soil, but every little bit helps!

I added a couple of wheelbarrow loads of bark into here, and even went around the bed to pick up little bits of wood and handfuls of sawdust to toss in. I wanted to fill the gaps as much as I possibly could.

Next, a few shovels full of soil was added. This is the soil that had been dug out of this bed before the high raised bed was built. Just a very thin layer was added to fill in the gaps a bit more, and give the breakdown of the wood a bit of a boost of soil microorganisms.

Next came a nice thick layer of corn stalks that we saved, just for this! If we did not have the corn stalks, this layer would have been straw, because straw takes longer to decompose than the other things that will be added.

Yes, we have straw, now!

This got delivered while I was working on the corn stalk layer.

I broke that baby open almost right away!

With the layers, I was alternating between “brown” and “green” layers. The corn stalks were a brown layer, so the next layer (after a bit more soil) was grass clippings, which are considered a “green” element.

I stole the grass clippings from the nearby garlic bed, replacing it with straw. I was concerned the grass clippings might smother the garlic. Later, we will replace the grass clipping mulch on the other two beds with straw as well.

But not today.

With each additional layer of soil, I added a bit more than the previous soil layer. The layers were still pretty thin, comparatively speaking, but I could already notice the weight of it was causing the looser layers below to settle and sink. If I had any, I would have been using compost or manure to layer instead of, or in addition to, the soil.

The next brown layer was leaves.

The final green layer got all the bitter lettuce and frozen chard that had been pulled from the other beds. The kitchen compost buckets got added as well, so there’s also things like egg shells and coffee grounds in there.

Now, it was time to add the rest of the soil. This job actually took the longest, because I frequently stopped to spread it out, pull out the roots and rocks, break up clumps, and make sure any worms that hitched a ride were gently and safely buried.

I stopped adding soil when I was getting too many crab grass rhizomes and rocks to make it worthwhile anymore, and the last of it got raked out evenly, as did the soil in the raised bed.

The very last layer was a mulch of wood chips. Thanks to my mother’s generosity in getting us the wood chipper, we had enough to add a couple of inches to the top.

I expect the contents to settle and sink over the next while. We’ll probably be down a few inches, by spring. Which is okay. We will continue to add more organic matter to build it up.

I must say, I am so thrilled with the height of this. It is SO much easier on the back to work at this height! I don’t even have a back injury. I’m just old. 😉 It might be a bit low for my husband, if he ever wanted to do a bit of gardening, but he would be able to reach while sitting in his walker just fine.

One down, five more to go!

Eventually. 😀

Temperatures are expected to continue to be mild over the next couple of weeks; a few degrees above freezing during the say, and just barely below freezing overnight. We’re expecting some rain tomorrow, then possible rain and snow over the next couple of days. Which means we can still continue preparing garden beds for next year. I might even be able to start cutting down more dead trees before things start getting too cold. It would be good to have the lengths pre-cut to build more beds, even if building them ended up waiting until next fall. Mind you, there’s nothing stopping us from adding more beds to the main garden area, other than possibly running out of material to layer with. My only hesitation is that we intend to expend our garden area into the outer yard, where there is better sun exposure, and those will all be high raised beds. Perhaps by the time we’re ready to build those, we’ll be able to use materials other than salvaged dead spruce trees!

Gosh, I’m having so much fun with all this!

The Re-Farmer

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