Building Garden Beds

This is a great time of year to start your garden. Yes, the temperature is below freezing but winter provides us with a grand collection of materials to use to build our soil. After every wind storm more leaves get blown off trees, branches of conifers break off, and seaweed gets thrown up on the beach. If we have bought anything for the holidays we probably have cardboard boxes around and often newspapers are jammed full of sales flyers. Family feasts yield a bounty of veggie peels and ends. All this organic matter can go right into the garden to feed the soil for next year’s garden.

The layering of organic matter to build a garden bed is known as sheet mulching, or building a lasagna garden bed. There are five easy steps to building a lazy garden living garden bed.

1) Begin by simply chopping down whatever vegetation is in the bed at the moment. Let the pieces fall where they may on the bed.

2) Spread some compost. This compost doesn’t have to be fully finished compost at this time of year, it will continue to compost in the garden bed. Don’t worry about how much compost but a little is good and more is better.

3) Layer any organic matter you can find in layers. Try to alternate nitrogen high materials (“green” materials) like green weeds or kitchen waste with carbon rich (“brown” materials) like wood chips and shredded paper.

4) Water in a solution of compost extract, compost tea, organic liquid fertilizer, nettle, seaweed, or comfrey tea, or Effective Microrganisms.

5) Lay a sheet of wet cardboard down or six sheets of wet newspaper. This prevents light from lower layers, helping to eliminate weeds.

6) Spread at least three inches of good soil/compost mix on top of the cardboard.

7) Cover with mulch. Big leaf maple leaves or seaweed are good for this.

8) Let sit until spring and plant!

That’s all there is to it!

Giant Red Mustard. A very hardy green that will live through most winters on Vancouver Island when well mulched.

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