I dig out where I want my path and set up any permanent structures first. This is my lazy way of building a raised bed.
Then it's off to the compost pile to get a wheelbarrow load or two per bed. We buy our compost by the trailer load from a local mulch and compost supply place. My compost piles are not producing enough compost fast enough. Maybe after my soil is better I can use all of my own homemade compost.
I spread an inch to three inches on the bed depending on how the bed has been producing.
Then it's off to the trailer to grab some straw. I hope 6 bales will be enough for all of the vegetable beds and maybe the back flower beds. If not I'll have to find some more. Alfalfa is grown in our area so I might experiment with it this year if I run out of straw.
Then I spread it on top of the compost. Some of my beds have already been planted so the job will take a little longer as I will have to position the straw around the plants. Below is a covering of hay which was sitting out all last summer and winter so that hopefully I will not have a problem with weed seeds.
Now why would I want to go through all this work? I'll list some of the benefits I noticed last year when I experimented in one section of my garden.
* The soil stays moist. I only had to water the tomatoes every 1-2 weeks. As long as I water deep enough the water will slowly move up the sandy soil as needed. I was amazed at how well this worked and the surface never developed a hard crust as the uncovered soil did.
* My tomatoes stayed cool enough to produce all summer even when the temp reached 100 and above. They never even withered.
* The soil looked like I had been building it for years by the fall.
* I used less water and spent less time watering.
* Weeding was easier. There were less weeds(almost none) and they came up with a gentle pull. I end up with grass seedlings everywhere but the tomato section only had a few clumps.
|This area took about 2 bales to complete. I have not covered the long strip of peas in the back yet.|
And now some pics from last year. The tomato bed
|I see three weeds in this photo|
A comparison of weeds on mulched and unmulched soil.
|Four weeds vs. uncountable weeds- mulch wins!|