The soil here is heavy clay, great for our building projects, not so great for gardens,
so there are various ways we have been experimenting with building our soil and creating garden beds. Today with the help of some volunteers, including our first traveling visitors(all the way from England and Ireland!), and our 9-year old neighbor (probably our biggest fan), we dug a couple of swales and built up two new garden beds in the back yard, using a method from Toby Hemenway's book Gaia's Garden. After using picks and shovels to break up the clay, we built up the following layers, wetting them thoroughly in the process:
1) nitrogen, in the form of grass clippings a volunteer kindly clipped from the most lush place in our yard where the grass grows tall; 2) a layer of cardboard to suppress any grass seeds/weeds from growing through; 3) another layer of nitrogen, this time in the form of local horse manure; 4) flakes of straw laid out to be about 3-4 inches thick though double that would have been great had we had more straw; and lastly 5) a few inches of finished compost, that if deep
enough, makes it possible to go
right ahead with planting while all the layers underneath decompose slowly overtime as roots and microorganisms make their way through. We are wondering how root crops like beets and
carrots will like this method.