Well hell, I put in a new bed yesterday I'm pretty excited about (even though its really just a pretty standard raised bed) and took lots and lots of pictures (including some photo proof for the 'sponginess evidence' thread which goes way past evidence into 'proof') anyway I guess I'll just describe the process and hope by some miracle to get some photos up soon.
The Lawn: I've been staring at this lawn for a while now its been totally undisturbed by mowers or anything for at least 5 years - and the previous 60 or so have its been pretty much untouched and until 6 years ago there was a giant golden chain tree providing shade and leaf litter. I am pretty sure this tree fixes nitrogen. It is in the pea family. For the last two years I have been breaking up twigs and spreading them liberally on the surface. The grass grows up around them, engulfs them in moist shady goodness and then dies back and covers them. For the last 8 or 9 months I have had geese mowing and fertilizing the lawn of me. Last year - capitulating to the neighbors irrational fears a huge 120 year old grand fir got felled across the yard leaving a depression in the soil and spearing a number of its branches deep into the ground. The tree came down in such a way to form a line almost perfectly on contour and exactly in the line of greatest sun exposure. Yesterday I broke out the pick axe, shovel, and sickle and went to work excavating the first of two beds I am putting in on this line.
The Dig: First I used the pick axe to cut a foot and a half wide by 7 seven foot patch of sod loose. Using my hands and the sickle I pulled this sod out and threw it on a tarp. All of the twigs I had scattered where absolutely crawling with bright white mycillium and the worm count was uncountable. Then I dug around and played with the topsoil - this is where I really wish I had those pics. I've played in a lot of soil. This is dark deep and so damn full of crumbly aggregates. Dank. I tried forming some ribbons with it and got about and inch and a half or so. Smooth feeling - kinda silty, slightly claylike, with some minor grit to it. Then I got to work with the pick axe. I ended up with a 1.5 x 7 foot trench about 20 inches deep. The topsoil is about 10 inches deep. The subsoil was quite varied. There was plenty of the reddish sand that makes up much of the bluffs around here as well as a light grey tan vein of pure clay. This is a geologically active area. Around 12 inches down there was a bright red layer mixed with black char - to my eyes this says forest fire in conifer land. I took some soil profile pictures. I was really excited to post them :/ . My trench complete, I went to work on the sod next to the trench. The topsoil was so beautiful I didn't want to disturb all of it so I used my sickle and I peeled back and rolled up the grass and top inch or so of soil to make the bed 3 feet wide. Half trenched. Half untrenched.
The Bed: I begin filling the trench with the sod - a mixture of grass, myciliated twigs, and topsoil. I put down about six inches worth, which brought me within a couple inches of where the top soil begins in my soil profile. Then I put down a bunch of bucked up Choke cherry, elderberry and the grand fir limbs which I had dug out while trenching (the outer quarter inch or so had been totally rotted - I have pictures of that too - I like looking at how things rot). I topped this with some very well rotted choke cherry (it turned to dark rich soil in my hands) and hemlock (same as I used for my other beds) On top of this I put a few inches of topsoil followed by a few inches of compost. I was now at level with the ground. I then mixed up the remaining soil (taking special care to crumble up and evenly distrubut the clay from the clay vein) and another 2 wheel barrows of compost at a ratio of approximately 2 parts dirt to 1 part compost to end up with a raised bed 3 feet wide, 7 feet wide, and 18 inches or so in height. Pretty basic shape, close as I could to 45 degree sloping sides with a flat top a bit more than 2 feet wide. I drug out my turkey tail logs and might use them as a border if it looks like its going to start sluffing, but as of now it looks to be holding shape by itself.
Anyway questions, comments and critics always appreciated. I wish I could get some photos up...
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