So I have a nice garden in my front yard. We built wooden boxes for our raised beds, we bought three yards of fancy gardening soil and had it delivered, and we only buried wood in half of the beds. In the non-boxed planting areas, we carefully dug in compost and lime. I live in an affluent, urban neighborhood and we get compliments from the neighbors on our garden. In our first season last year we got lots of raspberries, pounds of cherry tomatoes, the usual excess of zucchini, and eight nice, big butternut squash. My housemate and I share the planning and work on this garden, and it cost us at least $500.
This is not the garden I want to talk about. I have a terraced back yard, two tiers, and the one farther away from the house is pretty useless. It has alley access, but the alley is so narrow that I can't get anyone to deliver gardening materials directly there. The sun isn't great, because our neighbors to the south are upslope and have their own yard completely fenced off, so there's a 10'+ wall to the south. On the other side of the alley to the east are huge bigleaf maple trees. My yard is separated from the north neighbor by two large spruce trees. And the terrace to the west is stabilized by a rock wall topped with a 6' hedge. On top of all this, we have very heavy clay soil that's a pain to dig and has roots from the spruce trees running through the whole thing.
But I want to grow stuff there. And I don't want to spend years growing cover crops first.
I had a big pile of composted manure left over from the front garden, which I carried by hand down the path to the back of the house ("around the block" is actually about five blocks long, we're missing streets because of the steepness of the hill). And I got a big pile of wood chips delivered for free from an arborist. This is something Paul says not to do. Persistent herbicides and all that. That's why this is the bad idea garden. I also got a bunch of conifer branches from my neighbor's arborist -- He dropped them in my lawn on his way to load them up and I told him to leave them. They're piled with some chunks of wood under one section of the woodchips.
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