I'm new to this site, which has kept me highly entertained for the past day. I'm also new to Whidbey Island, just northwest of Seattle, where the soil in the garden of my new house has me perplexed. It appears to be about a foot (or two feet where the beds are raised) of potting soil on top of a hard-packed white cement-like substance that can be broken up with nothing short of a pick-axe. The potting soil doesn't seem very fertile - the weeds growing in the raised beds are sparse, though sections of the garden are dense with quack grass. The locals call the white substance "clay", but it's nothing like the clay back home in Eugene.
I planted fava beans in the potting soil back in November, just days after planting the same seed in Eugene. The Eugene fava beans are growing fine, but the seeds here never came up. Shall I try again? I have quite a number left from last season's collection.
Yesterday we sheet-mulched on top of quack grass as the grass was too thick to easily penetrate with a spade. I've heard from a Eugene friend that sheet-mulching can actually assist quack grass in growing stronger, but it seems like I need to learn some things the hard way. Intuitively it seemed like a good way to create a garden bed along the sunniest fence line.
Any suggestions for working with this situation to improve fertility, depth and tilth?