Soil Preparation

Ahh, the beautiful grey soil I have. How deprived of nutrients it is, and full of building rubble. Aren’t I the luckiest girl alive! Well I feel it because it’s my own, but boy oh boy am I excited to have some bugs.

Just after we signed all our contracts, my Ma had to quarantine her horses in small paddocks. This means she was blessed with the task of emptying the paddocks each day of poo, something I don’t thing she’d gladly do ever again. The pile of beautiful poo grew and grew, and over eight months it composted and filled with worms and earwigs and centipedes. So she bagged it up for me and handed it over. This put me so far ahead! The poo, along with a bale of hay and bags of loam clay soil Ma kindly donated meant I could really set my plants up in good soil.

I started with the raised beds that Pa so kindly built for me. A layer of poo, a layer of hay for the worms to eat, a layer of soil, a layer of sand. Mix it around with a garden fork, soak it and start again. It took me a while, especially as I was on my own and had no ide what I was doing. If you can do something similar you will be way ahead – trying to make the soil that you’ve built on hold water and nutrients is nearly impossible. If you can’t source it for free, buy a scoop of compost or light vegie mix and a scoop of top soil or loam. Keep an eye out with the soil places, most of them have a weekday where they offer cheap if not free soil delivery. Save your dollars for the plants! Better still, make your own compost in the months before..

I considered the idea of making my own wicker beds, but this wasn’t suitable as I was mixing so many plants which would have different roots and therefore needs – I have a dwarf lime and plan to have a dwarf peach, which certainly grow much deeper than carrots and zucchinis. With my three round beds, which I intended to have shallow rooted plants – veggies and flowers- I  filled nearly halfway with just sand, then laid out plastic bags across it. I pierced these and then filled with poo and veggie mix that we picked up from Earth and Stone in Baldivis. This meant that the beds would retain moisture a bit better – a semi wicker set up I suppose. I do wish I had put a bit more poo in these as there isn’t too many worms unfortunately.

I also read a lot about hugelkultur – I don’t have a huge access way down the side of our house, here our houses touch the neighbours at the front, so didn’t like the idea of having to add a lot of soil to the beds long term. I will have to a little, but nothing more than compost and mulch I hope. This is why I did add the hay in my layers, to ensure there is plenty for the worms to each and feed my plants in the long run.

I read a fantastic book my Ma owns about no dig gardening, one she picked up way back when. It’s by a lady called Esther Dean, and really explained a lot about why you don’t want to dig around in the soil too much. While her book talked about using a thick layer of straw for vegetables and fruit to thrive, she also talked about setting soil up so it doesn’t need to be disturbed long term. I really hope my plan worked and will turn out to be fantastic soil in the next few years, especially if I only disturb the top layer occasionally to plant.

For the grassed area, we ended up filling the trailer with two scoops of veggie mix to one scoop of topsoil and mixing this up. We put it about 10cm thick where the grass would go. I wish I had also used some slow release fertiliser underneath, a Yates representative had recommended this to me. If you can make it 15cm under the lawn that will be even better, but do as best you can. Try not to tamp it down too much so its lovely and loose for the roots to grow in to.

I got lucky with how cheap I filled my beds, but if you have the money I would really recommend investing in good soil. Plant from seed if you have to so you can save money because it will be a hell of a job to empty your gardens and fill with the good stuff down the track. Check on gumtree or the like, someone might be selling manure or selling hay. It’ll put you ahead I promise.