Farmer Dave did a magnificent job over the winter with the BGG. By the time we got hold of it in the mid-spring, the soil in the plant beds was rich and ready. The straw covering them was thickly laid. And the soil itself had been properly handled the previous season. His spring preparation instructions to us were easy to understand. Overall, we didn't do anything special that a cursory Google search wouldn't have turned up, but I figured it would be worth sharing with you what we did.
First off we went over each of the planting beds and moved aside the covering straw to expose the soil underneath. I moved the straw in a way to make two panting rows on the main beds and one row on the thinner side beds. Already present were some annoying and surprisingly stubborn early season weeds which we either picked out and threw onto our waste* pile or pulled apart and pushed into the soil as a way to recycle their organic material. We did this for all the main garden beds, except for the corner pollinator boxes and central herb area, which I will write about in a later post.
For each of the main garden beds I was to sprinkle onto them a half-inch to inch layer of our very organic compost mix (2 to 4 cm) that would make our future plants happy. A lovely thought, yes, but making the compost mix was dirty work.
Land & Sea
To make our special mixture as per Farmer Dave's sagely advice, I began by filling halfway a 5-gallon bucket with compost made from horse manure that we got from a stable up in Bedford. Lucky for us Mary Liz, who is herself an avid horse rider, regularly visits the aforementioned stable and courteously brings us compost-a-plenty whenever we need it.
To this half bucket of horse-crap compost I added a handful of rock dust and about a liquid cup of a seaweed-kelp mixture that smelled like the hold of a fishing boat on a hot July afternoon and looked like a melted fudgesicle, but not in a good way. Using a (very) gloved hand, I mixed the concoction into a stew that most plants would kill to be planted in, and then spread it over a single bed. I repeated this for each bed to a point where the smell of the seaweed mixture became firmly entrenched in my nose hairs and stuck with me even after a very thorough shower using what I thought was an industrial-grade soap.
Once each bed got a compost covering, I went around with a garden fork and aerated the beds. I did this by repeatedly sinking the fork into the ground to a depth of four or five inches, then puling back toward me ever so slightly — about 3 or 4 degrees — to not so much break up the soil, but to loosen it a bit to allow the compost, air, and rain to permeate the ground. I left the rows uncovered and let them sit for a week before we put any plants into the ground.
There in short is what we did for our spring ground prep before we put any starter plants or seeds into the ground. In all, planting vegetable gardens is about managing a tiny ecosystem and thinking from the soil up. The more you take care of the dirt, the more your plants will take care of you in the form of yummy vegetables.