If you have read of our adventures for any amount of time, you know that gardening has been the bane of our existence! For fifteen (yes, fifteen) years, we have attempted to grow a garden in our red clay soil with (very) limited success. We amended our soil with organic material, brought in load after load of manure to enrich the poor clay soil. We tried raised beds, drip irrigation and potato towers. We planted fruit trees, berry bushes and cold crop vegetables. Some years I gave my gardening attempts everything I had, other years I merely threw a few seeds in the ground. To say that I was discouraged is more than an understatement.
Although I had little to no success with gardening, I kept reading, hoping to find some nugget of gardening wisdom that I could apply to my little piece of ground that would coax bounty from the soil.
During one trip to our local library, I stumbled up a permaculture book by Sepp Holzer and was immediately intrigued. He spoke of gardening and farming methods that were completely foreign to me but appeared to produce tremendous yields. After studying Mr. Holzer's books for a couple of years and adding other permaculture books, like Gaia's Garden, to my personal library, I slowly devised a gardening plan.
This spring, Sir Knight and I embarked on a new gardening adventure - Hugelkultur. Basically, we built raised garden beds using bulky organic material (trees, brush, bushes) as the base and coving it in our clay soil, with sod attached, and finished the beds off with good, rich soil. We began small, with one bed about 40 feet long and 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall. After we built the bed, we sowed white clover to act as a cover crop and to keep the soil in place until we could plant vegetables and berries.
|Tiny apples on an apple tree|
|Beginning to turn blue|
|Mounds of potatoes!|
|Potatoes looking healthy and happy|
|Lettuce, poking up amongst the clover|
|Our thick clover cover|
In addition to the raised bed, we put in a suntrap using culvert pieces. We used the same organic material, sod, soil method in the containers and planted tomatoes and peppers. The containers also seem to be thriving with fruit coming on the bushes and blossoms covering the tomato plants.
|Tomatoes making their start|
|We've been picking berries every morning!|
|One of the herb beds|
|Comfrey growing like crazy in front of "Little Shouse"|
Although we haven't made it through a full growing season, we are tentatively excited about our new gardens. In fact, we are planning another, larger Hugelkultur bed to be built this fall so that it will be ready to plant in the spring.
And so, our adventures in gardening continue - with the first measure of success in fifteen years. And they say gardening is easy.....