Monday, April 26, 2010

Spreading Manure in Town

Thanks to a couple good friends who encouraged me to update this blog space. Since the last blog update over a year ago (where does the time go?), much has happened. Most importantly, we don't live on the farm anymore that I had been writing about. We are back in suburbia again so that our son could attend the public school system. But that doesn't mean we can't still spread manure, both literally and figuratively. You might be able to take the girl out of the country, but can't take the country out of the girl. This spring we brought the tiller down to the backyard of our suburban home and created three raised beds so that my wife could bring her gardening touch to town. The raised bed configuration that worked so well up on the farm was re-created, but on a smaller scale, in our backyard. Instead of composted mule manure to raise the beds and enrich the soil, we opted for 60 bags of composted manure from Lowe's. 60 bags is still 1.2 tons, and that equates to a third of a ton of soil enrichment per bed. That is also a lot of lifting from the pallet to the garden. Here are some pictures that I took during the bed construction.

Back in the fall, I had a done a rough till to layout two beds, but today I wanted to raise those two as well as till and raise a third bed. Here are some of the tools that I used. One BCS walk behind tractor using the rototiller attachment, One Wheelbarrow, a shovel, a tire pump to pump up the wheelbarrow tire, and a pallet of manure.

Raising beds is a fairly simple process, it just takes a little work. The idea is to dig a trench in your bed, fill it with soil enrichment such as manure, and then dig the next trench right next to the last one and cover up the manure in the previous trench. Because more matter is being added to the soil, it only has one way to go and that is up. Here I have worked my way down the bed from the left end and have dug my next trench:

Then I place a bag of manure in the trench I just dug:

Rip open the bag with a sharp utility knife to expose the rich contents:

Carefully dump the bags contents into the trench and spread evenly along the bottom:

Dig the next trench right next to the one in which I just put the manure and use the dirt that I am digging up to fill the previous trench. Each trench is about a foot wide and each bed is about 5 feet wide, so each trench is 1 by 5 feet. The beds are about 20 feet long so about 60 trenches were dug in total.

This profile picture of the raised bed tries to show how much we were able to raise the bed from ground level by using this trench method.

Shiloh enjoyed watching the show while performing the noble task of guarding the pallet from manure looters.

Here is a shot looking down from deck showing the final product. I will till them again in early May to really mix up the composted manure with the existing soil. That final till will also make for finer soil particles in preparation for planting.