New Garden Bed

Having filled up the raised garden beds I thought it was time to turn over some new, larger beds in the paddock behind the house. Luckily for us, it’s a funny shape that kind of sticks off another useful paddock so I’ve claimed it as garden and orchard space.

The first garden bed is made borrowing a technique from “Gardening When it Counts”, my new favourite gardening book. The theory goes, you use the plants to do the hard work for you – in this case, potatoes, with a side helping of garlic and shallots (just because they all need to be planted).

Step one: get some of the horses to graze the paddock to within an inch of it’s life.

Step two: mow the future garden bed until it’s almost nothing but dirt. Another of my helpers/slaves is keen to help.

Step three: dig a trench a spade-length deep and a spade wide, leaving the turf on one side. I had planned to use a string line to get the trench straight, but the tyre track from the quad bike provided a perfectly good line to follow. This one ended up being 20m long.

Step four: fill the trench with some well-rotted manure. In this case the horses kindly provided some a few months back.

Step five: push the removed sod back into the trench, grass-side down. This had the added benefit (for the chickens) of exposing lots of worms.

Finish by hoeing the soil to a slightly finer tilth. You end up with about a foot of loose soil on top of a layer of well rotted manure. You plant in the top layer and the roots can utilise all the good stuff below as they grow down.

The potatoes were sent to me by Karen’s Dad (thanks Dave!) and they’ve been in a light, cool room for about 8 weeks sprouting. The garlic is from our local farmer’s market and the shallots are NZ grown, but from the supermarket. Some onions/garlic/shallots get sprayed with an anti-sprouting compound so hopefully these shallots will still sprout.

Finally, here are the helpers – Nick, Louise and Amy – our friends from down the road. We made short work of the planting as a team, and managed to fill the entire trench with just a few garlic cloves left over.

Total time spent: 2.5 hours over a few days. As the potatoes grow up, I’ll scrape up soil from beside the row to mound up the sprouts. By the time I’ve mounded a few times over the coming months, there will be a bed of loose soil and paths either side scraped back to clay. All the good soil will be in the beds and when we harvest the spuds, the soil gets another good loosening up. The potatoes send roots down for a metre or so, but all the new tubers grow above the original seed potato, so the looser the soil you mound up, the easier the spuds will have it. Once the potatoes have done the hard work, we can rotate crops and plant something else in the bed next year.


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