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Backyard Garden Beds - a little spring cleaning

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We've been planting in our backyard garden now for a few years and this year I decided a major overhaul was needed. The first couple years of planting were great, but I noticed last year our garden wasn't quite as successful. (Past gardening updates found here, herehere and here) Some things thrived, but a lot didn't. Although I add fresh soil and compost each year to the garden, I hadn't completely emptied out all the soil from the boxes from year to year. So this year, this was the year I decided that would change. And boy, am I glad we started this project! 

Gunnar is taking an Urban Ecology major in school and he has been a huge help. He is excited this year to work side by side with me to get this garden thriving again. We spent parts of every day this long weekend working on one of the beds. We have three large planting areas and we decided to tackle them one at a time. 

We began shoveling all the dirt out of the box and as we got deeper and deeper we discovered roots everywhere from the ficus trees that line our fence. They were taking over the garden box and now it makes sense that they were probably sucking the nutrients from our plants and using it for themselves. We had lined the boxes with black tarp originally and the tarp was just covered in roots popping through the fabric everywhere. 

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Once all the dirt had been moved, and the roots were snipped and pulled as best we could(check out that huge root in the photo above!) we were left with a bare box, bare except for the gravel and rocks which is the bottommost layer. 

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Next  we laid cardboard down and around the sides of the box. We made sure to remove all the tape or packaging strips from the boxes first. I had read many places online that cardboard is an organic way of keeping weeds at bay, so I decided to try the cardboard this year and see if it would help with the root situation. There's a method of gardening called 'lasagna gardening' where you layer the box and it brings optimal nutrients to the plants. Cardboard was our base layer and then we followed with compost, leaves, manure (both organic steer and organic chicken manure we purchased from the gardening store), and will follow with top soil for the final layer before planting. We watered each layer after laying it and it looks so healthy and rich! 

 
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Next up is tackling that larger box in the background and doing the same to that one. I’m saving that for maybe next week or the following one. This mama needs a little break.