When we first started this blog of all of our landscaping adventures back in 2016, one of my first posts was labeled “Building Beds For Dreams” and it was about our first growing space that we created. They were two beautiful raised beds that have been supplying us with delicious food for the last 6 years. We have loved these two raised beds, but we knew it was always going to be short-lived while we finished terracing the yards and creating our permanent garden beds. That time has officially come and although we will miss our first garden beds, we are so excited to start planting in our new garden and planning our permanent vegetable homes.
While Kurt was puttering in they yard the other day, he decided to see if the ground was thawed enough to start digging in the new walls on the tomato tower side of the yard. As luck would have it, all the mild weather we had been experiencing had already thawed quite a bit of the ground so he was able to make some good headway. This time last year the yard was still far to frozen to even start thinking about digging, so we are a little ahead of the game this year. Because he was able to do a bit of digging in the yard, once I was done work, we decided to start digging out some of the not-so-great soil from the new beds so that we could put down some nice, rich, topsoil that will be good for our growing plans.
We started with the bed just below the main path and managed to flatten it out and get a nice depth that we can backfill with the good growing soil. We used the soil that we were removing to help backfill the path as it still needs some filling along the bottom wall. I am not convinced that the soil we took out would be all that bad. In the first year that we had cleared out the backyard, we did an experiment to see how well veggies would grow in the yard soil, and all of the plants did really well….along with the thousands of weeds that we were also watering. Either way, we are now setup for nice layer of healthy, nutrient rich soil, with a good soil for growing underneath.
We were about to get started on the really large bottom bed, when we realized that it already had enough headspace to the top of the wall for a decent layer of topsoil. Since we had saved some time in not having to dig it out, we decided to check to see if the raised bed closest to that section of wall had thawed enough that we could transfer the soil over. Low and behold, it was essentially all thawed out with the exception of a patch about 1″ deep at the very bottom. So, we started moving all that soil over. Kurt ended up needing to relax for a bit and I took over. We didn’t want him to overdo digging again and hurting his back, and he had already moved a large amount of soil in the morning (I’ll get to that in the next blog post).
As we were digging, we didn’t see a lot of bug activity. It is still early in the season so it is not surprising. We did find a nice big beetle that had made a nice burrow under a piece of wood in the garden. As we got deeper, we started to find the abundance of worms that we always have in our garden bed. The odd thing, they were all tied up in knots. Of course, we had never thought of what happens to worms during the winter months, and now our interest was piqued. So we went to do a little research to learn more about what was going on in the garden.
According to our research, worms will do one of two things in the fall. They will either lay their eggs in safe cocoons, buried safe in the soil to weather the winter months, and then they let themselves freeze and die just under the dead foliage; or, they will burrow deep, coil up and cover themselves with a slime that will keep them from drying out over the winter and will hibernate in a sleep-like state called estivation. Once the soil temperatures are right, they will wake up and continue to enjoy the warmer weather and go on with their little lives. This is what we were finding, and unfortunately un-earthing. We were careful to take them over to the new bed and placed them safely under the soil. Once we were done transferring all of the soil and spreading it evenly in the new bed, we re-tarped the garden bed to keep the weeds & birds out, and keep the worms and soil warm. I think that the worms will be ok with the weather now warm. They likely would have awoken within the next week, we just made it happen a little earlier.
Although the last 1″ of soil was still frozen, we were able to pull up on the landscaping fabric to break it up and move it over to the new beds. We thought we might have to leave the last little bits to finish thawing out, but the landscaping fabric that we have been using is extremely durable and strong, so it didn’t tear as we lifted it and broke up the soil. Unfortunately, the second bed still had a lot of frozen soil. It must not get as much sun as the first one we emptied, so it will be a few more days before we can finish emptying that one. We did manage to get the full bottom wall bed filled and started filling the upper one as well. With the remaining soil from the bed, we should be able to transfer that to the upper wall bed and fill at least half of it, if not more.
It was also nice to see that nothing had managed to penetrate it and grow through. We have a really aggressive natural grass here that grows long roots and shoots up all over the place. It seems to be able to grow anywhere and gets between things. It is a determined species of grass and so we had thought it might have managed to get through, but it hadn’t. It had completely surrounded the outside of the fabric and had been growing between the wood and the fabric, but the fabric had been stronger and it hand’t had a chance to push through it. A nice relief considering we used it to do all of our rock beds, and we really didn’t want to move all that rock again to pull out the fabric due to that grass growing through. Now we know it will be good.
Once the old beds are emptied, we will start to deconstruct them so that we can work on filling all the dog holes and levelling the backyard for future developments. The dogs have unfortunately, done a number on the backyard over the winter. It looks awful, with lots of ankle-breaker holes. Now that we are out more often, they will have less opportunity to dig in the yard….which they know they are not supposed to do, but do anyways. If we can’t get them to stop, then we will be building a fence to block them from the garden and they will only be permitted down there when we are with them. I think we will be able to get them out of the habit. We usually do for the summer months, it just takes some time with us out there with them reminding them that it is unacceptable to be digging!