DH & I spent as much of the weekend as we possibly could installing cinder block raised beds for fruit trees. Six of the seven trees I ordered are planted now. We can both barely move and are trying to muster energy for positioning blocks and planting that last tree tonight. As you can see from these pictures, the trees are barely visible in the center of each cinder block square. Truly a triumph of faith over reality!
These trees are comfortably ensconced in that mythical garden environment: moist, rich, well-drained soil. The magical ingredient for this is of course compost. Reading most modern garden books, compost is good for whatever ails your garden. Soil too dry? Add compost! Too wet? Add compost! Too much clay? Add compost! Too sandy? Add compost! Children are failing in school? Add.. no wait..that doesn’t help.
Seriously, compost is an amazing all purpose soil amendment. I’ve been as generous as I can afford with it over my gardening career and NEVER regretted adding compost or wished I’d used less.
It was a marvelous addition to the hardpan clay front yard in my first garden when we renovated the lawn and ordered 10 cubic yards of “half horse,” that is compost that is a half and half mixture of composted leaves and composted horse manure. I still remember my four year older daughter gleefully informing a horrified peer, “You know what THAT is? It’s HORSE POOP!” Ten yards was a rather excessive amount, and I’ve promised DH never to buy more than 5 yards of anything.
That same hardpan clay got another dose of compost when I put in a large flower bed using sort of a lasagna gardening approach: Six to ten layers of newspaper (no colored ink) topped with six inches of compost. I moved away several years ago, but the bed is still going strong.
After checking out the book Lasagna Gardening from my local library, I’ve adapted a slower approach,letting mulch turn into compost over time. For existing beds, mulching once a year with shredded hardwood has made a significant difference in soil quality in just a couple of years. The “new” oval bed where the plum trees are located was lawn before spending Spring through Fall of 2009 covered with cardboard and six inches of mulch. I’m gradually adding shrubs and perennials over time, and topping off the mulch with a couple of new inches every year. So far the weed problems have been tiny to nonexistent.
Now we’re systematically working our way through five yards of Leafgro compost to amend raised beds for this year’s edible gardening extravaganza. In addition to the fruit trees, there are 50 strawberry plants, 8 blueberries, 13 raspberries and an assortment of ornamental plants from Burnt Ridge Nursery waiting to be planted. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of fruit in the coming years!