The other day a local farmer came and gave me a consult on the soil in my garden. As I feared, the red soil is of very poor quality, which is why no squash (not even zucchini!) grow after their initial burst of energy where they get their nutrients from the seed. Apparently lettuce can grow pretty much anywhere but squashes are “heavy feeders.”
I’ve been trying to remedy the problem by making my own compost. Here is the second batch we’ve made since moving here in January. It doesn’t look like much but you can tell the soil on the right is substantially darker in color than the original red soil on the left. Also, the composted soil on the right smells like good dirt.
So, what I decided to do was to create dedicated raised beds and then focus on improving the quality of soil within those beds. This approach meant that I had less surface area to cover with good soil and ensured that all of the improved soil would be dedicated to produce.
On part of this 5-acre property we live on is a little dump yard area. Being a good African I went and surveyed what we could scavenge from this dump to make our raised beds.
There were chipped and broken up cement blocks, as well as scrap metal siding and roofing.
One of the things I didn’t bring here but wish I had was a wheelbarrow! Poor Danny had to painstakingly walk the blocks and metal from the dump to the garden.
The beds came out beautifully. The back two on the left are made with scrap metal held in by sticks.
We made the beds around the existing crops so we’re going to wait to improve the soil in those beds when the crops are done. However, there were a couple of empty beds ready for soil improvement.
Now, where do we find improved soil? Along Leopard’s Hill road are a few ad-hoc piles of dirt. We stopped at the one that had the darkest soil and that also advertised on an old piece of plywood, “composted cow manure.” Turns out that the guy selling this soil was the gardener for the Swedish and Finnish embassy. He said we should mix one bag cow manure to two bags top soil. We bought as many as we could fit in our truck and he filled old cement bags with the dirt and manure.
I know all of you gardeners out there will rejoice in the dark soil. Isn’t it pretty?
Here’s one of the beds we prepped with the new soil mixture. We mixed together one bag of our compost, one bag of composted manure and two bags of top soil.
It still looks too red but compared to the existing bed below, it’s a huge improvement.
Little by little, we’re getting this place in great shape for the renters five years down the road who’ll have a beautiful healthy garden and orchard. 🙂