Saturday, June 14, 2008

No-dig, raised vegetable beds. One of the reasons I was recently helping Paul, our pig-farming neighbour by driving a tractor is because it’s been unseasonably wet this spring and so the heavy clay soil around here has remained too sodden to work in preparation for sowing his maize (corn) as animal fodder. Other farmers that managed to get their seeds in the ground earlier, have watched some of their seedlings rot and will have to re-sow. Bearing in mind that we’re now well into June, as soon as the opportunity arose, it was all available hands on deck to try to get the seed into the ground.

I keep a record of our weather, with a simple rainguage and a maximum / minimum thermometer. We “should” have had 58 mm (2 1/4 ins) of rain in May; we actually had 139 mm (5 1/2 ins). Since January, we should have had an average of 323 mm (12 1/2 ins) whereas we actually got doused by 463 mm (over 18 ins); pass the snorkel, please.

Just a year ago, we created our raised bed vegetable garden. There were many reasons why we chose that form of laying out our vegetables but, as with most things in life, there are ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’. Joy Larkcom says that raised beds “offer a means of overcoming fundamental problems such as chronically bad drainage … [They] have good drainage and warm up quickly in spring. However, the sides are exposed to sun and wind and dry out rapidly–a factor to consider in areas of low rainfall”. (Grow Your Own Vegetables p. 23)

Luckily for us, the raised bed system has saved our vegetable production from being drowned, although on a few days, our potager resembled Venice. We hope that a heavy mulch will prevent drying out as we get into summer, and I’ve now piped in a tap, fed from our rainwater catchment system for any watering that we my need to do.

Can you think of Venice without having an instant Pavlovian desire for a conical ice-cream? For those who can’t, all together now:
“Just one Cornetto,
give it to me,
delicious ice-cream, of Italy,
vanilla and strawberry dream,
Give me Cornetto,
from Wall’s Ice Cream.

I couldn’t find the advert I wanted to illustrate my blog but I did find this funny video of someone’s dad giving it all, tenor-wise.


Rosie said...

we have good well drained soil for our veggies but the constant moisture in the air as well as the ground is going to get us rotting soon...Jimmy always rejoices when it rains because it fills up his rainwater reserve tanks but even he has his limits...will the sun ever shine again?

Anonymous said...

We have had close to double the normal monthly rainfall every month since March. That's almost 700 mm over just this spring.

I have raised beds, but the things growing elsewhere at ground level have not suffered too much in any case. My worms do a fantastic job at digging drainage networks, apparently. If only they could eat slugs too...