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Old 03-17-2013, 10:53 AM   #6
Antares
Working the Gusset
 
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Jan, that looks lovely--and sounds yummy, too. Tell your husband he gets the "Atta Boy Award" for this one!!

We garden year round, if possible, and that's not easy in the midst of the drought here in Texas. We have three composting bins going at all times: two tumblers and one big open air composter (with wire mesh around it). Because we're so arid and also on water restrictions, it takes a while to get compost from all three, but when we do, we add it back into our garden, raised beds, keyhole garden, and potted plants.

The last couple of years, we've also started planting "green manure" crops late in the fall. This includes wheat, winter rye grass, Austrian winter peas, oats, vetch, and medic (clover). Several of these add nitrogen to the soil as they grow (the peas, medic, and vetch). They are tilled under in late winter/early spring as on-the-spot-compost (or we use them as a type of living mulch--something we need here cause we get "March" winds from about Feb. through May, and the plants need the protection).

We also add lots of things to the soil year round to help with fertility: dried molasses (which has the added bonus of running off fire ants), alfalfa meal, bone meal, rabbit manure, chopped up leaves and grass, dead fish, etc.

We've been gardening here for 5 1/2 years now, and before we bought the place, the same plot was gardened (with very little, if anything, added to the soil) for about 15 years, plus, before that it was a cotton field for decades. When we first moved here, the garden spot was dead! But we immediately began dumping truck loads of cow manure, hay, and leaves on it, and we grew a fairly decent garden the next spring.

So long story short is that you can make (and keep) your soil healthy (even in a raised bed), but you have to work at it year round.
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Jan in CA (03-17-2013)