Watch Michael in the video above, and then get your hands dirty in your own garden. If you have questions along the way ... ask them below!
Three Steps to Making a Garden Bed
Garden beds are amazing, magical things. They're where "dirt" gets transformed into "soil" and becomes a complex ecosystem that nurtures life from the microbial level all the way through to the vegetables we eat. When I get the beds ready at Round Pond, I go through three steps: evaluating what the beds need, gathering the appropriate amendments and then working those amendments into the soil.
The first thing I do is evaluate the soil to see what it needs. I do this by literally digging my hands into the soil and seeing what the texture is. You'll also want to test the pH of the soil to see if it's "sweet" (alkaline) or "sour" (acidic) and add any amendments you need to bring it to a neutral 7.0 pH. You can buy a pH tester at any hardware store ... but you can also train yourself to "smell" whether a soil is sweet or sour.
Once you've asked the soil what it needs, then you gather the right amendments to meet those needs. In our case, our soil was a bit compacted and sour from the winter rains, so I added what's called "gypsum" to loosen it up and oyster shell flour to raise the pH level to neutral. I also added a healthy amount of 1 year old aged compost (about 1 inch covering) to build up the soil microbes and organic matter.
The last step to preparing the bed is to incorporate the amendments and actually physically work the soil. I love using a tilthing fork, or even a five tine pitchfork to do this. These are classic tools that, when used correctly, work with you in an efficient, rhythmic and beautiful way to loosen and break up the soil so that roots systems can flourish. You're not looking to turn over the amendments into the soil as much as loosen the crust of the soil into cracks and crevices where the amendments can fall and nourish the soil down deep.
These three steps are part of the rhythm of the biointensive farming that we do at Round Pond. If you'd like to learn more about the method or about certain amendments, here are some good places to start: