Saturday, 28 February 2009
Raised beds and Chicken Tractors
I've just been reading about 'no dig' on the Scilly Organics blog and as I've been out on the land today I got to thinking. I have tried no dig systems before and was disappointed. The soil became compact and the living part became shallower due to the lack of oxygen I guess. However I did not use a strict bed growing system then.For a few years now I have been using a system of (more or less) raised beds. When I say raised, maybe humped is a more apt term. The important point is that I NEVER put any pressure on the soil, not foot or even hand to lean over if I can help it (they are only four feet wide). It has become a bit of a 'thing' for me, but it has worked. I now find that having removed the last leeks yesterday a quick rake over today and I have a seed bed and sowed my first organic seeds.
The soil condition is fantastic, but it has taken about three years to come to that state. Interestingly that was the time which Rosa Dalziel O'Brian, who wrote 'Intensive Gardening' about 50 years ago, said it would take and she insisted that you should not walk on the land!
So why was I thinking about soil compaction and no dig? Well my lovely seed bed and my new raised beds, real raised beds, not just areas that I don't walk on. These new beds are where I grew potatoes last year so the soil is quite clean and open and as the weather has been fine I gave them a quick once over with the hand cultivator. Disappointment! The soil was nowhere near as friable (I think that's the word I'm looking for) as the older bed. So I'll just have to wait a couple of years, with the addition of compost of course.
But there may be a shortcut, I don't know......yet. After using the cultivator to work over the soil my two chickens arrived to look for lunch. After only a few minutes scrathhing around they had produced a wonderfully fine tilth, here and there! Maybe, if they were confined on the bed for a day or two the scratched patches would join up? And so we've invented that device so loved by Permaculturists, The Chicken Tractor.
You may well ask how I reconcile all this talk of not walking on the land with my raving about old Ferguson tractors. Well I'll come to that next time, maybe. Or it may be about apple grafting, it's such a busy and exciting time of the year, who knows.