It’s been extremely warm these past two weeks here in “Zone 5”, so much so that several other gardeners are planting already. Definitely feels like the right time, but there’s still big chances of frost. Since we have an abundant supply of wood chips, they are going in between the beds every time I pass by a pile near our “transfer station” (this is where we bring our garbage and recyclables). The next thing to bring in is the manure, since we’ve still got two months before our “growing season” begins. There are some plants that will go out into protected areas, like spinach (which I’ve not had much success with yet), lettuce (also protected with rabbit proofing), and peas. An interesting post from 2011 from “One Straw Rob” shows me that wood chips – when properly used – will only benefit the soil. If I can find the other post I’d read last year, I’ll put it here too – it was about nitrogen depletion myths and facts, showing that the nitrogen depletion was only at the point of contact between the wood chips and the soil, roughly translating that wood chips on top of the soil only depleted the nitrogen within the first couple of millimeters of the soil, not it’s depth and breadth, as long as it was used as a top covering and not mixed liberally into the soil.
One other thing learned last year with the experiments is that soil that lays fallow doesn’t replenish itself – it still needs help. The box gardening bed proved this when a/b’d with a box of soil that was set up “Lasagna Gardening style”. As our neighbors have a lot of horses and the waste that has been piled over the winter is about to be spread out over their fields, I’ll be making a “stink run” shortly. Here’s a great resource for working with your garden (and your neighbors): “A Horse Owner’s Guide to Good Stewardship“.
I’m wondering if mixing spent horse bedding in with alfalfa pellets would make a good compost? I may have to plant some alfalfa just to add to the mix, but my intention after reading the Horse Owner’s Guide (link above) and the forum thread noted here will be to add “pre-rabbitized” alfalfa and epsom salts (since I have some) to the garden beds – laying it between the rows, and hoping the slugs find it unappealing.
One other thing to be thinking of is the span of the root system. As noted in “A Hidden World of Plant Roots“, the crops will be reaching out probably well beyond their beds, into and under the pathways as well.