Our gardens have done wonderfully this growing season. One of the most important parts of any garden is the dirt. I wanted to highlight some of the different types of beds we have used across the county.
Early on, we decided to experiment with raised beds. Kentucky Rivers Industrial Hardware, located right on Stinking Creek, donated some rough untreated lumber for us to use as frames. Donnie worked hard on getting the boards squared up and ready to use. Most of our raised beds are different sizes. We wanted to use as much of the boards as we could so we matched up the mismatched boards and made as big frames as we could. We used decking screws to put the frame together. Most beds are around 9 to 12 feet long and 4 to 5 ½ feet wide.
We filled the beds with a variety of mixtures. Some beds were filled with sifted topsoil mixed with a mushroom compost. Some were filled partially with bagged dirt that was donated to the program. Some were filled with compost from a local farmer, and some had regular topsoil. It has been interesting seeing how the different mixtures have performed. We have put almost any and everything in raised beds with the exception of corn, regular potatoes, and beans.
Most have done well, especially the mixed ones. I would not recommend using only sifted topsoil without any added organic matter.
In the Barbourville Community Garden and the Dewitt Community Garden we experimented with shipping crates. We repurposed old shipping crates and filled them with fill material on the bottom (either mulch or rocks) and then filled them with different mixtures of soil. The shipping crates enhance the layouts of the garden and are a different kind of touch. They are also handicap accessible being right at waist level.
We used a few raised bed at some home gardens, although most participants had large, plowed plots. We also have large plowed plots at the community gardens. We realized the importance of dirt at the plot at Dewitt Elementary. In the small garden we found the dirt to be much different from one end of the garden to the other. Our beans and corn did not do well in the lower end of the garden which has orange tinted and rocky dirt, but our pumpkin patch did very well in the rich darker soil just a few yards away.
Now that we know what kind of mixtures of soil we have, we will have to pay special attention to soil samples next year. I would recommend raised beds for people who might want to just have a small plot or who would like to try more intensive square foot gardening. Crates or other kinds of boxes are also good to experiment with and plots plowed with a tractor or tiller allow room for bigger rows and more crops.