Tag Archives: double dig

What’s in our Dirt

16 Apr

Soil Test

We got the results back on our soil test this week. And, drum roll please, we’re in the clear!  At least as far as lead goes.  Actually, we’re in remarkably ok shape over all.  The bottom line is that I don’t need to worry about our soil leading to lead contamination for me and the baby.  Also, other than the leaf compost that Bolt has been adding in the double dig, we don’t need to add much to the soil this year to get a good crop going.  This is really a huge relief to me. So much so that, despite the virus that mostly kept me in bed, I managed to help out in the garden a little this weekend.  I planted a couple of Brandywine tomato plants that severely overgrew our seedling table.

Going in ahead of schedule on April 14th.

Going in ahead of schedule on April 14th.

Garlic plants on April 14th

Garlic plants on April 14th

The Brandywines have been funny this year. Several of our seeds didn’t germinate. And those that did grew like nuts. I’m not entirely sure I understand what’s going on there.  In any case, the big guys are planted.  There are a couple more that will go in on our regular schedule –  closer to the end of the month. I’m not too concerned that we’re going to get a frost or that the soil isn’t warm enough. We’re in a bit of a heat sink, being in the city. Also, now our garlic plants have a little across the garden path company and don’t look so lonely.

While I was moaning about my runny nose, Bolt was working hard on finishing prepping the garden beds. Minus the area that we were hoping to use which is actually a giant hunk of concrete (damn you ECP!), we’ve got about 177 (oops, 168) square feet of garden space this year that will roughly break down like this: Garden Plan

Matt double digging

With the end of the digging, we are actually able to start direct seeding some of the plants that were supposed to go in the ground last month (oops) and a few that are right on schedule:

  • Silverbeet Swiss Chard
  • Danvers Carrots
  • Arugula
  • Sweet Genovese Bail
  • Bouquet Dill
  • Blue Lake Bush Beans

Things are really starting to come together around here. Still a tremendous amount of work, but it is so great to see progress. When we bought this house, it was clear that the landscaping (as well as just about everything in doors too) had been left to its

Blueberry buds in our new rain garden

Blueberry buds in our new rain garden

own devices for several years.  I knew that going in, but it is still a bit overwhelming sometimes. However, looking out over our back yard, with all of the new dirt and buds and bees, it is a good shot in the arm for my confidence that we can really make this place our home.


The Dreaded Double Dig

9 Apr
Matt in his Hat

My husband is a rock star, or rather, a clay star.

We’ve been running a bit late on all our garden preparations this year. Most pressing at this point is that we need to dig out the new garden beds. Our beautiful little seedlings need to be planted in the next few weeks. In fact, our schedule means that we won’t get several of our cool season/long growing season plants in this spring (chard and parsnip for example). Last weekend Bolt rid the plots of all the sod, but this weekend marked the beginning of the real work. The dreaded double dig!

Double digging is a technique we first learned about in John Jeavon’s book “How to Grow More Vegetables.” It is a rather back-breaking ordeal in our clay-based soil here in DC, whereby the digger integrates compost (we used local Leaf Gro, since our own compost is not ready yet) two spade lengths down into the soil. According to the NYTimes, those across the pond call it ‘bastard trenching.‘  I don’t think that either of us are convinced that it is a winning strategy for production year after year, but it is critical for breaking up the clay to get our garden started.

So, I mentioned that Bolt is a total trooper, right? I am out of commission in the garden this spring and can’t help at all with this crazy work. In part, it is because we are still awaiting the results of our soil test. We had to send the soil sample out to the University of Massachusetts soil lab for analysis because it was critical for us, with me pregnant and Bug on the way, to understand the heavy metal composition of our soil – not every soil test will look for these.  No lead poisoning for us please.

The already dug bed is to the left, the bed to be dug in on the right.  Also, look at our garlic grow!

The already dug bed is to the left, the bed to be dug in on the right. Also, look at our garlic grow!

According to folks we talked to at the Rooting DC Conference this year, DC will soon have its very own soil testing lab to go with its increasingly active cooperative extension program, but we couldn’t wait for it to open for business.

In any case, after two days of slinging clay, Bolt is about half way done with the double dig. He should be very proud of his hard work.  The beds look beautifully raised and we’re well on our way to planting.

ECP update: Apparently the ECP has a little brother.  We’re calling this one the ECS, or the enigmatic concrete strip. This one, which runs through yet another one of our garden beds.  Sigh. Did I also mention that we have a strange crop circle forming in the front yard? Can’t wait to find out what’s underneath that one.