Eureka! Success with Fallowing, Raised Beds and Fall Gardening


Success with raised beds in the garden

If you haven’t tried fallowing your garden, using raised garden beds or planting a fall garden, I’m here to make an introduction and to sing their praises. After 15 years of gardening, it was a great joy to employ these methods which yielded numerous benefits. Mind you, these are not new techniques, they’re just new to me. If you’ve been contemplating these approaches, I’m here to cheer you on to go for it! They really work!

Life had other plans for me that prevented me from putting in my annual veggie garden the last two growing seasons, so I used that time to solarize my garden plot and let it fallow. Such old-fashioned methods of leaving the soil mulched, growing a cover crop for green manure or even covering it with plastic are believed to be more natural ways of improving the soil without the use of chemicals. Nutrients can be replenished and soil balance restored when production crops aren’t grown and harvested. Solarizing fallow ground also kills insect eggs and larvae, breaking pest life cycles. Though we introduced raised beds this year, we also reserved sections of the garden for direct-sowing in-ground. Yields were plentiful while bugs were minimal. Glory be!

Fallow garden

Poor soil has been an inherent part of gardening here in the clay of Mid-Missouri. Building the soil has taken time, strategy, ongoing effort and patience.  After years of discussion and contemplation, my boyfriend constructed twelve 3-by-5-by-18-foot raised beds, laying them out in three rows of four boxes separated by 3-foot paths in between. It was refreshing to have control over the soil composition in the beds. We dug out the 8 to 10 inches of “good soil” we’ve built that was about to be covered by pathways and shoveled it into the beds, thus creating sunken walkways around the boxes which were then filled with fast draining creek gravel bringing the top of the paths back to their original level.

No longer would the flash floods of spring and summer drown our plants; raised beds alleviate root rot as they provide improved drainage. The individual boxes make managing specific soil amendments easier, too. You can acidify, deep mulch, or fertilize each bed individually. We topped each box with a partial bag of commercial garden soil whereas next year we’ll incorporate the compost/chicken manure blend we started this year. Not only does my back thank me for not having to stoop as far to tend all the various aspects of the garden but I even found that elevated boxes seem to deter some crawling insects.

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