For gardening success, fixing bad dirt has to be a priority.
The middle of my front yard is a wasteland. I’ve planted multiple things out there and invariably they do poorly. The ground is compacted, the soil is deficient, and half the stuff I plant is clinging to life and praying for some kind soul to haul in some nutrient-rich matter.
This last weekend I called in my comrades Rick and Mart for a work day. Both of them are brilliant. Rick has amazing mathematical/programming/organizational/conceptual skills and the mind of a philosopher. He also owns a chipper, which makes him truly invaluable. Mart is an aquaponics guru, an inventor and the proprietor of a popular YouTube channel with lots of survival info on it.
|Rick and Mart take charge of the battlefield while I sit inside and drink lemonade.
To fix this patch of yard, I’d already been burying manure and compost in melon pits as well as planting nitrogen fixers. Unfortunately, even the nitrogen fixers haven’t done all that well, likely due to the compaction.
This new attempt will start repairing the soil from the top down. We chopped down huge clumps of Tithonia diversifolia and fed them through the shredder, along with everything else we could find, including oak limbs, moringa trees, cassava canes, Senna alata trunks and even some canna stems.
My goal is to cover a section of the yard to a depth of at least 6″. Even with a day’s worth of shredding, we still only have enough to cover perhaps a 10′ x 20′ area to that depth. The temptation to thin it out is there, but I’m resisting it. I’ve seen the effects of deep mulching with yard “waste.”
Next year, I must plant many, many, many more Tithonias. I’m very pleased with them.
In addition to the 6″ of fresh green nutrient-rich mulch, I’m also going to add some shredded tree mulch I’ve been keeping in reserve, plus I’m going to mix in some biochar and composted manure.
In another section, I plan to try a different tack: I’ll broadfork it up, then sow a cover crop mix that includes plenty of legumes.
I’ve never improved such a big chunk of ground – there’s a challenge here that goes beyond the many small beds and gardens I’ve improved.
Has anyone else taken a great big, really bad patch of dirt and made something amazing from it? Share your experience in the comments!