Raise Them Right!

The garden beds that is!

We spent February preparing our gardens for spring. The weather has finally been so nice to get outside and get your hands dirty!

We have added some new raised beds thanks to some old salvaged tires and broken feed trough my husband found and placed in the garden. Raised beds allow me to amend soil quickly for growing and contain crops that may spread like mint or asparagus. I also think they are cute! In total, we added four raised tractor tire beds and one old feed trough (that sprung a leak!) bed!

Both setups had to be slightly modified before use. For the tires, Bryon cut the top rim of the tire off so we could fill up with dirt/ soil and work it. Otherwise the lip of the tire would cover a good portion of opening and would limit growing capacity. In addition, I have short arms and I don’t want to reach that far! He had to use a 4″ grinder to make a hole in the top of the tire rim and then a sawzall to cut the rim off. The top we removed I will use later to go around the base of sapling for the soon-to-be peach & plum orchards. For the old trough, he used the 4″ grinder to simply cut out the bottom. We did counter sink the trough purely for aesthetic purposes!

Now to the down and dirty- filling all these up with soil! First, we placed cardboard in the bottom for worm food and some weed control. Next we need soil. You can’t just add dirt because it will get too hard and hold too much water. You can’t add straight potting mix because it’s too light and will drain too fast. I prefer miracle gro raised bed soil. I got burned two years ago with an off brand alternative so I haven’t really ventured out much with other options. I’ve been sticking to what I know works. Originally, I wanted to completely fill each one with bagged soil but that wasn’t feasible. I didn’t realize how much dirt was required for each tire until I did the math.

For all you math/ algebra students that ask “when am I going to use this in real life?”

The volume of a cylinder is pi (3.14) x radius (squared) x height.

One tire measured 4 ft diameter (2 ft radius) x 2 ft height so…..

3.14 x 4ft x 2ft = 25.1 cubic feet

As seen above each bag covers 1.5 cubic feet for $8.98. (25.1 / 1.5 = 16.7 bags for one tire x $8.98 per bag = $149.96)

Now I have 4 tires and one trough so we are talking about $800 dollars of dirt ! WOW! Nope!

Luckily, Bryon found us a cheaper option!

For $140 dollars he got a dump bed trailer load of half top soil and half turkey manure and mushroom compost mix! BAM! With some to spare!

So we layered the raised beds with a layer of topsoil then turkey manure/ mushroom compost then the last layer was of my raised bed garden mix. I used two bags of the miracle gro to each tire and the trough. Now filling them up was a little “tire-ing” but we got them all filled! Now for the fun stuff! Planting!!

We planted a few cool weather crops!

Side note: we never use up the plastic knives in the set so I repurpose them in the garden!

Lastly, we used old hay to mulch the top!

Now we just wait for stuff to grow! Can’t wait to eat and share all our goodies !!

Love the Soil You’re In

In life, people and plants often get transplanted. It can be an opportunity for them to flourish to grow and to be even more magnificent. There will always be some obstacles to overcome. One of those is the soil in which we put down our roots and our little seedlings.

I grew up in deep East Texas and still have a family home there. I now spend most of my time in the Northern Hill Country. The soil types and experiences are polar opposite. They each afford different opportunities and barriers to growing.

The eastern part of Texas is known as the East Texas Timberlands, according to the Texas Almanac, with soil that is acidic deep sandy loams with scattered clay pockets. It is easy to grow there and make deep roots but the hidden clay pockets can make it hard for you to navigate times. It is often not what it seems. You start digging with your shovel and it seems easy to remove the dirt, but then you hit a hard red clay loam that is harder than a rock. You dig and you dig but it will not budge. If you put your plant there the heavy clay will suffocate the root and it will die. Navigating the clay in life is the hardest part; none the less, it is absolutely possible. So many wonderful things near and dear to my heart have grown from Eastern Texas soil. I specifically love and miss my all grown and tall pine trees.

Sometimes, I just have to peak through the Pine Curtain to see how things are growing along or withering away. So, I am grateful to still be able to split my time between East Texas and the Northern Hill County.

Most of my time now (67% to be exact) is spent at Farnash Creek Ranch in the Northern Hill Country of Texas. We are in a soil type call the Grand Prairies according the the Texas Almanac. We are just south of the Western Cross Timbers and just north of Edwards Plateau. The soil is alkaline with shallow dark-gray clumpy loams over rocky limestone which means it is difficult to cultivate. Growing has been much more difficult to get started. It is hard to penetrate and we often have to get inventive with growing strategies. A mere shovel will not do the trick for our seedlings.

shovel

We have to do much more preparation for the soil. But we are learning when we prepare and work our soil for the roots we want to plant, they will flourish. We remove the rocks or obstacles for growing and the soil becomes a soft fluffy bed of growing gold. The rains will come again and attempt to harden our ground but we will keep working it back to downy again and again. Nevertheless, I have no doubt once people get their roots to take hold they are there to stay. For me, this is unlike the Piney Woods where over time heavy downpours, cutting down or logging, and the compacted slippery clay minds cause things to wash away. And honestly, sometimes things need to wash away from our gardens- it is Mother Nature’s way of keeping balance.

I’m learning to love my Grand Prairie’s soil and grow in it each day! I am finding gratitude in all things these days because life is too short and precious to waste time complaining over bad dirt! Dirt let life’s ups and downs soil your whole garden!

– C

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