What’s that old saying about good farmers growing food and great ones growing soil? Well, we make no claims to greatness here at Dirt to Dinner but we are trying to give the soil the great treatment it deserves. The space that now grows food started out as a lawn. If I had to guess, I would say that any original topsoil that remained from earlier days (the area was converted from farms to housing in the 50’s) was stripped off when the house was redone in 2000. We weren’t here yet, so we don’t really know. But the lawn and the adobe below seemed awful close together when we started digging it up.
In the spring of 2009, we removed large sections of the grass and added raised beds. In some places, we didn’t even remove the grass and the raised beds went right on top. Since then we have stopped watering the parts of the lawn that remained. The raised beds now all have well-tended and organically amended soil in them, but they are like tiny, well-provisioned rafts in a sea of wild, dry, mostly neglected ground.
Or, I should say, they were, until the generous folks at A-1 Tree Service arrived on Thursday with a very large truckload of chipped and shredded summer-pruned fruit tree trimmings. This is exactly what we needed to improve all the garden soil and connect the soil in the raised beds to a healthy, vibrant network of soil bacteria, underground critters and earthworms.
The chippings have fruit, green leaves, dry leaves and branches all mixed and shredded together, so they are already a combination of the ‘browns’ and ‘greens’ we need for composting. Spread in a layer about 10 inches thick, they will discourage the growth of grass and weeds, hold moisture in the soil around the beds, help moderate temperatures in the garden, and over time, they will break down into a rich layer of compost further encouraging the connections between all the beds and a healthy soil throughout the garden. In a year or two, when we want to add a new bed to the garden, underneath that compost layer will be rich soil just waiting for us to plant.
Dirt to Dinner is a project to help children and other community members get up close and personal with growing food. It wouldn’t be here without the volunteers and sponsors who make it possible to include so many in this nurturing activity. Thanks again to A-1 Tree Service, Bauer Lumber, Naturalyards, Victory Seeds and all of you who contribute time and energy to this project.
Special thanks to Oscar, from A-1 Tree Service for all his help moving the chippings into the garden!