Tuesday, 3 May 2011
Two beds, two very different contents - despite the similar plants
The first is what's known as a hugelkultur bed, which sounds fancy, but is basically a bunch of wood scraps from the yard buried in soil - the theory being that wood takes around a year to break down, and replenishes the soil as it would in a more natural, forest environment.
The second is a proper mix of soil, peat moss, steer manure and compost.
Of course, I procrastinated writing this, so the plants don't look exactly like this now, but both boxes contain a zucchini, straight squash and lemon squash. Aside from the soil differences, the first box has green onions planted at the end and clover used as a ground cover crop (bonus: it should be enriching the soil with nitrogen), whereas the second box has a few extra varieties.
Despite the current huge size of the squash in box one (and impending fruit), I'm not sure I would recommend this course of action for using the top of a hugelkultur bed to anyone - the drainage is much less efficient and unlike the plants in the second box, the leaves have been wilting during the 80 degree days we're now getting in SoCal. I think after the growing season is through for these suckers, I'll put root vegetables in there through the winter to break up the soil a little better. What would have been ideal would be potatoes - but thanks to being in the same family, they'll have to wait.
What I would recommend however, is planting squash transplants in the very corner of raised beds - they benefit from the additional vertical support of the wood, and have plenty of space for their leaves to fall over the side. Squash have a tendency to lean a little under their own weight, so while piling the earth high is a good idea, finding as many ways as possible to keep them upright is a great idea. Next March I'll be direct sowing seed into corners of raised beds. This much I know.