Monday, March 23, 2009

Breaking New Ground

It was a wonderful thing to see First Lady Obama and some kids starting a vegetable garden at the White House. I can imagine her first garden journal entry…”Sure was fun starting the garden. Kids had fun. Need to get better gardening clothes… maybe some bib overalls and decent work boots. Also, sure wish I had access to this site last fall. I could have done something about that sod. Raking sod is no joke. That bald guy looking on and shaking his head got me wondering if that was the best way to go about preparing a new garden. I wonder why we didn’t start with raised beds. At least we sent off our soil test sample on January 2 and have our results back already. That Extension Service is a wonderful organization. I wonder if they have any ideas on this?"

The bald guy shaking his head was me and I was watching via newspaper pictures of the first lady doing battle with that sod. And I only hope someone told them about soil testing.

Personally, I’d have had the grounds keeper strip off that sod with a sod cutter and start the First White House Compost Heap with it. Maybe try a little lasagna-style prep (newspaper layers) on sod that will be planted later this year with warm season crops. I certainly would have lobbied for raised beds. Could have killed that sod right in place. When I toured the White House grounds some years ago I noted that the lawn was a well fertilized, tall fescue sod. It ain’t giving up without a fight. It was laughing at the rake. Oh well, I am sure Michelle is gagging on gardening advice by now.

I got to thinking about this right after I got a call asking me when the “first till” date was for Bucks County. You know, "when can I till the garden?" There is no “first till” date but what we talked about was waiting until the soil had dried enough that tillage would not make pottery out of the soil. Wet soil and tillage is a bad combination. Then we had the discussion about using a tiller on sod. Tough way to start. Reminded me of poor Ms Obama and that rake.

I have no doubt that the First Garden will be a success. Hard work will overcome novice mistakes…and teach many lessons. It will be an inspiration to many people and remind everyone involved what an interesting, rewarding and challenging thing it is to grow your own food.

Now on to the First Apiary…”Ms. Obama, I’d suggest three-pound package bees headed by Buckfast queens; ten frame, Longstreth hives with wax (not plastic) foundation. It’s a good idea to…”


QuirkyBaby said...

Hi Scott,

I'm Laura's friend, we've met at her pool at her old house. She just forwarded me your blog because my husband is bound and determined to till up the patch of lawn that we're converting to veggie gardens. He used to work on a farm during summers and is convinced this is the only way. I'm already committed to raised beds, but what should we do instead of tilling? Cut the sod and then just build our raised beds on top without tilling? Any advice (especially on why tilling is not a good idea to convince the hubby) would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks! Jane

Scott Guiser said...

Sorry to take so long to get back to you. Still figuring out the comments section of the blog.

OK .. tilling sod is a bad idea becasue the sod is a perennial grass and will not be killed by tilling. Stripping off the sod and turning it into compsot is great idea. If you wnat to leave the sod in place, (less back breaking) then cover with seveal layers of wet newspaper and cover this with soil. In several weeks the sod will have given up. You could make beds right on top of the sod, just be sure to get that newspaper layer down first.
If you are not averse to the wonders of chemistry, apply glyphosate (Roundup) and wait a week (in order for it to move in teh sod) then till (or not) . Either way the sod will be dead soon.
In any event, good luck.

PS in any event beds are a great idea. If you don't make beds and the site was tilled, you can stilluse the newspaper trick for transplanted stuff like tomatoes etc.