Digging in.

A month later, the garden renovation is almost complete. Sixteen raised beds have been built, placed and (mostly) planted. The pathways are covered in chip and seeds are sprouting. Everything looks tidy and fresh.

Very heavy rain in April slowed down progress and made soil-moving miserable. I don’t usually dig the beds – it isn’t necessary – but this year, re-positioning beds meant moving large quantities of soil. I have no doubt that the garden renovation will have long-term benefits, but it was pretty disappointing to mess up the existing structure I’d worked so hard to develop.

No-dig is gaining popularity, as research continues to demonstrate its advantages. Charles Dowding in the U.K. is a leading proponent of no-dig, and he has me convinced. Digging your vegetable beds can destroy your previous year’s work of improving your soil. Soil structure and the miccoryhzae can be compromised, not to mention annoying all your worms. I don’t like digging, but like a lot of garden-related chores I will do it if it’s necessary. So, my digging is usually limited to rock removal, extracting unwelcome deep-rooted weeds, and planting big things like trees. I hope everything settles down, the worms and miccoryhzae recolonize, and we get back to the business of growing good soil.

The rain and lowish temperatures slowed down germination of some things, but the recent improvement in the weather brings hope. Most beans hate cold, wet soil and they had to be resown. The calendula seeds have discovered it’s spring, and are sprouting by the hundreds. One of our dogs (I won’t name him, but our other dog is female) kept running through newly planted beds and digging up seedlings so he could bury sticks. One bed is now labeled “beetabagabeans” because the beet, rutabaga and bush bean seeds have been thoroughly mixed together by his trampling feet. Frustrating to have your work messed up. More wire, stakes and hoops will hopefully protect my crops from further attacks.

Recent dinners have included asparagus, rhubarb, sprouting broccoli and kale shoots. A vase of fresh herbs and edible flowers is in the kitchen. Some baby salad greens are ready for harvest, and there are blossoms on the apple and pear trees. It is worth all the work to have this bounty of fresh, healthy food. Grow something. It is good for your body and soul.