Thursday, March 14, 2013
Gardening in 100% topsoil is such a treat. The last time I grew anything to eat was in rocky clay-filled ground with no real topsoil at all. Things grew still, but planting and managing the soil was backbreaking.
Years ago I was an apprentice in the Organic Farm & Garden program housed at UC Santa Cruz. The garden, located at the top of the hilly campus at Merrill College, was begun in the 1960s by Brit Alan Chadwick, who was almost single-handedly responsible for introducing the French Intensive Method of gardening to the world. By the time I was there, in 1990, the soil was so fine and workable that you could stick your arm in up to your elbow with no problem at all.
Chadwick had started with a sloping rocky field. Years of apprentices cleared off all the rocks, double dug the beds twice each year, added organic amendments constantly, and grew vegetables, flowers and cover crops rotationally. The yield of that garden was amazing, and it was a beautiful sight to behold as well. Rather like Eden.
My new redwood planter has soil almost like that, right from the get go. And very soon I'll be eating out of it. No more store-bought plastic tubs of mixed baby greens (that always go bad well before their sell-by date) for me.