One of the major challenges I’ll be dealing with is the abysmal soil quality in my local area. There is very little organic matter, so we’re left with a layer of fine sand over a layer of hard clay, mixed with assorted rocks. It’s excellent if you’re a rabbit or badger or fox, and it grows bunch grass and sagebrush pretty well, but it doesn’t grow much in the way of salad fixings for people.
It’s pretty, though, for those who like a long distance view with the weighty presence of mountains in the distance. (That’s me.) This photo was taken at about 6pm. If I’d taken it at 6am, it would have been white — we woke up to snow this morning.
If you can imagine what it would be like to move across something halfway between firm sod and dry beach sand, that will give you an idea of the texture involved. Where the grass is bunched up, it’s solid, but in between the bunches, it’s loose and fine and blows away. Since the wind blows most of the time here, there are many places where the soil has eroded so much between clumps that the grass seems to be standing on its root-tips, as if it is prepared to run away from peckish pronghorns.
The only real answer for this on a small scale is to make good soil from scratch, then keep it in a box, so it doesn’t blow into the midwest. Mr. Teaspoon, as promised, kindly picked up my dirt ingredients today. Since I plan a 4’x8′ bed, 8″ deep, I need 24 cubic feet of soil. My original plan was to use coir, vermiculite and and a couple of different kinds of compost. As mentioned yesterday, I could stick to the plan, or I could have a garden this year, so instead, I’m using 8 cubic feet of peat moss, 8 cubic feet of mushroom compost, and 8 cubic feet of a steer manure/compost blend. There are a couple of well-rotted bales of straw lying about the place, so I’ll likely mix in one or two of those to make up for some of the aeration and structure I had to sacrifice, and I’ll just have to water a bit more often to make up for not being able to get my hands on the moisture-retentive vermiculite this year.
8-1 cu.ft. bags mushroom compost @ 3.38 ea. for $27.04
8-1 cu.ft. bags steer manure/compost blend @ 1.47 ea. for $11.76
4-2.2 cu. ft. bags peat moss @ 9.11 ea. for $36.44
and sales tax of $4.51
added to the $16.07 in seeds and tarp yesterday makes the total expenses so far $95.82.
My original budget was $200, but I hoped to come in well under that. If Mr. Teaspoon makes it to the lumber yard tomorrow, I hope he’s able to find a good deal.