Sense we have been here at the new place, I've been eyeballing prospective garden sites. The previous owners have planted a lot of trees- most appear to be between 2 to 4 years, and about half the 2 year looking ones might be dead. They also have an existing garden spot, but it is in what is going to be the second pasture, and they use roundup, etc. My garden is going to be organic, with heirloom seeds. I've been making a list of seed I'm going to buy from Baker Creek - I picked up their "The Whole Seed Catalog" from tractor supply last time I was in the store.
Other than being organic and non-gmo, the final thing important to me as far as the garden goes is soil. This property has a thin layer of soil, then about 3-4 inches of sand, then clay. By thin layer, I mean that if you scuff it with your toe, you see sand.
I've looked into several different ways to get a new garden bed going, and I've settled on the "Lasagna Method" for several reasons. I don't have a tiller, I don't have the money to go buy a tiller. I have a shovel, but I'm not young anymore and have very recently started looking for less manual labor intensive ways to do things. I already have a compost pile going, and we still have boxes and packing paper everywhere. I am surrounded by trees. I like the idea of not killing the microbes by turning the soil.
This morning after feeding the horses, I went over to where the partial shade garden beds will be, and measured out a 4 x 8 section. I dug through the pile of junk we pulled out of the current pasture and shelter areas and found some old pvc pieces to mark my corners. Then I went over to the workshop where my husband was building his workbench and pulled all the tape off several empty boxes, filled my wagon up with packing paper, flattened the boxes and set them on top.
Pulled all this over to the staked out bed, and put the boxes in place. Grabbed the hose and soaked it. Layer one complete.
Off to the compost pile. I added three wheelbarrows of composting manure and leaves and spread it all out. watered it down, added a bunch of packing paper, watered that down, three more wheelbarrows of manure, and a layer of heavier paper, watering everything.
Bed one done. No digging, no tilling, no picking out rocks... :)
I refilled the wagon with more paper and boxes, then moved the stakes to the next bed- left 4' between beds, I figure that is more than enough room to pull the wagon between, and mow if I need to.
My plan is to have 3 or 4 beds in that spot, 1 or 2 up a little ways from it in a bit more sun, then 4 more out front in full sun. Unless the little trees I think are dead are still alive, in which case the 4 out front might have a wee bit of shade early in the morning. I get about 1 1/2 wheelbarrows of fresh manure per day from the horses, and have gotten in the habit of scooping in a picker full of leaves for every pile I scoop. Based on the heat coming from the compost pile when I dug into it, I think that's a pretty good ratio.
I don't want to use up the entire compost pile, Id like it to finish composting, plus that gives me somewhere to throw the hay when the girls poop on it instead of eating it. So I figure I can build 1 new bed a week and still be able to add to the compost pile a little.
Sources I read about Lasagna-style no till gardening:
Oregon State University Extension Service
Mother Earth News
There were some others I read last night, these are the ones I read this morning.