Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How I've improved the soil in my backyard veggie beds

First of all I realize it has been a while between posts (I'm not dead in case you were wondering)

When I opened up my blog a few days ago I was shocked to see the last post was in 2016! Basically I got a bit blogged out and forgot / ignored it. I'm pretty sure that I've lost all the people who used to follow my blog and that is my fault but hopefully I can get things rolling again and put down some content regularly from here on. If you're an old follower who is reading this because of some kind of alert then please come back again. Anyway I'm alive and well plus I'm going to be starting my own garden design / maintenance business very soon now which is personally very exciting (see www.aggregata.com.au for a partially finished website).

Improving the soil in my backyard veggie patch

History of the site

We purchased our land in Macedon Victoria around 10 years ago and after a while I noticed a few strange things about the soil. The block we live on was one of the most barren in the street. Unlike the other blocks which had lots of trees and plants ours was rather bare with large patches of mixed species (weedy) lawn. Through digging in the backyard I found very little top soil compared to the front which had at least 15cm and more in some places. I'm wondering whether the top soil in the back yard was scalped by a bob cat at some stage.

Soil analysis

I learnt how to complete a basic soil analysis through one of my subjects at university and I discovered the following info about the soil in the backyard;

  • It had a PH level of 5 which is slightly acidic and possibly detrimental to plant growth for some species
  • Using the soil texture triangle I was surprised to find the soil was in fact classified as sandy clay loam (56.52% sand, 30.43% clay and 13.04% silt)

Ah Manutec my old friend. You are so much more accurate and reliable than the $5 Bunnings PH probe.

Is it 5.5 or 5? Hard to tell from the pic but it looked more like 5.

Soil improvement last year

I dug the beds last year in preparation for spring planting. I sprayed off the turf with organic herbicide and dug in some compost. Unfortunately I didn't attempt to rectify the PH. Plant growth was not great last season.

Bed #1 with last spring / summers pathetic left overs.

Bed #2 which I cleared out a few weeks back.

My raised bed. You can see the difference. So much growth. On a side note organic snail bait doesn't work. I caught the little buggers munching on my bok choy it a few nights ago. I'll have to try other methods as I don't really want to go back to using Baysol snail pellets.


After pulling the old veggies out I dug in roughly half a m2 of five ways soil mix then limed the
Although last years crop wasn't very good I was pleased to see the soil had improved structure wise. It felt nice and loose when digging it over and it had a nice amount of moisture. The soil definitely was less hard packed. I applied lime at the rate of 100g per m2 to try and change the PH back to a more neutral level. I'll do another PH test soon to see if it worked. I then watered the lime in and mulched over with old straw from my chicken coop that I removed a few weeks back. The plan for the beds are to plant out 1kg of garlic that is arriving in the mail soon.

There's nothing like the feeling (and smell) of driving a ute with one m2 of 5 ways mix on the back.

Look at that pristine bed all ready to go and not a weed in site. It won't stay that way for long :)

I always water down mulch. Don't know if it really helps it settle and become wind resistant but that's the idea.

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