We aim to make this little part of earth whole again.
Our first raised bed was formed using the hugelkultur method. We dug a shallow pit, filled it with sticks and limbs, put the dirt back down - grass side down, then a nice dressing of compost was added to the top. It's not a classic textbook hugelkultur (usually larger mounds with logs), but it felt good. Basically, the wood decays underneath the mound of soil releasing nutrients and moisture to the plants growing in the bed. Viola! Drought resistant and nutrient dense planting bed.
Did I mention we have lots of weeds (I mean useful plants in the wrong place)? Cardboard is our friend and can be used for mulch. I lay down a layer or two of used boxes (pizza boxes, too!) and add compost to the top. Wait for a month or two, then plant! The cardboard has suppressed the grass and weeds, fed the earthworms and provided a nice planting spot. Extra points for recycling!
We planted 25 fruit trees last fall (2013). In the book The Holistic Orchard, the author, Michael Phillips suggests a "ramial wood chip mulch" around each tree. This wood mulch ring helps to build the "fungal duff zone" to ensure soil fertility. Whew! Whip out the cardboard and we're ready to mulch! Place the cardboard over the grass (if you have problem grass or weedy weeds, if not, just go straight to the mulch) around the fruit trees then spread rough wood chips on top. Looks nice and helps protect the tree. Shrooms like to grow in the wood chips, and the chips create habitat for spiders and beetles. Spiders and beetles are our friends.
Yogurt cups! I started this a couple of years ago after washing out a yogurt cup to recycle… I thought, "Wow, this number 5 plastic is really sturdy stuff. Huh. I could use them for plant pots!" I then set to recruit all my office mates to save the cups for me. This drove Steve mad a bit, as I had stacks of these cups sitting around everywhere in the house. After I got a good pile (about 200 or so) it was time to make them work. While the cups are stacked, I used a small drill bit to make drainage holes. You can go through about 6-8 at once depending on the bit used. To reuse for each season, I simply give them a quick diluted bleach (non-chorlinated) bath and drip dry… ready to go again! Fill with soil, dampen the soil and plant your seeds. The single serving size cups are wonderful to use for starting tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and just about anything else.