After waiting 3.5 years for a community garden plot at Oceanview Farms, we finally got one June 2012. The plot was located near a large eucalyptus tree that shaded the plot for a good portion of the day and made growing full-sun vegetables difficult. Everything grew at a slow pace and took much longer than usual to ripen. The only plants that grew well were lettuce and arugula, but it allowed us to get in to the garden and familiarize ourselves with how everything worked and make new garden friends. We always had the intention of trading plots later, so we kept an eye out for garden plots that were located in full-sun and abandoned. Lucky for us, the plot next to our friend’s plot wasn’t being used and after some investigation, we found out that the gentleman that owned the plot was planning on giving it up at the end of 2012. So we put in a request to trade plots and as of January 2013, became the new owners of a plot in full-sun next to the green house and close to the compost bins. But with the excitement of a new garden came lots of work to get it ready for planting. Weeds had to be removed, walls had to be rebuilt, the ground had to be leveled and the soil needed to be amended.
First we removed everything in the garden, saving the plants we wanted so they could be replanted later on and throwing away the weeds and trash.
Then we set about rebuilding the walls so we could make the garden level. This required us to first dig behind the old walls to remove them and then getting the trench to the proper depth and level before starting on the new walls. Since Oceanview farms is situated on a slope, we had to build up the front wall of the garden in order to make it flat. We built the walls using 2x8s of various lengths to try and minimize the amount of scrap lumber (mostly 2x8x8s with a few 2x8x12s). The 2x8s were held in place by 2x4s that we cut and dug in to the ground as posts. All of cutting was done with a handsaw and everything is held together with exterior screws in pre-drilled pilot holes. After three Saturdays of hard work, the walls were done and the garden was all level. Time for soil amendments.
Since the garden soil is fairly sandy, we added 1-2 inches of compost over then entire plot to help it retain water. Then we added a light layer of shredded horse bedding and mixed everything in. Finally we covered the entire plot in 2-3 inches of shredded horse bedding to act as a mulch and gave the entire plot a deep watering. The shredded horse bedding helps keep the soil moist which helps make the soil “alive” with micro-organisms. It also provides food and shelter for soil amending critters like earthworms.
To make the garden paths, we used old lumber from the community scrap pile. The wood makes it easy to see where it is safe to step and it also helps to spread the weight out so the soil doesn’t become compacted while you are working in the garden. After deciding on a layout that would maximize garden space, we cut the pieces of old lumber to the proper size and made our garden paths. We were finally ready to plant.