La Rosa’s Garden - Replenish the Earth

By Frank La Rosa

There is only one way to grow delicious vegetable, and that is by beginning with excellent earth that you prepare yourself.

First, raising the level of the vegetable bed 12”-18” above the grade helps greatly in providing good earth and adequate depth for root growth. I used chunks of concrete taken from broken up drive ways and I mortared them together, finishing off the top edges level and smooth. This is permanent and blends in nicely with a natural looking garden. Even though this raised garden is only about 12’ by 12’, it supplies a varied supply of vegetables.

Another way to make a raised bed is with planks: 12” by 12” pressure treated Douglas fir or redwood. This also looks good. Stake the corners with 18” rebar and nail the ends together. Or, you can use appropriately size concrete blocks and stake them with rebar. Both methods are easy to get, the materials being available at Dixieline or Home Depot.

Now begin the process of creating the earth within the bed. I use the word “earth” because it carries, at least for me, a connotation of those hand-created, natural things like baked bed, that people respect, unless I am ordering topsoil, which can also be good.

Spade up the area inside the confines so that an integrative connection will be made between the substrate and the new earth that you “make.” This creates a good interface encouraging drainage and long roots. Tomato roots can grow better and deeper.

Fill in the bed with earth—you might need to buy a yard of that “topsoil” to start with. Lay it about a foot or more deep. Grasp a fistful of this earth in your hand, squeeze it, and if releases into a crumbly, friable mass, it is perfect for the next step. It should smell good, almost like a bran muffin. Remember, what garden earth assimilates will go into our bodies.

For water retention spade in peat moss or redwood compost. Half a bale each is enough for the area here. Mix it in well by spading, first in one direction and then in another. Try not to walk on it too much as thing ruins the friable quality.

Provide for aeration by chopping or spading in particulate pumice. Plant Depot and Walter Andersons sell it.

Next is the nutrient balance. Sprinkle in three or four handfuls of nitrogen (N). Sprinkle in five or six handfuls of bone meal for phosphorous (P), which is the flowering and fruiting amendment for vegetables. Add some Sol-Po-Mag for potassium (K) and other elements. This mixture stimulates stems, roots leaves, and the taste of the vegetables. The N, P, K, balance is complete. Your are ready to set out the plantlets, or seeds.

As the years go by, not many more amendments will be necessary. Keep an eye, and a hand, on how the earth looks and feels. Add 16-16-16 fertilizer sparingly, and remember that the process of creating good earth take a little time; “What is made with time, time respects”!