This week I've been busy preparing the kitchen garden for the coming season. Last year I renewed the beds and doubled their size, which meant that the soil is still quite poor. It takes quite a few years to build up new soil and make it fertile and soft.
Above is a picture of what the beds looked like after winter. This year I'm also covering the garden paths to help keep the weeds under control. First I cover them with biodegradable fabric, that in theory should disintegrate within three years. That should be long enough for the grass and perennial weeds underneath to give up due to a lack of light and air, leaving the paths free of weeds and simply covered by wood chips.
First of all we spent two days carefully removing any weeds. I had tempted my friend Hanna out into the countryside with the promise of good food, wine and sauna, but she knows me well enough to figure out it was just a ruse to get some help in the garden. False pretence if ever! But we had a good giggle about it too.
Once weed free, the beds were topped up with composted horse manure and more top soil. I don't really like bringing in new soil into my gardens, as it's impossible to know it is without residue from pesticides or such, but sometimes it is necessary. The two outer beds are close enough to simply tip in the compost over the fence, but the middle ones need to have it transferred to wheelbarrows to get access.
Raking it out evenly is next on the agenda, and I try not to dig too deep so as not to disturb the soil underneath too much. I've been reading up on non-dig gardening methods and it seems it could be a good way to go about it. The idea is to not disturb the soils micro organisms, but to let them peacefully go about their own business.
To be honest preparing the beds for the season is tedious and hard work, but necessary. The more carefully this part of the process is done, the better the results in the vegetable garden later in the season. By the end of the week we were ready and next week it will be time to think about planting. This weekend though, we have enjoyed an afternoons sunshine on the terrace as a reward!