New Raised Beds, plus news about the Urban Farm Tour

Last November, if you recall, we sheet mulched the North Garden in preparation for this week. The area had been grass and had housed first a play structure, and then a trampoline. About two months after we laid down the sheet mulch, we built the chicken coop. This week we finally began the raised beds in this area of the garden.

The first step is to stake out where you want the beds to go, which Tom did with 2"x2" redwood stakes and some string. After those are in place, it's important to rake the wood chips out of the beds. I didn't do this last year in the South Garden, and we had serious nitrogen issues, or more precisely, lack-of-nitrogen issues. When soil mixes with wood chips or mulch, the nitrogen in the soil immediately goes to work breaking down the mulch, and that work of decomposition ties up all the available nitrogen, leaving none for your seedlings. So learn from my mistake! Rake out the wood chips before you build the beds and fill with soil.

Staked 'n raked

The next step is to purchase lumber, either redwood or cedar, to build your raised beds. Tom likes redwood, and he buys 1'x8' boards. These can be made into either 4x4 beds or 4x8 beds quite easily, with few cuts. He then puts them together with deck screws. This project takes about a day, depending how many beds you're making.

The lumber and the soil are the priciest part of this project. But the beds will last for many, many years, and I'll never have to replace the soil in them - just amend with manure and compost and occasionally top off.

As Tom was working on the beds, I noticed some stubborn Bermuda grass growing in the dirt under the mulch. I hate this stuff. It spreads so incredibly easily and is so difficult to kill. So I spread a little bit of cardboard in the bottom of the beds to help smother it.

The next step is dirt! It takes more dirt than you think to fill raised beds. I ordered 5 cubic yards, which will take care of the new beds, and anything left over will top off the six beds in the South Garden. I ordered it from American Soil in Richmond. I decided to try their special blend called "Local Hero Veggie Mix," which is a mix of sandy loam, green waste compost, rice hulls, chicken manure, grape compost, fir bark, and cocoa bean hulls.  

It smells so good and is steaming and cooking in there! Living soil, for sure.
The dirt was delivered at 8:30 this morning, so now you know what the day ahead holds for me. 

We've had some fun this week, too. The kids and I went with my folks to the de Young art museum in San Francisco, where we got to see some Impressionist art from the Scottish National Galleries. My favorite piece was a Cezanne, called "The Big Trees." I learned an awful lot about painting from looking at this.

The kids' friends have all been traveling on their breaks, but some were finally back in town, and a few stayed for dinner last night. Dinner outside with friends and a fire in the fire pit - this says 'summer' to me, for sure. I know we're pushing that envelope, but still... it was all I could do not to break out the s'mores.

The Institute of Urban Homesteading has just announced the Urban Farm Tours for this summer, in their spring newsletter. Here is a description of the Walnut Creek/Concord tour: 

Walnut Creek & Concord June 6 9am-3pm
Featured Sites
How It Works
Your ticket includes 3 urban farm tour sites and one special interest site (choose at ticket purchase), plus morning hospitality and a simple homegrown lunch.
Come to the staging area in the morning topick up your itinerary, come back for lunch f you desire.
General Admission $40, kids $25,
Friends of the Farm Tour Ticket $60 (includes a gift of farm fresh egg or honey from our farmers)
Patron of the Farm $80 farm fresh eggs or honey plus Ruby Blume's Book, Eveyday Cheesemaking

Tickets on sale April 15

And here is how our farm is described!

Poppy Corners 
Hosts: Elizabeth & Tom Boegel
Lot: 7,000 sq ft
Used for agriculture: 4,000 sq ft

Poppy Corners is a testament to what one suburban family can accomplish while raising a couple kids and going to work full time. This thriving hobby farm resides in a tidy neighborhood of overwatered lawns. Most of the grass has been replaced with 14 vegetable beds which produce year-round. There are fruit trees, bushes, vines, and canes interspersed within a perennial garden, as well as vegetable patches tucked in between the flowers. Whatever land is left is devoted to native and drought-tolerant plants and flowers for pollinators. The Poppy Corners farmers raise bees and chickens. They build their own structures wherever possible and tend the garden and critters themselves. They continue to research and apply new ways to use less water in the hot and dry summers, and to catch water in the winter. Diverse farming methods are employed from permaculture principles to square foot gardening. Come enjoy research in process! 

We are really excited and hope you will attend and support this effort, if you are anywhere near the area!