There is nothing that makes this girl happy like a load of dirt. Well actually well-rotted manure would do it too! To be honest, a house right now would put a smile on my face and I never say no to chocolate. I’m a simple creature. But as we are talking about dirt, if a load makes me happy, then five loads make me super excited.
To be honest I’ve breathed a sigh of relief. I did everything wrong. I advise people who are looking to get topsoil to do their homework and find out as much as they can before taking delivery of their dirt. The best advice is to check it for weeds – no one wants a garden full of oxalis where there was none before. I didn’t do that. It is also a good idea to take a sample and do a soil test to make sure it isn’t poor quality soil. I didn’t do that either. It is also good to look at it as a whole to make sure it isn’t filled with building rubble. You guessed it – I didn’t do that. At least I remembered to ask the truck driver, on the third load, where it came from. When he said “up near Froggies” I breathed a sigh of relief. I know that area.
I have thought long and hard about what to do with the land the garden is to go on. For a start it needs levelling as it is a bit all over the place. It looks flat enough but when you get down to it there are lumps and bumps everywhere that aren’t conducive to my raised bed plans. So, I know it needs to be levelled. But I have a handy neighbour with a bulldozer who is ready and waiting.
The thing is, it’s really sandy here. And to scrape off all the grass that is holding it together could result in what we in the sandy hills like to call a blow out. A small exposed area of sand, with the help of wind and rain can become a large area of sand and nobody wants that. So, a scrape is fraught with danger.
The other problem is the soil is firmly and well held in place by kikuyu grass. It is perfect for coastal areas as it helps prevent erosion, spreads easily with its rhizomes to quickly cover any bare patches. When mowed regularly, like Neville will do, it makes a rather lovely lawn. However, in a veggie garden this is a complete nightmare. Nobody wants kikuyu grass in their garden, and especially me.
I had thought about after the scraping, if I suppress the grass and any other weeds with sheet mulching. I first thought about cardboard – we have loads of boxes. The only problem is most of our worldly possessions are still contained within those boxes and so freeing up this resource would make the garden even more of a waiting game. And then there would be the logistics of putting them down without blowing away while the bulldozer spreads a layer of lovely weed free dirt to form the base for my garden area. Newspaper also crossed my mind, as four sheets is all that is needed for an effective weed barrier but that would be even more blowy and impossible to hold in place than the cardboard.
So, I got to thinking about other kinds of sheet mulch, there had to be a better way. There was no way I was going to use weed mat as that stuff is just nasty and I don’t intend to add unnecessary plastic in my new garden. This conundrum was sorted when we finally got reconnected with the great big internet. There were plenty of options for biodegradable weed mat by the roll! There were ones made of wool, jute, hessian and even from reconstituted destroyed documents in a great way to upcycle unwanted confidential documents, however, I’m not sure about the ink that would have been used. I could be over thinking it but, I’d rather not go there for edibles.
So that was my plan – scrape and level, cover and apply a layer of topsoil as a solid foundation. Then I’d be good to go with building the garden, all I had to do was wait for all this stuff to get off my garden. The thing is – there is a lot of stuff languishing about – waiting. I moved a few things to get to other things and made an interesting discovery. While the Kikuyu looks robust and possibly difficult to remove, under the boxes that have been sat outside for the last 8 weeks, revealed – nothing. The earth was bare. All trace was gone. So now I’m umming and erring. Will a scraping to remove most of it and a layer of dirt on top be enough? Do I need the weed mat? I know there will be residual rhizomes that will need attention but if I keep on top of them, they won’t be there forever – as in years of effort rather than an instantaneously weed free environment. If it wasn’t this there would be something else.
To stop it creeping in from the edges of the garden I intend to put some kind of impenetrable barrier around the base of the fence enclosing the garden that will also stop rabbits. I’m thinking possibly a concrete strip.
So, while five large truck loads may seem a bit excessive for a collection of raised beds, as a base to the entire garden – I’m hoping it will be enough!
Gosh, just thinking aloud has filled a page. And I still have to tell you about the soil from ‘up near Froggies’. I’m open to suggestions to my soil situation, especially if you see any glaring problems with my plan.
Come again soon – I’ve run a few tests and have the results in an envelope. We’ll not exactly in an envelope, but it sounds exciting that way.
Sarah the Gardener : o)