Some details about the 20’x3′ in-ground bed – before I had put the stones around it, it was three small plots next to the grass. It was nearly impossible to prevent grass from entering into it. Also, putting together irrigation was really complex and time-consuming. Not only was this area ugly, but it was also a constant source of problems. So, I’m proud of this rebuild, because it solves nearly all of these issues.
Soil-wise, it’s native San Diego clay and fine stone. By itself, this stuff can grow weeds, but requires a lot of work to make it grow food well. I added Mirimar compost, a few other kinds of store bought as well as homemade compost, and last season I added horse manure which has been completely decomposed into the soil. When digging it up, I found an abundance of earthworms which made me think that real soil building was occurring. So, it has no fertilizers or anything unnatural. I think it’s good soil, but I may learn something if I send it to a soil lab.
I planted a strip of arrugula as an edible cover crop. I’m concerned that there’s too much direct sun on the soil and it’s going to cook the pea seeds, so I want plants in there as soon as possible.
This is also the first bed I’ve hooked up to my rain-water system and it uses a 60′ rain-barrel (no pressure) soaker hose buried about 1″ underground that’s laid out in a big “S” of three 20′ rows, which is rather compact, but I’m trying to be “biointensive” (a term to mean “compact” by my mentor Jean-Martin Fortier in “The Market Gardener”). Gravity irrigation is tricky because water is very creative and will find the easiest ways to leave your hose, resulting in uneven watering. However, from observation, I see no bias in this hose even if not totally level, so I think it will work. We’ll know more at the end of season.
Since the pressure from the tanks is constantly changing, I made a water meter (see picture) which is a plastic cup buried beneath the end of the irrigation hose. This way, I know that the water is on and get an idea of the average volume of output of the hose is along its length. I keep it covered with a small pot because if the hose is exposed to the sun, it may crack and I’ll get a huge bias.
Drainage may be an issue in this bed. I’m concerned I may get a swimming pool of mud if another major rainstorm hits.