Saturday, May 31, 2014

Prepping a garden bed with hand tools

Years ago, I read an article about John Jeavons in a Garden Design magazine.  I was captivated by the wording of the hook:  "Small is bountiful and politics is dirty in the world John Jeavons wants all of us to dig." 
I bought the fifth edition of his book How to Grow More Vegetables.  (I think there is an eighth edition by now.)  I found a lot of useful information in his book, and I liked his approach.  I adapted some of the methods to my own style and approach.  If you are using hand tools, you don't have to leave row space for tractors or mules, so you can optimize the space used.
Here are some pics of the bed (approx. 4' x 13') Caleb and I just prepped.

Last fall it looked like this.
This spring, after the kale had bolted and the cilantro had gone to seed, and after various and sundry weeds had grown, it looked like this.
It really didn't take too much time for me to hand pull the weeds and for Caleb to break it up with a spading fork.
I added a little compost.  (Wish I had more.)
I chopped up the dirt clods with a hoe as I incorporated the compost.  She's ready to go.
(If you're wondering about the item on the right--I left the cilantro for the seeds.  I kind of tied the splayed bundle of stalks together with a piece of pantyhose.  I staked it with a metal rod that was designed to hold a Japanese beetle trap.  An old CD is dangling from it.  The light reflecting from the CD was supposed to scare the rabbits out of the carrots last fall.)
All is not sweetness and light, though.  I broke my spading fork!  After Caleb was done, I went around the perimeter a little with the fork.  Then I decided to go for the root of a cow itch vine (trumpet creeper) in the path by the bed.  The soil was very dry and hard outside the area that had been in cultivation.  I always instruct Caleb to be easy on the tools.  (That's what John Jeavons said!).  Wouldn't you know the person doing the preaching about being easy on the tools is the one who broke the tine of the fork!  


  1. I can see a lot of work there! Oh my back.... Yeah, it is so embarrassing to be the one to 'BREAK' the tool. (smile) One of these days, when we can no longer travel, I plan to do some gardening. I love to see the garden grow and eat samples raw. AND I cannot find a good tomato anymore, and I love them.....
    I do have some tomato plants coming up, they are about a 1/2", I hope I am not too late. (OH)

    1. Actually, Caleb has had a cold, and he had overdone it at the gym, so I compromised and asked if I could have just 15 minutes worth of labor. I didn't time it, but I figure he did.
      It really was not bad because we had cleared all the bermuda grass out when we planted last fall.
      I'm really more frustrated about breaking the fork than I am embarrassed. I had been given a fork a long time ago, and we bent one of the tines on it. I replaced it with this one which I bought used for $10 or $15. So, I'm blaming it on cheap steel.
      Some really nicer forks can be had, but I don't know if I grow enough produce to justify the cost.
      No, you're not too late with your tomatoes. By the way, what variety did you plant?