Although we are located in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the soil in this particular area is a heavy clay. The addition of compost and annual application of mulch improve the workability and production value of the soil. Water conservation/maintenance is very important to prevent the soil from drying out and becoming like a brick.
Although it is difficult to see in the picture, the property slopes from the building toward the street on the right. Runoff from the area around the building is directed into the garden to mitigate erosion. The planting beds are oriented across the slope such as you would find in a terracing situation to further trap runoff from large rains. The use of natural materials allows all rain to fully penetrate the clay soil without pooling on the surface.
This image demonstrates the use of mini-greenhouse structures to start plants earlier in the spring and extend the growing season well into the fall. These structures are constructed with plastic water pipe for the hoops and a hog panel suspended horizontally through which the tomatoes and peppers grow. The panel supports the plants above the ground for air circulation to reduce disease and also aids in easier harvesting. Plastic sheeting is draped over the hoops to enclose the entire planting bed in cold weather.
You can also see the drip irrigation tubes and grass mulch at the bottom/center of the photo. Less obvious is sawdust mulch on the pathways. This sawdust a poplar variety and is obtained from a local sawmill we are sure does not chemicaly treat. It composts in the summer sun and is added to the planting beds each fall. Behind these structures you can see a chicken wire trellis for cucumbers or beans/peas. All of the plantings are done with raised beds to maximize soil depth and minimize compaction by foot traffic.
Plants are grown fairly close together to maximize space utilization. Some species allow repeat plantings for harvest throughout the summer. Crop rotation is done yearly to minimize soilborn diseases and allow the soil to recover. Peas, beans and peanuts are helpful in restoring nitrogen balance and some volunteer clover is allowed to grow and tilled under as well.
Without the use of chemicals, the garden is home to garter snakes and a variety of birds who control the grasshopper and other insect pests. We also see several varieties of bees in the garden including bumble, honey, and leafcutters. The soil is alive with large nightcrawlers and other worms as well as essential bacteria. Rodents and rabbits are controled by cats from around the area. Although the area is fenced; on any given day there will be 2-3 cats hunting the paths.
This garden produces a variety of fruits and vegetables for the owner including: apples, cherries, raspberries, grapes, strawberries, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, beets, tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, garlic, sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and cucumbers. June roses, oregano, dill, mint, and a variety of flowers grow volunteer adding color and aroma.