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Vegetable beds now. But they started with spade-busting rocks and weeds.

Starting a vegetable garden in native soil--especially in weed-choked, rock-strewn soil around some new houses--can seem an insurmountable task. But with careful planning and tending, one gardening couple turned uncultivated clay soil into a productive vegetable garden.

To make the soil in the 27- by 32-foot area workable, they first hired a backhoe operator. In 2 hours, the operator dug up and turned the soil at least 18 inches deep, removed all the rocks (some too large for one person to lift), formed retaining walls with the rocks that he unearthed, and then leveled the soil between the walls.

The owners estimate that in two years of growing their own vegetables, they've saved more money on food than it cost them to hire the backhoe. (Current rates average from $47 to $57 an hour, with a 4-hour mininum in many cases. For backhoe operators, look in the yellow pages under Contractors--Grading & Excavating; to rent a backhoe to operate yourself, look under Equipment Rentals.) After backhoe work, the owners tilled in plenty of organic material--steer manure, compost, mushrooms compost, and horse manure mixed with straw (available free from a local stable). They also added a granular complete fertilizer.

Most of the garden was covered with a 4-to 6-inch layer of the horse manure and straw mixture that was left to rot through the winter.

Nine months after the ground was first broken, the garden was ready to be tilled and partly planted. Each time the gardeners replant an area, they work in plenty of organiz material to continually improve the soil's texture. In addition to the rock retaining walls, four 6- by 12-foot raised beds framed with rough redwood 2 by 12's increased level growing space. Today, the garden is fully planted and yielding a wide variety of produce year-round.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1984
Words:299
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