I was a bit alarmed when John and Neil appeared at my door and told me that the CVRD had sent them to repair the sewer pipes that ran directly under my freshly planted garlic. They were terribly apologetic about it, but they had a job to do and by the time it was over they left me an unexpected gift: a blank canvas.
I had been meaning to reconfigure the beds for years. The four foot beds were too wide and I wanted to reduce them to three, but my inner sloth prevented this from happening. Once the backhoe finished levelling the ground above the new pipes I realized that the regional district had done me a favour. I was out of excuses.
So, having measured new three foot beds with 18 inch pathways, popped out the hard pan, laid down top soil and composted the beds, I replanted my garlic and winter vegetables in a more efficient layout, faced with the same old enemies. For instance, what can be done about the terrestrial gastropod mollusc? That, according to Wikipedia, is the correct name to call slugs. I confess to having a few other names for them as well.
Last winter I covered some beds with plastic and tarp, reasoning that the soil might dry out and encourage slugs to seek a more amenable locale. That worked fairly well, but now they’re back. Since slugs are hermaphrodites (you can look that up on Wikipedia for yourself) I’ll bet they’re already pregnant and preparing to dominate my garden demographic.
Covering the beds with an impenetrable layer also prevents nutrients from washing away.
A new study of mammoth bones found that the more recent samples suffered from osteoporosis and researchers theorize their original owners died from malnutrition, because as glaciers receded subsequent rains washed away nutrients and the soil could no longer sustain nutritious vegetation.
We must ensure this doesn’t happen to us. Covering the soil during the rainy season should help. Composting vegetation grown in drier climates such as coffee grounds as well as plants from the sea should help as well, as long as the compost is protected against the rain.
My new beds are joined at one end of each path. Think of a comb, where the long beds are teeth attached to a foot wide spine. The spine allows soaker hoses to wind around from one bed to another and you can grow a few more plants there. Since it is only a foot wide it can easily be stepped over for access as needed.
I spread compost and cover crop over my beds before covering with plastic since I believe we’ve had enough rain to support some growth before the soil dries up, and it keeps the stellar jays from eating every last seed of crimson clover.
If you are unable to persuade the CVRD to tear up your back yard you can achieve the same result by burying a dozen old bones in your garden and borrowing a few large dogs to dig for them. By the end of a single afternoon you’ll be good to go.