A few months ago my daughter and I thinned out the raised strawberry bed.
I planted the extra strawberries under the passionvine arch,
using well pooed and pecked and rained-upon straw from the Fowl Fortress as mulch.
However the soil level in the raised bed has become lower, and the Bermuda grass has grown higher. Time for a re-do.
When I’d originally planted the bed a few years ago, I’d heard about burying wood to hold moisture and improve the soil. Some little thing we call… hugelkultur. I laid old lime tree logs along one side. They began to break down and some really cool mushrooms came up.
Strawberries sent runners out and they rooted right in the wood. A great success.
Since I don’t have ready compost to fill such a large bed right now, I decided to do the hugel-thing in the entire bed. I spent several hours digging out the strawberries and the Bermuda grass.
Then I pulled the soil back and was simply amazed.
It was crumbly like prime worm castings. I lined the bottom of the raised bed with the logs on top of the wire I’d laid across the bottom to deter gophers and mice.
Then I shoveled heavy clay out of the new bog area and threw that in and around the logs; the wood would decompose and turn the clay to great soil, and the clay already had a lot of interesting microscopic creatures in it from being at the edge of the pond.
On top of that I sprinkled some pigeon guano I recently received from some wonderful new friends who rescue pigeons. (They are wonderful even if they hadn’t given me the guano. I have many friends who, in fact, are guano-less. Just to clarify.) There were a lot of pigeon peas in the guano, but if they sprout its all good because they are nitrogen fixers and will only help things along. Some sugar was added to help stir up the bacteria in the clay.All along I watered everything in, including hosing down Lark the fat, barren Barred Rock hen who just wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept jumping into the bed to steal the worms!
My hens are such prima-donnas that they refuse to eat sowbugs and just go for worms. Geez! Lark got back at me later by making me come after her when it was time to shut them in for the night.
The last layer on the bed (and I don’t mean a chicken) was the good soil into which I replanted the strawberries. I did this process in thirds and ended up with a lot of extra strawberries.
As it was nearing sunset and I was becoming chilly in my shorts and sleeveless shirt, I hurriedly planted the extras up under the passionfruit trellis, in with the others from the previous planting. Most of them had happily survived.
The leftover soil I sprinkled on top, laid the soaker hose back on top, and voila! A somewhat shocked but hopefully soon-to-be-happier strawberry bed.
There are a couple of wild mallards that come to the pond and have grown trusting of me up to a point. I throw game bird food by the pond for them. I don’t want to tame them, but I like it that they don’t fly off in a fright every time I come near. Its better for their health not to be so stressed. Makes me feel good, too.
While I was digging I looked up to find my hens all in a row watching me, and beyond them inside the Fowl Fortress (the door of which I’d propped open) were the two mallards! They were perfectly content to be eating what the hens hadn’t eaten, and were even sitting in there enjoying… I don’t know… forbidden territory?
The alluring and romantic smell of chicken poop? After awhile Miss Amelia wandered in there and the mallards wandered out. They’re welcome in there, but if they want me to build them a castle of their own, forget it. They already have the floating duck house, after all!