I can remember a few years back, when we first started gardening, coming across the advice "prepare the garden beds as soon as the ground can be worked". I distinctly recall wondering exactly what that meant.... well, as you can see from the photo, at least here in Michigan, the ground can now "be worked".
We have been studying a new method of organic gardening known as the "Grow Biointensive" system. It is a closed system of gardening, ultimately relying only on composting, companion planting, and crop rotation to provide all of the soil and nutrient inputs needed (that's right- no fertilizers, etc.). Since this is our first year, we will be adding some outside fertilizers and soil amendments, but within a year or two, with some serious composting, hopefully will not need to.
We have decided to switch from rows to beds for a number of reasons. Our plants will be spaced much closer together in an attempt to create a "mini-climate" under the leaves. We also maximize planting space with beds, because rows end up leaving almost 40% of the space as empty aisle space. And instead of plowing more fields, we decided we should just maximize the efficiency of the fields we already have.
This digging business is serious work. After a winter spent mostly indoors and not so active, I am definitely going to have to work myself back into shape. But if I can dig garden beds, anyone can! I have been digging two beds a day, each 5' x 10', to a depth of about 16 inches. We intend to dig approximately 40 beds, so if I were to dig them all myself (which I am not), then it would take approximately three weeks. With some help, our beds will be ready in a week or so.
We are going to add compost and peat moss to the beds before planting. The aisles will be covered in hay to suppress weed growth, which will break down and ultimately provide organic matter to enrich the soil. Our first cold-hardy plants will go in the ground in a few weeks under a cold frame (which Alex is building, and which I'll blog about when it's done). Right now our seedlings are sprouting under grow lights inside.
So even though we are guaranteed to get more freezing days, and probably even some snow, it's not too early to start preparing. Before we know it, we will be waking up and spring will have sprung!
If you would like to learn more about the Grow BioIntensive method of organic gardening, visit the Bountiful Gardens website, where they sell the "bible" on this method- How to Grow More Vegetables, written by John Jeavons.