After we made an impromptu move this summer, I had to leave my robust garden behind and start over. The house we moved to had an existing small tiered garden. It wasn’t much and looked as if it had been abandoned for years. In fact, to put it bluntly, the garden was in pretty bad shape. The soil was dry, rocky and compacted and there were weeds growing. I had my work cut out for me and didn’t have a lot of time to do it in. It was already June and I had to find a quick solution to get the soil ready for planting.
The Cardboard Box Theory
My grandfather taught me to “feed my soil,” so that’s the first place I started. I knew it needed to be tilled, but in all honesty, the soil was so compacted I didn’t think it would have done much good. In haste, I used some disassembled moving boxes and placed them on top of the soil. I then added a few layers of manure, fresh soil, and assorted organic soil amenders. Some of the amenders I used were:
I was basing my cardboard box theory on sheet mulching or no-till gardening but had never done so with such compacted soil. My thought was that frequently watering with a timed water irrigation system would consistently break the boxes down so the fragile root systems would find their way into the soil beneath. Hopefully, in time the compacted soil would break up by the added moisture and soil amenders. Crossing my fingers, I planted some small vegetables and hoped for the best.
Because I didn’t have to spend time watering the plants or tending to the soil, each week I was able to spend minutes (instead of hours) tending to the garden. I minimally pruned the plants and added any cuttings to my earthworm bin.
Three months later, my garden has gone from puny to profuse. In fact, the tomato plants are touching the top of the netting and continue to grow. My theory was correct in adding the boxes to keep the compacted soil moist. The soil beneath the boxes is moist and workable. An added benefit of this is that when the root systems broke through the cardboard boxes, they were protected the root from the hot summer weather. The boxes are nearly decomposed and I plan on adding more this fall, as well as some earthworms to help amend the soil further.
I have found this to be a very efficient type of gardening and would be a blessing if you had to get a garden together quickly. I also would recommend setting up rain catchment systems to have constant access to water for the garden.
Gardening can be time-consuming, but if you know a few tricks here and there, it takes all the hard work out of it. This is the perfect garden to grow if you have a busy life. This way you can spend more time with family, tending to other chores, or just sitting and watching your garden grow.