By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale
In October I often find myself a bit behind, mostly because it’s hard working in the late summer heat and humidity — but autumn is a good time to improve your vegetable beds for early spring and to plant spring-flowering bulbs. It’s also a time to enjoy seasonal changes, including the animals and flowers you might see only at this time of year.
This year our raised vegetable beds are free of weeds, but need additional growing medium. Over time, often quite quickly in our heat, organic matter is broken down and the result is a shallower bed. Traditionally, raised bed soil has been peat-based, with compost for fertility and organic matter, perhaps perlite to keep it light, composted pine fines to keep the mixture loose, and slow release fertilizer, much like a good potting soil. For three, 8 x 4 x 1 foot beds, I originally purchased a total of 96 cubic feet of raised bed soil from a reputable local source. To replenish the beds, I decided to use coconut coir, which can replace peat in many applications. It’s a by-product that will keep carbon out of our atmosphere, unlike peat extraction.
It was easy to calculate how much I needed: adding four inches depth for each of the three beds totals 12 inches, the equivalent of one bed’s worth of soil, or 32