Sifting the Dirt

If it seems like it has been a while since our last post, it has.  For the past few months we have been hibernating, waiting for this winter to pass and for spring to finally arrive.

But then a couple of weeks ago, after a long and unrelenting winter, spring finally arrived.  The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and I wanted to rush out to the park as fast as I could.  I grabbed a bag, grabbed the dog, and wait–where’s Frank?

Well, unbeknownst to me, Frank had made plans to spend the day sifting the dirt in the back yard (yes, I said “sifting dirt”) and would not sign up for a field trip to the park without my Scout’s Honor that we would be home by 3 o’clock to sift the dirt.  So I promised, and we went, and we had a very nice time strolling through the twisty-turney paths of Prospect Park.  We carried the dog much of the way (but I do that most of the time anyway) and he had a fine time, too.  We were even home by 3:00 with plenty of time to sift the dirt.

If you’re wondering why our dirt needs to be sifted (I did), the short answer is: root vegetables. Our soil has a lot of clay in it, and even though we’ve been adding compost to the garden over the past couple years, it’s still not light enough to reliably grow root vegetables.  You plant a beet, the beet grows, the beet hits a rock, and it gets all wonky. Or the poor thing can’t grow at all. Same thing with carrots, turnips, you name it.  We’ve been getting some nice root vegetables out over the past few years, but nothing (in theory) like we could be getting.

So Frank built a screen to run the dirt through and lighten the soil up a bit.  It’s a pretty neat contraption: you just prop it up, pile on the dirt, and smoosh it through with a shovel.  The fine stuff that comes through the sifter was amended with about 30-50% of its total volume in peet moss, some lime for calcium, and put back in the garden in a much lighter state.  We used the extra dirt to amend another raised bed we’ve been working on.

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We planted rows of carrots and beets in the newly-sifted plot, and popped the cold frames on top, just in case.  It was a good thing, too, because three days later, a frost came through and beat up the daffodils (and every thing else).

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Lucky for us, they’re tough little buggers, and bounced right back.  A good lesson for us all this spring.

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