Adventures in Ethics and Science

New experimental digs

… sometimes require hard work, at least when the experimental digs are raised garden beds. Seriously, when was the last time you moved 14.5 cubic yards of topsoil and compost? (Not that I did it all myself, of course. My better half did quite a bit of it, and the Free-Ride offspring even pitched in.)

Pictures of the end result of 4 days of dirt-moving labor:


23 inch deep beds are nice for root development. But that’s a lot of dirt.


It’s a lot of dirt especially when there are five beds to fill. (Plus, mixing the topsoil and the compost in the beds is strenuous exercise.)

That piece of slate propped up on a hunk of wood at the base of the bed in the foreground is actually a ramp that my better half MacGuyvered to make it easier to pour the dirt out of the wheelbarrow and into the beds.

My arms feel a little less like limp spaghetti than they did on Saturday (when we completed the dirt-hauling). This left me able to apply fertilizer and sow seeds in the beds today.

If they don’t grow, I’m going to feel extremely foolish.


  1. #1 Abel Pharmboy
    July 20, 2008

    Well-constructed raised beds! Awesome! All them PhDs *do* come in handy, eh?

  2. #2 Coturnix
    July 20, 2008

    So, what is the treatment and what is the control experiment and what will be your measures?

  3. #3 Jono
    July 21, 2008

    Very impressive, what do you plan to grow?

  4. #4 PhysioProf
    July 21, 2008

    Holy crap! That’s a lotta fucking dirt!

  5. #5 Dan
    July 21, 2008

    What are you planting from seed at this time of year?

  6. #6 PuckishOne
    July 21, 2008

    Clearly the best example yet of framing here on ScienceBlogs.

    Are these for growing yummy things, pretty things, or both?

  7. #7 S. Rivlin
    July 21, 2008

    Plants don’t need holy crap to grow on, only crap!

  8. #8 Janet D. Stemwedel
    July 21, 2008

    The beds are designated for food crops (although I don’t rule out pretty flowers that deter pests in future plantings). This late in the season, I planted mostly for fall/winter harvest: cole crops, lettuces, root vegetables. I also planted some beans, on the theory that we have enough warm days left to get a good bean harvest.

    I was terribly sad that there were no tomato or zucchini starts at the nursery … was hoping to get the last gasp of summer before it was too late.

    RE: crap, the fertilizer yesterday included bat crap and chicken crap, but the box doesn’t indicate whether it’s holy or not.

  9. #9 Don
    July 21, 2008

    There is a much greener means to raised beds. It is not as pretty but uses much less (=0) redwood, which I would like to leave standing in the few forests left. This gardening technique goes by various names, “dig-free” and “no-dig” are common names for it, both give rich Google results. The LA Times still has a spectacular post on a particular approach to dig-free.,0,3508054.story

    In brief, one makes a layer cake of rich mulch on top of alfalfa hay, which is placed on top of a thin straw layer, on top of newspaper (which thwarts weeds) on the soil surface.

    We started a bed like the one in the Times article a few weeks ago in our Davis, CA garden, and have had spectacular seedling germination and early growth (keep it wet in the hot summer sun!).

  10. #10 RMD
    July 21, 2008

    Drool! I’m so jealous of your raised beds. They are beautiful and they will produce beautiful veggies. They make me miss our micro-farm in Oakland. Congrats on all your hard work!

  11. #11 OmegaMom
    July 21, 2008

    Looks like you’ve got some type of watering system in there as well. Very nice! Watch out for critters eating your veggies (we have moose, grr).

  12. #12 Marlowe
    July 21, 2008

    Copper tape tacked around the edges can keep the slugs/snails out (some sort galvanic potential thing). You’re on your own regarding moose!

  13. #13 Alice
    July 31, 2008

    These look LOVELY.

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