Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Raised Planter Bed Up and Running

OK, it's been 3 and a half months since I finished building the planter bed but this weekend I finally finished filling it. Things have been a little busy around here and with my work. I try not to worry about it too much but we are behind with our summer planting.

The dirt in the picture above is just plain top soil from an area over by the beehive. I am working on terracing that area a bit more. The soil isn't very rich but we are using it mostly as filler. It took between 20 and 30 wheelbarrows full of dirt to fill the bed to this level. They were all carted from about 120 feet away in a straight line but the hillside and the stairs forced a circuitous route from the source to destination.

Once I got it nearly full I added a wheelbarrow of oak leaf litter. Something in the oak leaves helps keep the clay soil loose. I figure it will break down and work it's way deeper over time.

After that I piled another five or six inches of compost on top. The compost will also work it's way down into the soil over time as we water the plants. With each successive planting we will add a few more inches of compost so the bed will become richer and richer over time.

Here is a handful of the compost up close. You can see eggshells and lots of organic material including worm castings in it.

While piling the finished compost into the bed I found several larvae. I am pretty sure these are about to become crawly backs which then become green fruit beetles. [Update: these are black soldier fly larvae which are beneficial - see the comments for more info] Since they don't pose much of a threat I put them back into the bottom of the compost pile. I figure they'll help the worms and other bugs break it all down.

Finally I planted it with 2 seedlings which were labeled sunflowers but which I believe to be zucchinis. In any case, I am almost positive they aren't sunflowers. I'm not sure what else we'll plant in this bed since it wasn't ready in time for our tomato seedlings but I think we'll plant beans for sure and who knows what else.


  1. No way that's a sunflower. Something in the cucurbita family. I have mystery cucurbita volunteers that came up where we had the old compost heap, so I put two in the front yard beds just to see what they turn out to be. Mystery plants are fun.

  2. The maggots are going to turn into black soldier flies. They are a welcome addition to any compost pile.

  3. Coleen,

    Yep, I'm thinking we just got the signs mixed up. These look like just like the zucchini we planted. Don't know if there are 2 other sunflowers around here somewhere?

    Thanks - of course you are right these look just like the soldier fly larvae that I found here on the black soldier fly blog:

  4. I have larvae just like that in my compost pile and have always wondered what they are. Thanks for solving another of my garden mysteries.


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