How to Create Healthy Soil for Planting

Learn how to create healthy garden soil using natural materials on a consistent basis.


Healthy soil is the key ingredient for growing an awesome garden.

It doesn’t matter what you plan to grow, if the soil hasn’t been improved it will not produce to it’s full potential.

So, how is this done? That’s a great question because many gardeners have different techniques and it can be difficult to choose what’s best for your space.

My rule is to go back to basics using all natural material because it’s been proven to work for generations.  Almost any plant you decide to grow will do amazing in soil that’s been conditioned with natural ingredients.

How to Create Healthy Soil

There are several key things we’ll be covering  in this article.

One being you’ll need a comfortable strong shovel because you’ll be spending a lot of time together.

Visit a nursery or garden store to find a shovel that comfortible and fits your body type.  Now let’s take a look at how we’ll be using this shovel for good plannting.

Common Steps for Good Planting

  • For light planting in raised beds, loosen the soil at least 10 -12 inches deep.
  • You can also use a tiller to lighten the work load if you have an open ground garden.
  • For deep planting loosen the soil at least 3-4 feet deep, a tiller and shovel is recommended.
  • Depending on your soil type you’ll need to add additional ingredients to smooth things out.
  • Always add compost and sometimes sand if you experience thick levels of clay.
  • If heavy sand is present then seek clay to level the growing field.

The point of soil breakup allows the root system to expand in its new environment.  Most plants die not due to lack of water but lack of proper soil preparation.

Soil preparation is the key to your success and it’s ongoing.

If you’re finding that gardening is becoming more and more difficult to maintain then checkout my book, Startle Garden Now.

I focus on implementing proper soil preparation using smaller and taller raised beds, a garden system I designed and use here at Garden Up Green.

By simplifying using methods proven to work for generations I was able to establish a garden focused on creating healthy soil from square one.

The best part I didn’t have to scale back planting to decrease hours of maintenence.   Learn more here.

Let’s continue with creating healthy soil for planting using some of my favorite natural methods, you’re going to love these…

Direct Compost Method

Caring for your soil  never ends.

My favorite tip in conjunction with natural animal fertilizer and debris is the Direct Compost method.

I was introduced to this when I was a kid from my grandmother and continue to use this year-round instead of a compost bin.

You simply dig a hole in soil and fill it with food waste, then over it up and when the worms arrive they do the rest.

It takes about a week for the waste to be cultivated back inthe soil; this may vary depending on the time of year.

Direct compost egg shells, coffee or tea grounds, fruit peels and cores, and vegetable peelings. I even compost chicken bones because they add calcium to the soil.  Make sure to dig them deep because they take longer to decompose.


Additional amending treatments include natural material like leaves, grass clippings, animal manure and debris.

I go into great detail about natural material in my book and show you how to use it while establishing a new garden space.

Planting Correctly

After the soil is prepped and cared for correctly there are a few necessary steps when establishing larger plants in open or small planting spaces.
  • Always dig a larger hole than the existing plant you’re placing in ground.
  • Form a firm mound at the bottom of the hole.
  • Before adding plants, loosen the root system and spread over the mound.
  • Fill the hole in the removed soil and water the plant.
  • Add a mulch layer after the water has settled.

When you establish healthy soil and plant correctly almost everything comes up a wonderful shade of green. This grass is a living testament to what healthy soil can produce.

Why is it so lush and green?  Because our llama would use this area for waste.

Animal fertilizer offers amazing results tfor growing and you can learn more about llama fertilizer here.

Finally we want to remember what Mulch and water can do for our gardens.

This can be sometimes overlooked or over done because we confuse weather patterns with the needs of the plants.


Why Mulch

Mulch keeps the root system moist and makes the soil loose and absorbent.  Remember to add mulch in the form of a circle spread until the surface is covered.

Mulch is necessary year-round, especially during the winter and summer months.  I’m known for making my own or sometimes gathering leaves because they also work great.

You may enjoy reading making garden mulch here and how to gather mulch here.

When to Water

With new plants water is needed until plants are established, even most drought tolerant plants need water in those early stages.It can sometimes take 2 or 3 seasons before a new perennial plant is established in their space.

Once settled they can get by with little or no water in addition to rainfall.

Setting up a water schedule based on plant research can be helpful and easy to implement until a routine is established.  I have a free seasonal garden planner to help with that available below.

The main thing to remember is everything begins with your soil.

When you create healthy soil a strong foundation follows.

Learn to keep this foundation healthy by  continuing to nurture year after year and you’ll find that growing becomes less difficult and more enjoyable.


Painting Outside Wood of Raised Beds

Get tips for painting the outside wood of raised beds for your garden.


Painted Raised Beds

Several months ago I made the decision to paint the raised beds; the goal was to match the tiny house on lot #1 at Quail Grove.

I had a great start, ran out of paint and just never got around to finishing until last week when this awesome weather appeared.

We were in the high 60’s and 70’s in January and needless to say I spent most of my time outdoors.

Friends, sunny weather is when my happy feet shine…

Cleaning Dirt off Raised beds before painting


Painting is Debatable

Originally these beds were built and stained at different times. Which means each frame was a different shade of the same color due additional applications, sun weathered wood and it just didn’t work.

No matter how many coats of stain I applied they were shades off.

I even had my seed starter boxes all jazzed up with stencils and it was in my opinion a busy mess.   I don’t like busy…


After decreasing the size of the garden over the summer and making some of these beds taller I looked around and decided fresh paint would bring everything together.

I also thought fresh paint would extend the lifespan of each frame.

I was right but have to admit I’m not a huge fan of painted raised beds either…  Oh, the dilemma just kept going on from one day to the next.


I find that painting in the garden is a debatable topic and my advice is to not over think it.

There are so many product selections available these days and sometimes you just have to stop, do some quick research and make a decision with what works for you.  So, that’s what I did…


Before You Begin to Paint

Prior to painting I had to clean the exterior frames because there was dirt and debris lingering.   This can be done by scraping or washing off with a sponge and letting the beds dry before applying paint.

These beds are between 2 and 3 years old which brings me to selecting paint if you do choose to add color to your garden.

Painting Raised Beds

This post contains affiliate links for Dixie Belle Paint, Click here to read site terms.


Choosing Paint

Since I was matching colors with the Tiny House my options were limited.

I had one brand to pick from because trying to match that existing color with other companies was a nightmare.  Oh yes, I tried but apparently my failure to communicate in the retail world is lacking.

So last year, I called the Tiny House manufacture company which let me to Sherwin Williams Paint.  They helped me find and recreate the color of the Tiny House which led me to the brand Resilience.

This is pricy paint, an exterior acrylic latex.  Which made me sort of cringe for several reasons but I kept moving forward.

Here’s the thing, this paint stands up to the harsh Texas sunlight beautifully and after 2 applications you’re done.  This will extend the life of these beds for at least another 3 years.

I saw this as a win, win since we’ll eventually be moving on from this property.

Keep in mind the interior of all my raised beds is natural so yes, the wood will slowly rot from the inside out but the process will be slowed down.

Eventually all wood rots when left outdoors.

Now if you’re starting your garden project from scratch and would like to use paint or even stain that is cost effective and green friendly, I did some digging for you and found these options.

The first one I have used many times and love it. The kicker is you need to apply a protective coat like their wax or clear coat afterwards.


Newly Painted Garden beds

Needless to say, I’m glad this paint job is finished.

Now I’m in the planning stages of spring planting and it looks like flowers and herbs will fill these beds with goodness.

How are your garden plans coming along?  I’m one to plan early mainly because it helps me travel through winter at a faster pace.

If you need a little nudge check out my book, Startle Garden Now.  This is the system I use here on the blog and it’s so easy to care for.

Don’t forget to grab our Free Seasonal Garden Planner below which makes a great companion for any gardener and this book.

It’s perfect for organizing and meeting your goals if that is something you may be struggling with.

Thanks for joining me today and if you have additional questions about painting raised beds, I’d be happy to help.


Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West

Painted Raised Beds

Free Grow Guide For Luffa Sponges

Get Free Luffa Grow Guide includes step by step from choosing seeds varieties to sprout seed and harvesting. This is a complete guide for raising on a small or large scale.

How to Grow Luffa Sponges

Have you ever used a home-grown luffa sponge?

Well let me just say they’re pretty fantastic and when we lived on our farm Robert had this idea of growing Luffa on a large scale.

I have to be honest; I wasn’t excited because one of the first learning tips that caught my attention was this plant had a 200 day growing season.

It’s a tropical so that made sense but 200-days is a long time.

Our weather in North Texas is unpredictable especially in the spring so getting started took careful planning.

It felt like for three years all we talked about was growing luffa…


Like most things on our farm we figured out how to rise above our weird weather allowing our first season to be pretty successful.

Wow, did we learn a lot…

We had hundreds of plants that first year and the following year we decided to go big and plant thousands.

We took an acre field, Robert’s ambition and put it into action…  Another year where we learned a lot…

The third year we went back to planting a small field, experimenting with several different planting options.   We had success and luffa everywhere and quite frankly I was tired…

Can you believe we still have sponges left from that last crop?

Grow Luffa Sponges


Luffa is an Interesting Plant to Grow

It made sense to share what we learned so others could have a positive experience and detour some mistakes many growers have had.

To reach harvest season you have to plan early by beginning seeds indoors as early as February.

Transplanting is also a tricky process because it is tropical, meaning temperatures have to be just right.  I’ve included all these details and more in the FREE Luffa Grow Guide.

Go ahead and grab this free download and get started now because the clock is ticking.  If you want to grow luffa and be able to harvest sponges before that first fall frost you need to plan in January because the season begins in February.

If you have a long growing season that’s predictable then you can actually direct seed plant in the Spring which is awesome.


Get this Free Luffa Grow Guide by using your email address right here:


Enjoy These Articles from our last Growing Season

Growing luffa was a neat experience and you don’t need a large crop to enjoy the beauty this plant has to offer.

Get this free download, it’s our little gift to you and remember to check your email to receive and download.


Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West


How to Grow Luffa Sponges

Easy to Build Quail Shelters

Easy to Build Quail Shelters for raising quail on the ground in a natural environment.


How to Build a Quail Shelter

When I started raising quail I had to figure things out on my own through trial and error because the majority of quail breeders were raising their birds in cages.

Through months of observation I was able to figure out what worked and what doesn’t; this leads me to these easy to build quail shelters.

I shared them a couple years ago but failed to include building plans. You can view the originals here.

Back then I was trying to learn if these birds would even use nesting boxes which was a quick no but when it rains or when it’s really hot they like to hide for shelter, even if tall grass is available.

I’ve used these shelters for Coturnix and Bobwhite quail and in most of my articles you’ll notice them mixed throughout their terrain. I absolutely love these shelters and so do the birds.

Supplies for Building a Quail Shelter

Quail Shelter Supplies

This project can be modified in the blink of an eye by building small or large.  Our shelter for today happens to be 2 ft. x 1 ft. and I have others that are 3.5 x 2.

The building plans are the same which makes this project a breeze to duplicate.

Instead of focusing on the measurements we’ll direct our attention towards supplies so you can construct these shelters to fit your quail coop.

  • Eight ft. 2 x 3’s for frame (You could also use 2 x 4’s)
  • Plywood for Roof
  • Cedar or pine Fence boards for walls
  • Screws
  • Drill and Saw
  • Stain and Brush (or use exterior paint)

Building an easy Quail Shelter

Let’s Begin

We’re basically building a box, well part of a box beginning with the frame so we need the following pieces customized to size for your coop or sanctuary.

  • 4 corners for height
  • 2 ends
  • 2 width

Start by connecting the ends and width pieces to make a rectangle. Drill one pilot hole in each corner before connecting the frame with screws.

Learn more about pilot holes here. 

After this is completed follow through by adding a leg in each corner.  You’ll need two screws for each corner.

Stand the frame upright to make sure everything is level then add the walls with screws.  I did some overlapping with the walls on this shelter using cedar fence planks, I was focused on creating additional ventilation.

Connect the bottom piece first, the top last, then come around the front and add two more pieces in the entry.

Quail Shelter Roof

Adding the Roof

Use plywood for the roof because it’s easy to work with.

Cut the wood with a table, circular or jig saw; I chose a jig saw because I wanted a swirled roof.

If you’re seeking a straight edge then go ahead and use a table saw as it offers a clean cut..  Once the roof is shaped correctly go ahead and screw it into the frame.

Note – The roof can have an overhang adds character and is a nice addition when it’s raining.

Adding Stain to a Quail Shelter

Finish with Stain

The shelter is completed which leaves us to finish with stain.  I’ve used paint in the past but I’m here to say the stain lasts longer.

Leave the interior of the box natural and apply the stain with a brush to the exterior, let the wood soak it right up then air dry outside.

The stain will project the wood from rotting, making your shelters last longer.

Building a Quail Shelter

These shelters have been a hit with the quail, myself and they’re easy to move.  They work great in a natural ground environment because they provide protection year-round for all types of weather.  Additional explanation for incorporating these shelters can be viewed in the following posts.

This project was made from scrap wood so if you have additional building materials in your workshop use these instructions and come up with something similar or duplicate this easy build.

If You’re thinking about raising quail check out my book Quail Getting Started. it was written for beginners who want to raise quail in a natural environment.

Give these shelters a try, they’re easy to build and perfect for Bobwhite and Coturnix quail.

Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West


How to Build a Quail Shelter


Action and Inspired New Growth for 2020

Taking Action in 2020 instead of goal setting to experience new growth inspired by faith.


I normally begin every year by writing down goals, this year things look different…

I’m not centered on specifics.  Instead I’m focused on action that inspires new growth…


I know that if you go online right now and google, “how to set goals” you’ll come up with thousands of how to articles.  So many your head will spin because how do you choose?

Don’t worry I’m not sharing how to set goals for 2020.


I wanted to take a moment and share the importance of taking action to inspire new growth…

Taking action is a process… It may even include getting out of your comfort zone.


For me action is exciting, it’s like a DIY project because it involves moving forward.


Robert and I have been married for 27 years and counting; our life together has been amazing.  We raised two awesome kids, lived in many places and have witnessed the good and the bad.

I will also say our life has been loaded with many up’s and downs, so many we lost count…

It’s those up’s and downs that make us who we are and continue to inspire new growth.

I’m forever grateful for every obstacle and thankful for the dreams we ponder together.


Failure and success are the pillars of life that help us grow.  This is why I probably enjoy gardening so much because it’s filled with both.

At the end of each season, I can always see the growth even through the failures.


Gardening isn’t perfect, life isn’t perfect and we are definitely not a perfect people…


We can however strive to do better…


So, I’m keeping 2020 simple…

I’m taking steps toward action that inspire new growth.

This may include being braver, getting out of my comfort zone, sharing a new blog post here and there and taking more time to enjoy everything…


Through this action I have no doubt growth will follow and the dreams that have been placed before us will become a reality.


It’s the action of moving forward through this messy life that makes us a better people.


Cheers to you in 2020, may you treasure each day and make it a great year…


Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West

Grow Easy with Startle Garden Now

Startle Garden Now is the gardening book to help you plan growing your best garden in easy to follow steps

Startle Garden Now Book


Since we’ve been back, I’ve been taking more time to sit and enjoy the garden.  I often find myself day dreaming with thoughts of what to plant this spring.

Day dreaming is fun but sometimes it detours progress and keeps me from reaching my goals. In order for those dreams to become a reality the truth is I need to make a plan.

You and I already know this, but sometimes it’s easy to push planning aside and focus on what we want.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately, I’ve been making a plan to shrink the garden because 2020 is going to be a busy year.


My biggest goal is to keep on Startle Gardening because friends this system works perfectly and I can’t imagine gardening any other way.

It has allowed me to enjoy the process and grow with ease without all the intense labor.


Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Well that’s why I wrote Startle Garden Now, to help gardeners realistically meet their goals and have fun during the process.

If your wish is to grow a garden that’s easy to maintain, then you’re in the right place.


Startle Garden Now is step by step instruction.

What Makes Startle Garden Different?

Maybe you’re wondering, “What makes Startle Garden different from all the other gardening books out there?”


It’s easy to follow and understand which means it’s doable…


This book is focused on simplifying the process and using methods proven to work for generations.

Friends, gardening doesn’t need to be complicated.  Life is complicated enough and if gardening is going to be an enjoyable hobby then it’s important to use a guide that can help you plan and grow your best.


For years I would read gardening books only to set them aside because they over dramatized this activity. The approach was technical instead of engaging and let’s just say excitement to get started wasn’t there.

The idea of beginning from scratch felt like it would take years to meet all my goals because the information provided was overloaded.

Meaning there was a lot of filler that wasn’t necessary. Can you relate?


But then I remember something my grandma use to tell me.  “You can do anything you set your mind to…”

It’s was great advice and I embraced that “can do” attitude when I decided to shrink our farm garden several years ago.  Going from an open field growing space to raised beds seemed like a lot of work and at first it was.


When I broke things down into steps using small raised beds that are taller things started to come together.

Grandma was right you can do anything you set your mind to and I also remember her always saying, enjoy the process…


Gardening definitley doesn’t need to be complicated, in Startle Garden Now we begin with learning how to choose a space, establish raised beds and amend soil.

This is so important and the key to garden success.

From there I take you down the road to pure simplicity…



The Road to Startle Garden Now Includes:

  • How to begin with seed and choosing what to plant; this can be fun for the entire family.
  • You’ll discover how to transplant starters, watch them grow and harvest in easy steps.
  • Most important you’ll learn how to maintain a Startle Garden from one season to the next.
  • We also discuss adding garden flair to personalize your space, friends this is so much fun!


Startle Garden Now includes a checklist to keep from skipping steps.

The Startle Garden Checklist

One of my favorite additions to this book is the checklist…

This list is really helpful especially if you’re beginning from scratch because it makes sure you never skip a step.

Additional note pages follow which is also nice…


It’s my hope you consider joining me in this awesome gardening journey I call, Startle Garden Now.

Whether you’re wanting to simplify your current garden or start new I’m here to help be your guide to a fun and amazing gardening.

You can also sign up below and receive our free garden planner, it makes a great companion to this book.


Startle Garden Now is available in the shop via digital download or on Amazon in print.  


Smiles and Sunshine – Carole West

Startle Garden Now Book

8 Easy DIY Bird Feeder Projects

8 ideas for easy to make DIY bird feeders perfect for the backyard or garden space.

I’ve been pondering the idea of making a new bird feeder for the garden because sometimes I just have this urge to be creative.

Wanting something simple I decided to keep pondering this idea and posted an older project on Instagram.  One of my sweet followers referred to me as the bird lady and it made me chuckle because it’s probably true.

I’ve always been fascinated with small birds as they flutter about their way…

This led me to consider just how many of these DIY projects I had here on the blog so I went on a little flutter of my own.

I was able to pull up eight DIY bird feeder projects and thought it would be fun to share them all in one place because each one is unique and easy to duplicate.

Trio Tea Cup Bird Feeder

Tea Cup Trio Bird Feeder

Let’s begin with the trio teacup bird feeder.  This was a fun project and it’s still hanging from a limb in the bird park.

To my surprise it’s held up really well and I leave it out year – round.  It’s currently in dire need of new bird seed and some fresh ribbon might be in order.

I may go with a brighter ribbon this time around…  View The Trio Teacup Bird Feeder here.

Terracotta Fairy Garden with pots

Terracotta Fairy Garden Feeder

The Terracotta Fairy Garden Feeder was a combo project and one of my favorites for quite a while.

I made this a couple years ago waiting for spring to arrive.

The birds loved it and to be honest I had a hard time keeping it filled with seed so it’s possible it was also being visited by night creatures.

View The Terracotta Fairy Garden Feeder Here

Terra Cotta Tray Bird Feeder

Terracotta Saucer Bird Feeder

This project was another fun one and I’m hoping to duplicate it for our bird park area.  It’s so easy to make, inexpensive and you probably already have most of the supplies.

View the Terracotta Saucer Feeder Here

Bird Seed Ornaments that are easy to make

Wood Slab Bird Seed Ornaments

This project was originally for Christmas, but I couldn’t resist sharing because you can make these in all sizes and they look neat hanging from a branch.

Sometimes I drape them from birdhouses to attract visitors.  View Wood Slab Bird Seed Ornaments Here

Copper Twist Bird Feeder

Copper Twist Bird Feeder

This is just a fun hang out bird feeder made from a tree trunk.  I made this when we were in the mix of cutting down a lot of trees at Quail Grove.

That seems like just the other day but in reality, it was a couple years ago.  Oh, how time flies…

I’m thinking with a longer trunk you could do even more with this concept.  Hymn, I may have to make another one…

View the Copper Twist Bird Feeder Here

DIY Decoupage Bird Feeder Planter

This particular project was part of a blogger challenge and it was truly an obstacle piece because I’m not one to use decoupage.

Even stranger, it’s been popular on Pinterest and I can’t figure out why.

I made this when we were living on the farm and actually left it there because I just didn’t care for it.  With that being said the birds loved it…

Keeping the small pot filled with seed was an ongoing task.

View Decoupage Bird Feeder Planter Here

Easy Build Bird Feeder

This one is so easy and perfect for using up scrap wood.

I remember making several of these feeders like it was yesterday and having so much fun with Dixie standing by my side hoping for a taste of peanut butter.

Just the other day I mentioned to Robert how much I miss having a dog in our lives.

Anyways if you have kids, grandkids or neighborhood friends that like to make things this would be a neat gathering project.

Easy Build Bird Feeder Project Here

Upcycled Tea Cup Bird Feeder

Finally, we have the Upcycled Tea Cup bird feeder that I made for my daughter.  This was way back in the early days of my blog when life was very different.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we ever lived on a farm.

Back then there was little time for making crafts because the animals kept us busy on a daily basis.  I’m often asked if I miss the farm…

It’s a fantastic memory and I’m glad Robert and I decided to finish raising our family on land.  With that being said, I can’t imagine doing that again as it was very consuming.

Living in the countryside though, has it’s perks… View Upcycled Tea Cup Bird Feeder Here


After placing these projects together in one place I guess it’s true, I am a bird lady after all.


A bird lady with an eye for Copper and believe me I have no idea where that comes from… One day I noticed a strand of copper twisted in circles and from that day forward it followed me in many DIY Projects.

Hope you enjoyed this little round up of bird feeders and perhaps at least one of these projects grabbed your interest.


Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West

8 ideas for easy to make DIY bird feeders perfect for the backyard or garden space.

Easy Build Bird Feeder Project

Fun project for kids to make these easy bird feeders using scrap wood, peanut butter and bird seed.


This project includes steps that are lightning fast allowing you to create additional bird feeders for cheap even if you don’t have scrap wood available.

Within minutes you’ll be hanging feeders outside and the birds will absolutely love them.

Grab the kids or grand kids because this is a family fun project everyone will enjoy making.


SoThis post contains amazon affiliate links that means if you make a purchase after clicking, there’s no additional cost to you, but I will earn a small commission.  Click here to read site terms.



Supplies + Tools

To build new purchase the following items from any home improvement store.  Ribbon comes from your favorite craft store or from your own stash,mI went with a green shimmer because it reminded me of spring.

Birds seed and Peanut butter can be purchased on Amazon to make life easier.

Getting Started

  1. Cut the 2 x 2 into different lengths, space from 1.5 ft. and under.
  2. Drill holes through one end for ribbon hanger.
  3. Cut cedar fence board into 5 inch pieces
  4. Connect the cedar to the 2 x 2 with a screw – first insert pilot holes, tutorial can be found here.
  5. Cut the ribbon and insert through the hole and tie off in a bow or knot for hanging.

Add Peanut Butter

When the feeder is assembled use a table knife to spread peanut butter around the base.

This would be similar to frosting a cake but you don’t have to be detailed one little bit.

Adding Bird Seed

Any natural bird seed mixture will work just fine for this project.

Sprinkle the seed onto the peanut butter and watch it stick or fall all over the place. Which means make sure to have a dish to catch the pieces that miss their destination.


When the feeders are finished display next to your favorite birdhouse or hang from a tree.

These feeders would also make a neat attraction in the garden or make fun gifts for those friends who have everything.

Keep it simple and having fun!

Smiles and Sunshine, Carole West


Top off Raised Beds Naturally

With taller raised beds the soil will compact as it amends. Learn when to top off raised beds with natural ingredients.


Learn to Top off Raised Beds Naturally

At the end of every season I like to evaluate the garden.  This is when I take note of the highs and lows and finish the year by topping off each raised bed.

It’s important to me that I always use natural material for topping off like direct compost, manure and leaves in conjunction with the soil.

These elements remain to be the best way to feed the beds and they help improve the soil beautifully.

If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear about them.


Natural material for topping off beds

Startle Garden Did Amazing

Our Startle Garden did amazing this year even though we were out of the area for 7 months.  I was impressed and thrilled because my fear was that by leaving with Robert, I would risk losing the entire garden.

Let me just repeat myself by saying taller and smaller raised beds are a true game changer.  We returned home about once a month during that period and all I did was water and clean up where needed.

Talk about a sweet experience!


My Favorite Natural Material for Raised Beds

When we arrived home one of my first garden projects, I wanted to attempt was shrinking down the blackberry beds.  After we finished clearing that first property, I took an afternoon and did just that.

That activity left me with an abundance of soil which was a huge perk.

If you’re in the middle of topping off your own raised beds and don’t have additional soil at your fingertips keep in mind you can also purchase organic soil from a local nursery.

I’ve done this in a pinch and there’s no shame friends…

Amending soil is hard work and it takes about three years to really see the benefits.  With that being said I have to admit that blackberry soil was pretty sweet.

I could also see that it still needed help, this led me to using the following ingredients when I topped off each raised bed.

  • Lots of leaf material – they’re plentiful here, small and perfect to blend with soil.  For larger leaves you can chip, or burn and use the ashes.
  • Direct Compost – this was just food waste that I saved the week prior and I mixed between layers of soil to welcome the worms.
  • Manure – I used up the last of my llama droppings from the farm.

It’s true I brought buckets of llama manure from the farm because it’s absolutely golden.  To say I’m out of stock now is a little sad but I’m sure I’ll figure that out when the time comes for more.

Perhaps I can take my own advice on finding garden manure here.

Adding natural material between soil layers

Topping off Raised Beds

Moving that dirt took me awhile… But I have to tell you, after taking the summer off it was fun to get my hands dirty.

For each layer of soil that was added there was a layer of leaves, manure and direct compost that followed.

For some beds it was a matter of a nice layer of natural material and a thick load of soil on top.  Evaluate your beds and the depth you have to work with to figure out the right consistency.

Most important part of the process is to not over think this activity.

Topping off beds can sometimes be as simple as just loosening up the soil.

This can be done with a hand spade but because I had all that blackberry dirt that needed a home I decided to simply top off.

Raised Bed Topping off complete and ready for planting in the Spring

Now the garden sits and awaits Spring planting.

I will continue to add direct compost over the winter months and eventually I’ll finish the raised bed painting I started back in August.

Topping off raised beds at the end of the year will give your garden the boost it needs when spring arrives.

So, when a warm front arrives visit the garden…

To learn more about the Startle Garden system check out my book here.  It’s also available in print on amazon, which is awesome!

Smiles and Sunshine, Carole

Learn to Top off Raised Beds Naturally