What’s New in the Garden – Can You Dig It?

Site Preparation for New Garden Bed

A new garden bed and gabion wall is in process at the Earth-Kind Demonstration garden at the AgriLife Extension office on Smith Road, and both require a LOT of digging.

The new garden bed is adjacent to a parking area at the AgriLife Extension office and is mostly weeds and grass. The Travis County facilities department regularly mows it but does not provide any other ancillary care or irrigation.

Master Gardener Sandy, the wall garden area leader of the Earth-Kind Demonstration Garden, is leading the renovation.

The tree planting last fall during Earth-Kind Gardening Field Day revealed compacted soil comprised mostly of roadbed material. Anyone who is gardening in parking strips understands this challenge.

At the same time, JoAnna, the pollinator garden area leader, is prepping the area to install a gabion wall. A gabion is a rock-filled cage retaining wall for civil engineering, road building, military applications and landscaping purposes. The new wall in the pollinator area is next to a driveway and will help keep soil and mulch from washing away during heavy rain events. The soil in this area is excellent, and is finding a home in the new bed at the other end of the garden.

Digging site for Gabion Wall

Digging site for new Gabion wall

Swapping out soil is not ideal and not something that AgriLife recommends, especially on a site with heavy clay soil. The danger is that the digging compacts the soil and creates an impermeable layer for water and roots. Special care was taken to remove the top layer down to the underlying road bed. Loosening the road bed material, adding compost, then mixing the entire soil profile together afterward helps prevent impermeable layers. New plants are going in over the next few months and will be added to the plant list. Extensions staff and Master Gardeners will hand-water the first year.

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