Which way is REALLY right -- preparing new shrub/tree border
My family and I are planning a shrub and tree border down most of the side of our small town property. The purposes are to screen a neighboring eyesore property and for our own enjoyment of a lovely space. The length of the proposed bed is 84 feet and the depth varies from about 10 to 24 feet, but the average is about 15 feet deep.
My background: I have been a perennial and vegetable gardener for several years, but this is my first real experience with shrubs and trees, so I am doing lots of reading and thinking and looking. It's been plenty of fun, because I'm at that great graph paper stage where everything fits perfectly, everything is thrilled with its environment, and never is heard a discouraging word... I�m a planner rather than a spontaneous planter.
Now, reality. I realize that I have no idea how best to "make" the bed. With my perennial beds, I have very successfully used the lasagna method, or at least my version of it. My veggie beds are raised. Our regular soil is clay with a good amount of shale in it. The area has been in grass for many years (more than the eighteen years we have been here).
We hope to live here for many more years. It is important for us to give the plants we add the healthiest start we can so they will thrive and we won�t have made a lot of frustration for ourselves. Our other garden projects have been such a pleasure, excepting one horrible experience with bindweed, and we�d like to continue the trend. We�re on a modest budget. And, we�d like to prepare the bed now for fall planting.
I�ve been reading threads on this forum about sheet composting, trench composting, double digging, and other ideas for preparing beds. There seems to be some controversy about the best way to proceed. I had pictured us removing the sod, using a big rototiller to break up the clay, picking out rocks, and tilling in mushroom soil and whatever other organic matter we can get our hands on, which makes me tired just to type, but there you go.
My husband thought we would hire a man we know to come in with his smallish backhoe and break up the soil with it from the alley that runs parallel to the other side of the bed (+ he could easily take out an old lilac and some spreading juniper we expect to dispose of). He has a small dump truck and could pick up shredded compost from a free source a couple of miles away, dump it in the bed and work it around with the BH. He could mix in a couple of truckloads of mushroom soil, too.
Our friend who has the mulch and has an ag background as well thinks we should just till the sod right in and then top with several inches of this free compost. That sounds so much easier, but I know easier often is not better.
What say ye?