Tried and true raised bed suggestions.
The only thing better than fresh produce is fresh produce that comes from your home garden. We’ve always dabbled in growing vegetables but this year we took it to a whole new level. While I wouldn’t say we have a green thumb, we have had some tasty results. This blog is the first of a two-part series sharing what has worked well for us, starting with our garden architecture.
For those of us who are “mature” gardeners, having a strong raised bed on which to sit is essential. Raised beds can also be a creative expression and add interest to your garden area so think out of the box and enjoy the results. We have bookended ours with twin iron headboards – true vegetable “beds” that get a lot of attention from our visitors at Cherry Creek Guest House.
Mr. Fixit constructed the planting boxes with stacked 2”x12” lodgepole pine that are 8’ long and vary in width depending on the size of the decorative but functional iron headboards. It is important to use raw lumber so that no toxins seep into your soil (for instance railroad ties would not be appropriate). The iron headboards are not only functional for vining veggies, such as peas and beans, but they create a strong frame for twine if needed for heavy plants like tomatoes. When the temperatures dip, it is easy to cover the plants without weighing down the stalks by simply draping material from the headboard to the footboard.
We’ve learned a great deal from various garden shows, podcasts, and even a local gardening group on Facebook. After much research, we opted not to till the soil under the beds as that destroys the natural micro-organisms. Instead, we left the bottom of the bed open to mother nature. We created drainage by layering large and small branches covered with leaves and cut grass. We stomped around on this concoction in preparation for the soil/compost mixture that we topped it with to settle. Good soil is non-negotiable. There must be ample nutrients to properly nurture the veggies. Talk to your local garden center and spend a little extra to get the right combination. We’ve learned not to pull our plants; instead, we cut them and leave the roots to decompose and enrich the soil. If you compost, which is much easier than one might think, the branches and vines can be added at any time.
Last year we had an above ground sprinkler system which created a thriving insect population. This year we switched to a drip irrigation system that was much more effective. Mr. Fixit rigged it so that each bed has its own control. If the sunny bed needs more water, we can turn the others off even though they are all on the same line. The slow trickle of water immediately adjacent to the planted rows allows us to fully soak the soil without moistening the leaves.
Despite our best efforts to eliminate insects, we did have to use some organic neem oil toward the end of harvest season as invisible bugs, white moth offspring I think, started to enjoy our veggies before we did. We discovered a great solution for trapping earwigs. Simply put 3:1 oil and soy sauce in a low shallow dish under your plants. I used small goat cheese containers with a few rocks for weight and caught a lot of the nasty little creatures.
Even if you’re already a gardener, there is so much to be learned from fellow gardeners and the massive amounts of available information. If you haven’t yet tried gardening, spend some time looking into tips for your zone and get started as soon as you can. You won’t regret it as you will have healthy, flavorful food to eat and will even be helping the environment as more plants lead to cleaner air for everyone.
Happy planning and next month, check out How Does Your Garden Grow part-two which will really dig into specific vegetable planting strategies.