Sunday, February 28, 2010

Raised Bed #1 - Planted!

From Gardening

This is the last picture I took of the growing garden today. It was a simple process, but long, especially since we are planting FOUR raised beds eventually.

We had built the frames for the beds earlier in the week, and started out by moving them into the backyard.

From Gardening

Yesterday we went and purchased 32 cubic feet of peat moss, mushroom compost, and garden soil, to fill our 8x4x1 raised bed. Just for one! I'm keeping track of the costs of all of these to report on later. This is what 32 cubic feet looks like in bags. We ended up not using all of it, because they expanded to fill the space when we unpacked the bags, mixed it together, and watered it in between layers.

From Gardening

Before positioning the raised bed, Nathaniel stapled weed blocking mat to the bottom, just to make all of it easier. We didn't want to kill the grass or dig it up, that would be so much extra work! We bought the least expensive staple gun, which was almost unusable with the density of the wood. We measured the length of the brick stones we want to put around and in between the beds, and just positioned the first one officially before filling it with the soil/compost/peat moss mixture.

From Gardening

Hmm, somehow I didn't end up in any of the photos, but since we are using the square foot gardening technique, we did take the time to lay out the squares. I put nails around the perimeter at 1 ft increments, and then we cut and tied twine to the nails. I didn't want as much space taken up by slats as I have seen in some examples, but didn't want to just eyeball it either. It really made it so much easier when we were planting. Since I had my chart, I knew exactly where each plant would be going. Some were seedlings, some were seeds. Some are reserved for the seeds I planted in the garage, and some are reserved for marigolds that can't be planted quite yet. But today we planted carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, one cabbage (most are in the garage), and peas. I've heard it might snow Tuesday, but "mights" are often wrong.


From Gardening

Today I used a Burpee seed greenhouse to get a few plants started that I want to go in my winter/salad vegetable garden, but that are better to plant as transplants than directly from seeds. I was originally planning to just buy seedlings but couldn't find as many options for cabbages and greens. In the tray I have romaine lettuce (to compare with the seedlings from Home Depot), two asian cabbages, kale, and swiss chard.

I'm worried that my garage won't give them enough sunlight so I might move them into the dining room or sunroom in the house. What do you think?

I was excited at how easy these were to do, and the mat is self-watering. I think I will start tomatoes and some other summery plants this way too, because it gives me more options when I can start with seeds.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raised Bed #1 - Cold Weather Vegetables

From Gardening

This is the plan I came up with this morning. Now it is off to the store to get seeds and seedlings!

Planting in cold temperatures

Wow, it feels cold outside. This might be good, for some plants.

From what I've been reading:

Kale tastes better if it gets nipped by frost.
Spinach seeds can be sown in frozen ground.
Lettuce can be grown in temperatures as cold as 28F, but from seedlings, not from seed. Lettuce is more harmed by heat than cold, so the earlier the better.
English peas can be sown directly into the ground, in the cold.
Carrots and radishes can be sown as early as the soil can be worked.
The tallest plants should go on the north side so they don't block sun from others.

We live in Hardiness Zone 7.

It looks like I'm exactly 6 weeks out from our last frost (how they know this, I do not know). Which means it is perfect for planting kale and spinach outside, but slightly too early for other things, although if I was planting from seed I could plant things inside (this is a no go, I don't have any good sun inside!).

When I go looking for seeds and seedlings today, I'm going to look for three kinds of greens (maybe kale, turnip greens, and spinach), lettuce, peas, radishes, and carrots. I'll try for whatever combination will fill up one 8x4 raised bed. Using the square foot gardening strategy, that would be 32 different plants.

I did a search for square foot vegetable gardens. Tim in Indianapolis has charts and graphs of how he has laid his out. He includes plans for crop replacement mid-seasons, taking full advantage of the space, as well as annual crop rotation. One site encouraged the use of marigolds and nasturtiums in any vegetable garden to keep the pests away from the vegetables themselves. I remember doing this with my crabapple tree growing up as well.

I have spent the last hour watching square foot vegetable gardening videos on YouTube. I've definitely been inspired to give into my obsessiveness and make a graph of what to plant in our cold weather box, definitely think I should give into the weed cover idea, and am excited for our garden!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Making raised beds

From Gardening

Ahh, this is the kind of moment we feel like it really DID make sense to buy a Honda Element. We went to Lowes and Home Depot for the various supplies we needed (Lowes wouldn't cut the lumber even though they sold it, claiming their saw wasn't right for it, but Home Depot was happy to help).

To make 4 raised beds, we bought:

-8 2x12x8 untreated boards
-3 2x12x8 cut in half lengthwise
-1 2x12x8 cut in quarters
-32 brackets
-128 screws
-16 stakes to brace the longer sides
-1 birdhouse
-1 bag of birdfeed

From Gardening

At the end of Sunday, the sun went down before we could finish building the beds, but we had one completed and the birdhouse filled and up. Over the past week we have been building the others in the garage since it has been raining outside.

A few answers so far

One co-worker says he uses a mixture of 1/2 top soil, 1/4 potting soil, and 1/4 mushroom compost in his raised beds, except when he's planting tomatoes, and then he uses manure too. He said the information in the Square Foot Gardening site has a good mix but you can do as well using potting soil for the peat moss portion initially, then add the peat moss each year after.

Some of the people in the library said that squash and zucchini grow really well, as do tomatoes and eggplants. And okra, but I'm not sure I'd bother with it since I don't actually like it.

The first co-worker says interplanting flowers with the vegetables works well, and can look great. The best thing is that it keeps weed growth to a minimum. Flowers like calendula, marigolds, coreopsis, zinnias work really well.

To the question of seeds vs seedlings, he said he uses seedlings for tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and onion sets , but plants seeds for spinach, carrots, turnips and turnip greens, green beans, squash, cantaloupe, and cucumber. Hmm, I wonder why and how he has chosen?

So what should I be planting now? Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage. Eeek! It has been pretty cold this week, and I'm worried about things dying, but I'm equally worried about waiting too long. Look soon for a lettuce related post, as I muse over the many kinds of greens one can plant and eat!

Questions I am starting out with

Crossposted from Facebook, where I originally posted.

I need advice! I know a lot of you out there are spectacular gardeners, and I feel slightly lost.

Pretty soon, I will have five raised beds in my yard. Two in partial shade, for flowers and for herbs, and three in direct sunlight. The three in direct sunlight are 4 ft x 8 ft and have 2.5 ft around so they can be accessed easily.

Here's what I'm thinking. Any reason not to go this direction?

Direct Sunlight #1 - Tomatoes, a pepper, squash, zucchini
Direct Sunlight #2 - Greens! Lettuce, spinach, kale, green beans.
Direct Sunlight #3 - Melons, cucumbers (desperate to find lemon cucumber, hope I can grow it here, a flavor from childhood).

The Square Foot Gardening site uses a mix of 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite to fill the beds. The Clemson extension site says to work in a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic material such as compost, ground bark, leaves or manures. Adding an additional source of nitrogen will help the organic material break down. What would you do (or are these the same?) P.S. what is vermiculite?

Where would you purchase soil/compost/peat moss where it could be delivered? If we buy bags it will be multiple trips.

Both sites say to interplant vegetables instead of grouping them by type like I want to do aesthetically. Is this really that important? Are there any magical pairings of vegetables the way that you want to group some livestock together but not others?

What grows really well here in the south?

Would you start with seeds or seedlings? For either answer, where do you like to buy? Is there a good place to find heirloom seeds locally?

Both sites also said that raised beds stay warmer so I can plant earlier. When is earlier? Now?

If your advice makes my garden do really well, prepare to be fed with chocolate zucchini cake and salsa.

We don't know anything!

My husband Nathaniel and I are slowly (and possibly not so surely) learning how to garden. Two years ago we put in a raised bed with herbs, with the help of his parents, as well as having a palmetto planted in our yard. Last year we tried redoing the small patch out front with ground cover and other plants that wouldn't need a lot of attention. We also planted some blueberries and grapes, and had some tomato disasters in a pot.

This year we are putting in four raised beds, with an attempt to grow flowers, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. We are starting from zero knowledge, and hope to come out with something in the end! I thought it would be fun to blog it.

What is a greenhorn?

One resource defines it as "an inexperienced person; a novice, beginner or newcomer." Well, that's true. I grew up gardening, but only really weeding and picking things, not planning and planting.

My favorite definition comes from here and equates greenhorn with cub, defined as "an awkward and inexperienced youth." I feel very awkward and inexperienced about all of this!