Updates on my Raised Bed Garden
Did it Work?
Results were spectacular. A combination of good soil, careful tending (or rather regular watering) and good weather made for fabulous yields
We are now in mid August. The lettuce has come and gone and the plant I kept for seed is flowering. I've replanted some for a fall crop. Same for the radishes which grew really well and stayed sweet for weeks before going to seed and toughening up.
Zucchini has produced lots of fruit including giants, one was 18 inches long! The plant is now starting to suffer from powdery mildew but is still producing enough to keep me knee deep in zucchini.
Zucchini and other squashes can get infected by Squash Vine Borer.
My zucchini plant was neighbour to a yellow melon plant. Yellow melon is better known in Asia, but is easy to grow, prolific and delicious. (Yes it is yellow.) I had kept seeds from a fruit I had bought in a Korean Supermarket. Even though the seeds were old I got at least one plant.
This one is a Korean variety, they call them yellow melon, They are quite small, about the size of a papaya or very large potato. There are several different variations that are called canary melon. In our supermarket you can buy a larger canary melon that is sort of pointy at both ends.
I have several cantalopes growing, they are still green and tremendously large. Almost as large as the smaller watermelons.
The cucumbers have really come through. Lately I've been picking giant 18 inch cukes that were hidden, peeling them and taking the seeds off and they are delicious, sweet and tender even as super-sized.
The 6 or so ever-bearing strawberries I originally planted, are producing a handful of delicious berries every day. They are sending out lots of creepers that have also started to produce.
I think about 20 mature plants would allow for a quart of strawberries everyday week, at least. For a while someone was eating them. I think a bunny was the culprit. He seems to have moved on. The cats like to look at them but only Winston has tried chasing one but with no intention of catching it. It's very lucky that my cats have proved to be very poor hunters, with the marked exception of Oscar who has been keeping me well supplied with dead mice. Most of the cats are getting old too.
Mister and Missus Honey Berry have grown hugely but not deigned to flower. I'm giving them to next spring to do something. I might have planted them after they flowered. They were a house-warming gift and are supposed to be a relative to the blueberry but easier to grow and very hardy. Plants are even surviving near the arctic. Like blueberries you need a male and a female plant to get fruit. I planted 2 ladies and one laddy. It's a honeyberry harem.
The rhubarb plant is putting on some size and I might just pick a few stems and make a rhubarb and strawberry pie. If I can resist eating all the strawberries. The stems are really not very big yet but it seems to be growing fast. One of my earliest memories is of getting a cup with sugar in it and going to the garden and pulling out a rhubarb leaf, and eating it by dipping it in sugar first.
With great hope I bought 2 dozen asparagus roots and planted them in the spring. I spent a huge amount of time digging up the patch and putting in really good soil. I bought the roots from Canadian Tire and found them to be poor quality and mouldy. Eventually they came up but were slow and weak. They are just now beginning to take off. They might get through the winter if they continue to do well.
The sticks are there because it took almost a month before I saw any shoot at all and several did not come up for 2 months. Every morning I would go and check each root for the tiny shoots.
Also from Canadian Tire was a currant plant which has been losing ground all summer. Unless it perks up it will not make it through the winter. I don't particularly like currants but thought that the birds might enjoy them. The plants are usually reasonably sturdy but I don't have much hope for mine.
Onions, garlic, leek and chives are all thriving. I keep harvesting some and there is always more.
As an experiment I planted some potatoes. These were a red variety. They have outdone themselves and I have been eating potatoes for a month. I just reach in the ground and pull out a few. They are delicious but quite wet and crisp. I don't think they would keep. Maybe later in the season they will dry out some, if they get the chance.
Also as an experiment I grew some artichokes from seeds. There is a variety that will produce in our short summers. So far I have 3 pods growing. I plan to eat one soon. I'll report. The plants look like large thistles and I planted them too close but next year I will know better.
Apparently they need a period of cool weather to bear fruit. That's what I read on the internet and everyone knows everything there is true.
Yellow peppers are a great success. I've been picking them for 2 weeks already and there are lots more. They are sweet and tasty. As are the miniature sweet red peppers. I did not expect such abundance. Aubergine on the other hand are a total flop. 4 plants and one misshapen fruit so far. I've grown Asian varieties in the past and they are productive, these European types are not a great success. The Asian eggplants are long and thin. The European ones are shorter and fatter.
Tomatoes are ripening by the basket load and are very tasty and wonderful. I did not get around to staking them as I should have so they just flopped over. Not the best method. I also crowded them. Still I'm overrun with tomatoes and no end in sight.
Both the Kale and the brussels sprouts are doing really well. At first I had some trouble with cabbage worms but soon I got a legion of little wasps that moved in and that was the end of the worms. I'll be eating brussels sprouts by next week and I have been harvesting kale for a month already.
The brussel sprouts have proved very hardy and enthusiastic. After a brief attack by the cabbage worms, nothing much seems to eat them. I pull off the odd slug and I noticed a grasshopper on one this week. They have made a few holes in the leaves. There seems to be a great number of grasshoppers this week.
I had thrown in a few fennel plants just for fun and they grew very well. They acquired the most gorgeous caterpillars so I did not eat them. Eventually the caterpillars (black swallowtails) went away but by then the plants were too woody to eat. I've left them to flower and they seem to attract all kinds of bees so I'm happy.
Two staples have kept me in vegetables all summer. The bush beans and the swisss chard have produced in great abundance. The yellow beans have been better than the green variety, better growing and tastier. I planted 2 types of swiss chard, the red stemmed ones and the totally green plants. I don't see much difference in taste and they both seem to attract the little grubs that burrow inside the leaves. I patrol and squish the leaves if there is a sign of a worm inside. It controls them.
Strangely enough the beets I planted did not come up at all. I've replanted them at the beginning of this month (august) but I don't think I will get any to ripen. Bad seeds or a bad case of squirrel-itis. I had several things not come up because the seeds mysteriously evaporated. Besides the beets, my first set of beans and edible pea pods simply vanished. I replanted the peas and am getting great quantities of pea pods. They are fairly tasteless though so next year I will pay attention and get a sweeter variety.
Assorted herbs have done well. Here dill is in full bloom. I don't use it much, but the butterflies like it so that's enough to earn a spot on my turf. Whenever I'm cooking I just go and cut some herbs at random when I want some extra flavour. Basil has worked really well and I've made pesto a couple of times.
The nice thing about the herbs is that when you brush against them it smells nice. Herbs also really help to repel garden pests and I plant them all over the garden under the vegetables.
I was too late in the spring to plant carrot seeds so I planted some already grown ones from the garden store. They've done well except they are very odd shaped and twisted. Lovely taste though.
I also planted catnip. I had intended to cut it at the beginning of the month but there were so many honey bees on it that I did not have the heart to harvest. The lawn also stayed un-mowed because the clover was attracting the bees too. I feel I have to cut them some slack since they are having such a hard time with pesticides.
What did I learn?
I learned what I already knew, DON'T CROWD YOUR PLANTS. Right now it's pretty much a jungle. I have to go in and trim stuff so that there is some air flow and mould does not grow.
Planting in raised beds means that the plants use up their water faster and I had to water regularly. As the seasons go I will improve my soil to retain more moisture. The current mix is light and fertile but has a lot of sand so does not hold water well.
Because I did not have a lot of time I did not dig down when I made my raised beds. This fall I plan to dig some of them at least, and throw in some of the compost I will have. I also plan to add some charcoal. (Biochar in newspeak.)
I also knew that good quality plants grow better. You get what you pay for. I should stay away from Canadian Tire Garden Store. I did not have much luck there.
Finally I will stake my plants next year. This spring and summer was so hectic just moving into the new house, getting a garden going where there was almost no topsoil, dealing with construction and repairs, getting my boats moved and settled and just dealing with the cats who had a few health problems.
Natural Pest Control
As usual, nature seems to deal with pests without too much help from me. The predator wasps seem to keep the garden clear of grubs, there are lots of ladybugs patrolling the potatoes, I did not see any aphids but maybe the ladybugs looked after that too. I also noticed that there were a lot of crickets around the garden just about now. I guess they are eating something. There are also quite a lot of garter snakes eating something. I'm guessing slugs is on the menu because there are not a lot of them around for such a wet season. I've squished a few Japanese beetles, some grubs that live in the swiss chard and the odd cabbage worm at first. That's about all.
I'm already dreaming of next year.
email me: Christine
Raised Garden BedsPopular Mechanics article on Making Raised Garden Beds
This Old House article on Raised beds
Canadian Gardening article on Raised flowerbeds
Wikipedia on Raised Bed Gardening
Fabulous collection of raised beds with lots of photos
I test my new leaf chipper-shredder machine I plan to use it mainly to make lots of leaf compost.
Terra Preta, is a soil found in South America. It has been produced by many generations and is stable, fertile and productive.
Self sufficiency on a quarter acre
Companion Planting is a way of increasing yields, reducing pests and protecting good insects.
Square foot gardening
French Marigolds help keep nematodes away. I put them and lots of herbs and onion sets in between other plants to keep pests away. They add the most cheerful look to your garden too.
LED grow lamps are expensive to buy but last for ever practically, and take very little power.
This information is for general knowledge. This reflects my ideas and experiments. If you decide to build anything make sure you know how to use your tools, be careful and have fun.