For the first time in my life, I'm interested in farming. "Urban Homesteading" is the new term for using intown properties to grow crops. With the threat of a dollar collapse, the responsibility to feed my family despite runaway inflation is incumbent upon me.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Prepping the Raised Bed
It's been a couple of weeks since my last blog, but I have been preparing my garden and learning a lot in the process. One of the key points of my last blog was to not underestimate the importance of GOOD DIRT. But another pointer I picked up was the notion of raised beds. Initally, I thought a raised bed was just a wooden boxed filled with dirt, but I learned that it also refers to creating raised rows for your garden. Raised rows are great for a number of reasons;
1) It allows roots to grow freely in establishing a flexible underground root system.
2) It allows for healthy drainage.
3) It allows fresh dirt or compost to be added from the sides rather than trying to add on top of the plants.
4) It allows for walkways in between each planted area.
5) It is a lot more deliberate for the planning process.
6) It allows more flexibility to rearrange or split plants once they are large enough.
7) For carrots, potatos or turnips, it allows for larger vegetables.
8) Weeding for this type of garden is easier as well.
The primary downside of this kind of garden is the prep work it requires, not to mention a huge amount of dirt. Fortunately, I found some fresh dirt around other parts of my yard where I had piled leaves and grass clippings in years past. What a sigh of relief when I knew that bags of mulch can be costly (I saw what looked to be an 80 pound bag for $10 at Home Depot, but it doesn't take much dirt to make 80 pounds.) Also, I was very thankful to have had wood chips dumped in my driveway twice in the last 5 years. It's surprising how fast those chips go to mulch! What great dirt, too! You can call around to various tree services for free wood chips or at least cheap wood chips since these guys need a place to dump them. Usually, when they are in your area, they will call you.
Planning the garden wasn't that hard, but I messed up on one thing that I hope turns out okay. For some reason, as I was constructing the raised beds, the dirt piles rose higher and higher (I was adding more dirt to each progressive row without noticing). So, when I was deciding what to plant in each row, I put my "root" plants; turnip and carrots on the highest rows so they would have more room to grow underground. Only after I had planted these rows did I realize that bush beans in the rows following might well block the sun to these plants for a couple hours a day since these bean plants grow fairly high and are East of the others. Oh well. Live and learn. The other question I had to ask myself was, why did I plant an entire row of Jalapeno plants? Don't get me wrong; I love Jalapenos as does my family, but an entire row? I guess my thinking was that each planting required a lot of space in between. Right or wrong, we decided to plant Bell Peppers in the same row and we will just separate the plants as they demand.
Elsewhere in the yard, against the fence (so they can climb), we planted cucumber. While I was building up the bed, I then noticed we have watermelon growing here! It never took last year and it must have gathered strength over the winter. Additionally, we are digging another 15x8 garden area for other plants. We planted a blue berry bush near our pool which, I learned after placing it, I had not checked to see if it had been "cross-pollinated" so that it is fruit bearing. Hmmm. I put plant supporters on the wild blackberries that are growing along the fence. The muscadine vines that are streaming up in the back still never seem to produce, but again, maybe I'll get lucky. I just clear the way for them and encourage growth. Honeysuckle is plentiful in along the South side of our property as well (flowers are edible). We will be planting Foxglove and Sunflowers in the front (both are edible); tomatoes and squash against the house. It's worth noting that my wife liked the squash near the house because their huge flowers attract bumble bees. She would go out to water the plants in the mornings and would find 2 to 3 bees in each flower and they appeared to be sleeping!!