Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 6: We WILL Go To The Ball !!

Big goings on in the raised garden since my last post. For a better view click each photo.

Everything is in full bloom and as you can see from the photo above the upward movement has taken hold.  You can also see what I meant in the last post that there would be a boat load of tomatoes, and I only planted half of the seedlings.

If you think back to a photo that showed the beginnings of a squash sprout. Well, here is what it was a few days ago (we had it with  dinner soon after). And, there are many more coming, so I should have many squash with dinner nights.

I'm still amazed how the plants have taken to the underground watering from the pop bottles. This photo shows how the roots move toward the bottles. I've seen explosive growth with minimum water usage as a result. 

And, when I say "explosive" this is what I mean. The entire garden is in full bloom. Every morning or afternoon I go out and position the leaves in the cages and am shocked by their steady movement upward.

The only disappointment in the entire project had been the watermelons. The original seeds failed to germinate after two attempts. I finally bought different seeds which instantly seemed to respond. I got lucky and planted just as the moon was filling and I think that helped.  

I was really excited to do watermelons because they would be a great test of growing something as big as melons using a trellis or cage. Now that I have sprouts, it should be a real test of my skill in making a trellis and supporting the melons as someone did in this photo. Life is good, we WILL go to the ball!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 5: Going Vertical

A lot has been going on in the raised bed garden. The plants have really taken off and work on the garden bed has become surprisingly easy. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

One thing that has become quite apparent is that weeding will not be a problem. I simply take a hand spade and lightly turn the earth around the bed and the disruption tends to almost completely remove the weeds. I've also been pretty bug free so the coffee grounds around the edges seems to be working.

As you can see from this photo the raised bed is almost weed free based on about five minutes of turning the soil about once a week. Can't get any easier than that!

The pop bottles are also doing their job and the raised bed only requires about two gallons of water every two days, and if it rains not even that. Once I put the bottles in, the plants instantly responded to the underground water source and started growing at a rapid pace.

I'm certain you've also noticed I have put in the training cages to support and begin to grow the vegetables that vine "vertically" or up. The cucumbers have taken to the cages like a fish to water. The squash and green peas will require a little more assistance but seem to be doing OK without a lot of spacing. I've checked a number of other sites that have done similar vertical gardening and in full bloom the squash should look like the photo to the right.

I even ran into a picture where the squash grew up a trellis and could be picked  from over head. No trellis here but this arrangement should make harvesting pretty easy. I will probably need more cages because every one of the tomato plants survived the transfer to the raised bed. That means I now have about 15 plants and they grow like the grass on your lawn even with pruning. On the bright side, I will have loads of juicy tomatoes for salads and even my Doxie assistant loves cucumbers right from the garden as a treat.

Speaking of treats... I already have the beginnings of squash sprouts. If you look closely at the photo on the left, in the center, are two baby squash eager to grow and hit the table. The cucumbers are not far behind. It won't be long now...

Next installment: Raised garden in full bloom

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 4

I have been learning fast as the raised garden takes shape. A few tips have also come into play to make the task even more fun than I had expected.  Click each photo for a better view.

I planned to let the seedlings grow in size before moving them to the raised box, but following the success of the experimental squash planting, after the initial trauma of the move, they seemed to do quite well so I was willing to go ahead with the other seedlings. 

I'm learning as I go and have discovered that used coffee grounds around the edges of the box deters pests, and letting used grounds sit in water a few days and then watering the plants with that water also deters various fungus. So a few words to a dedicated coffee drinker, Corey Miller: Who knew...?

I was also been helped by the data mining of my friends over at Pinterest. They have been sending me pins on gardening and a very interesting one caught my eye. Basically, if you use a 2 liter pop bottle when the seedlings are young and bury it strategically near them, it allows you to water into the soil and not from above.

My suggestion is to use fewer holes than shown in the picture. Getting the bottles had an interesting twist because I don't drink sodas and discovered few of my friends do as well. But a plastic juice bottle seemed to work as well. Also to my surprise the difficult part was making the holes. The bottles I discovered are pretty sturdy. I ended up using a wine screw. A girl's gotta drink something other than juice and water...

What really surprised me was how well it worked. if you limit the number of holes it acts as a slow release of water that the plants almost instinctively look for. Watering this way cuts down even more on the amount of water needed to grow your veggies. And, there is no waiting for water to reach the roots so less water is lost to evaporation. I experimented with one and plan to install more now that I understand how to do it and the number and distribution of the holes for each bottle. 

I will end by saying the plan to use the garden for stress reduction is definitely working. Weeding and tending have become great pastimes that allow all the stresses of the day to float away. I'm also problem solving on a small scale that seems to be helping my decision making in other areas. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season. 

Next Installment: Supporting the vining plants

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 3: The Good and The Bad

I said in the beginning that I would make mistakes and hoped you would learn from them and this far into the project I have discovered a few mistakes and also some benefits. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The purpose of this project was to use the garden for stress reduction and to practice what I preach on my main website about active rest and problem solving on a smaller scale. The raised garden has lived up to my expectations because it illustrates that anyone can do it at a fairly low cost, after working on it I feel tired but it is a good tired where I have used my entire body and not sat at a desk, and the low risk problem solving has increased my confidence that I could survive the zombie apocalypse. Well maybe...

One of the first things I've learned I did wrong was not digging out the space for the boxes and using the bear ground. Digging out the space allows you to level the ground. This became clear once I watered the dirt and all the water shifted to one side. It meant I had to undo all my great dirt smoothing and have one side higher than the other to make sure the water flowed evenly over the box. The bottom of the first box now has a little less dirt on one side. I was lucky the second box was level. I know that  because I used a level to make sure. Just be aware, quick and easy can come back to bite you!

I've also learned one of the great advantages of the raised box garden is that it requires very little water, and your garden becomes almost like a house plant. The soil stays moist with about a gallon of water every few days even in the Florida sun, that is great for the size of my boxes.

Rather than using the box for one type of vegetable I plan to use the "Square Foot Gardening" approach where the box is divided into squares and one type plant is in each square. It makes gardening very simple and yields enough without being overwhelmed with too much produce. Plants that vine are supported and grow "up" rather than "out", which also saves space.

I did a test plant of a few seedlings  just to see how they did before I filled each box. So far so good, and both boxes are now ready to go. Three of my Dollar Store seeds did not come up so I will try again with extra packets when the moon is once again full (it worked so well the first time) and I should be ready to go.

Next installment: Planting in the boxes

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 2

My little project is beginning to take shape. When we left the last episode I mentioned trying to find free dirt to finish filling the raised box and had planted the seeds I planned for my garden. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

On the free dirt front I quickly discovered that finding work sites willing to give it didn't exist, at least not when I needed it. And then the thought came to me that I pay taxes every year to say I own land so why not put some of that land to use. Looking around I realized that I had the perfect spot for great compost right under my nose. There was a spot near the edge of my backyard and under an oak tree that had soil that was pristine and just waiting for me to use it.

I had to dig a shallow hole because there is no overhead wiring in my area and everything electrical is underground. So shallow it was and the dirt was a great compost of the decomposed leaves that had fallen from the oak tree over the years. In no time I was able to top off the first box and knew where to go for the second.

And here we have the completely filled first box. As I leveled the dirt in place I found myself thinking how easy it will be to check the veggies and weed once the growing season is underway. The box is high enough that I could even take the "lazy man" approach and place a chair near the box to manipulate the plants and work the soil. Doesn't get any easier than that!

If you look over to the right of the picture you can see my shallow hole. I later filled it with leaves from other parts of the area to let nature do her work to replace the soil taken. 

I also learned from my father and a previous gardening season, that it is best to plant with the moon. Little did I know using this approach I would plant one day and 4 days later have seedlings. As you can see from the photo not all have come up yet but the majority have. I wanted to grow my own seedlings because I heard a report that bees possibly are being killed off by seedlings from big box stores. I don't know if that is true but I decided to do as much as possible from scratch and see how well it worked.

Next installment: Sectioning off the raised box  and planting the seedlings