Normally I do not plant my vegetable sets in the garden until Memorial Day Weekend or later, but given the fact that it was 95 degrees (and the humidity level was about the same) yesterday, I decided to break my rule of thumb and plant the gardens.
Last year I installed two 4’x4′ square foot gardens in Steve’s backyard. Now you should know that I have a 30′ x 50′ plot of garden space in my own backyard at my house, but since I spend very little time there since Steve’s stroke, it has pretty much become a weed patch. Anyway, I absolutely love the raised bed gardens. The reasons are many. Not the least of which is that there is virtually no weeding to be done.
You prepare the soil which is a mix of compost, vermiculite or perlite, and peat moss. Plop the seedlings or seeds in sections (I don’t adhere strictly to the square foot method, but it ends up being pretty close), water well, and pretty much just watch it grow.
I do install a “rabbit-proof” (in quotes because I’m not sure there is such a thing but this works pretty well) wire fence around the perimeter of the raised garden beds just in case they decide to mow my garden for me. I must say that the fence worked really well last year. I didn’t have any rabbits in the garden until the fall after everything had been harvested. By that time the fencing had come loose enough at the base that they could crawl under. Tent stakes work well to keep the fence adhered to the ground.
If you plan to use fencing, don’t bother with the green plastic stuff. I’m not sure why they even bother manufacturing that unless it’s to keep baby chicks in. Two years ago Steve and I spent an afternoon installing plastic green fencing around my garden at my house and the next day there were holes chewed in several places – just large enough for the rabbits to get through.
I was ready to start shooting the little critters – which would surely have had the local police and PETA members over within minutes since my house is in the center of downtown. That was before I knew about the used kitty litter trick and the rabbits pretty much destroyed a good portion of my garden that year.
So back to why I love my raised bed gardens. They’re easy to plant, water, weed, keep critters out, and harvest. You can also make little greenhouses out of them in the spring by making a canopy of flexible PVC tubing and plastic sheeting. Cleanup is a breeze in the fall and spring prep is simple too. All I did to prepare them before planting was add more compost from my compost pile, some more peat moss and mixed it well and that was it.
Because the soil is very loose, it drains quickly so I water every evening unless it rains during the day. The harvest of produce from these two little beds last year was amazing. From one 4’x4′ square, we picked 4 heads of broccoli, about 10 eggplants, 8 heads of cabbage and 20 onions. After the broccoli was harvested, I added 5 hosta plants in that space and overwintered them there. And that was just one bed! I grew tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, lavender, thyme, dill, green beans, peas, basil, and cilantro in the other bed.
After the planting was done, Steve and I relaxed in the shade by the backyard pond and enjoyed a visit from a male cardinal who stopped by for a sip of water. It’s such a good feeling to finish the spring planting, and it took less than an hour this year!