First review of raised bed gardening

IMG_4104 (800x518)June 13. We planted the garden about three weeks ago. And mystery of all mysteries, life has sprouted.

I don’t know why that always strikes me. There’s something about seeds and water and dirt. It all seems so improbable.  Then suddenly, green stems. Buds. Flowers. Vegetables.

If you’ve never planted a seed and watched it unfurl, you’re probably laughing. But if you have, you might know what I’m talking about it. Nature is magic when you let yourself get caught up in it.

Early risers in the garden include a mesclun lettuce, a baby butter lettuce, easter egg radishes, and all the squash plants. I think the green beans and sugar snap peas are doing well too. The plants still in question include rainbow swiss chard, spinach, and carrots. Oh, and potatoes. Mainly because I haven’t put them in the ground yet.

IMG_4110 (800x533)Tomatoes are rocking – we did 6 plants: heirloom yellow bells, two romas, heirloom brandywine, a supersweet 100 cherry, and one classic variety that I can’t remember the name of. I’m probably getting myself into some sort of salsa canning operation later.

Now if you remember, the goal was to be weeding less in this raised bed situation. So far, that’s fairly accurate. Having the fabric between the beds keeps big weeds to a minimum, but we do still find plenty of little volunteer starters in the vegetable rows. Luckily they are easy to pluck out, so I haven’t been frustrated too much by them. But just in case you’re thinking this is a weed free operation, it’s not.

Aesthetically, we are still working on the final plan for the garden. This week I finished doing the landscape fabric in the walkways. Most of this effort was accompanied by Ellis sticking her own landscape staples in the ground at various intervals. I’m sure that compromises the effectiveness of fabric, but that’s fine. Toddlers are ever curious, and ever copy cats.

Next step – pea gravel. If anyone has a good pea gravel hook up around the Twin Cities metro area, let me know.

Sigh. I just asked for a pea gravel hook up.



Raised Bed Gardening

I’ve always been a lazy gardener. Ask my husband. The lawnmower made a weekly pilgrimage through my old garden because I never kept the edges under control. Weeding is not my forte. Watering is an afterthought.

But eating? Eating is something I’m really good at. Hence, we keep a garden.

We’ve looked at raised bed and square foot gardens for a few years now. The magazines promise easy, carefree produce. The people we talk to raved about the easy organization and lack of weeding. And our master gardener friend who lives down the road was still asking us if we wanted carrots in NOVEMBER.

IMG_3725 (800x507)So. This year is the year of raised bed gardens at our farm. We’re doing it. Okay, Jason’s doing it. He built the beds, shoveled the compost and manure, hauled the giant bags of vermiculite, and planned the whole thing out. I, uh, helped carry the boxes.

Here are the basics:

  • Soil isn’t really soil. The stuff in the garden boxes is 1/3 compost, 1/3 animal organic matter (manure), and 1/3 vermiculite. Aside from being fun to say, this is basically just the stuff that helps the mixture retain moisture.
  • The raised beds are 2 x 4’s (I think) that Jason measured, cut, and hammered into place. Pretty simple. You can buy cute ornaments to decorate and hold the corners square, but we’re going Swedish utilitarian this year.
  • The benefits are less weeding, organization, better moisture retention, and bigger veggies. (So I’m told. Like I said – this is our first year.)

IMG_3814 (800x533)The pre-babies me would have started seeds a long time ago, but the realistic me knew that dirt in cups not kept under lock and key would be fodder for toddler temptation. So we’ll be starting from seeds and scratch…except for tomatoes. I like to buy tomato plants. (Honestly, because in the beginning nothing-is-growing stage, it keeps me from despairing that I’ve killed the plants before they even had a chance to grow.)

I’ll check back in with a few progress reports when something’s happening.

(Hopefully something happens and we didn’t just shovel a bunch of cow poop in our garden for $%#ts and giggles.)





That first garden [at today]

Hey! I’m guest posting over at my great friend Addie Zierman’s blog as part of her One Small Change series. Addie is a STELLAR writer, thinker (with a new book out!) and member of my writing group, and this series has been a huge source of encouragement to me. Each post has taught me how to incorporate better stewardship of the world I live in into my life. Head over and check it out, and be sure to read some of the other great posts. Oh, and buy her book. Really. Do it. 

Here’s the beginning to get you started.


first-gardenI grew up surrounded by food.

My grandparents were dairy and crop farmers. My dad likewise raised crops, feeder pigs, and beef cattle. I spent my formative summers eating fresh corn on the cob, mulberries, green beans. Peppers. Zucchini. Spinach and asparagus, homemade bread.

Come July and August, my mother became a produce machine. Corn was cut and frozen. Tomatoes were canned for salsa and sauce. Mulberries were boiled with sugar and lemon and canned as sauce to pour over vanilla ice cream. And when the freezer was getting low, my dad sent a pig or a cow to the butcher, and came home with boxes and boxes of white paper packages carefully labeled in blue meat locker ink.

But when I stepped out from under my parent’s roof, food took on a different shape for me. A new, costlier shape. It was no longer just, well, available. What was worse, I started seeing it in terms of dollar bills that, as a college student, I never had enough of.

—Keep reading