March 26, 2012

Gardening with Mr. C. - Save Money with DIY Gardening

Before getting into a new topic, let me say I will probably not be writing very often until I finish getting my own garden started, etc (still have more beds to prepare and more peas, onions, & chard I want to plant now). I may pull out some of last years articles and dust them off. Also, in an attempt to be brief in last week's blog, I omitted some details that I want to try to clarify.

Regarding using old seed, I just heavily (to account for the age and early planting) sowed some lettuce seed from 2001 and 2003. I will let you know the results.

I said that raw leaves were not beneficial. They do add organic matter but make the soil more acid which requires adding lime. Whereas finished compost is ph neutral and ready to be absorbed.

In praising raised beds (having better drainage so soil can be worked earlier), I failed to say that you may need to water during dry spells (I hope to discuss rain barrels and irrigation in a later blog). I think the advantages outweigh any drawbacks. You also won't have to bend over as far even a few inches less gets more important to me as I age). My bed sides are 4" high but I prop them up with up to 2" of flat rocks (surprisingly not much dirt leaks out under the sides into the paths). The tops of the two sides are connected with slats, but since the beds are 25 ft long (and made up of several pieces of wood), the bottoms of the 2x4's were pushing out. I drove stakes (on the bed side so they wouldn't obstruct the path), straightened the sides, and screwed them to the stakes.

As to what to plant now, I want to explain that I had taken the low fences down after the Little Marvel peas died off to clean up and make room for bush beans. Note: Both peas and beans benefit if treated with inoculant during planting (available at Agway)for more info, click here.  Also immune to frost are onions & shallots (I sometimes plant them in the fall). To be safe from a possible hard frost, consider waiting till mid April for lettuce, radishes, spinach, and swiss chard (I always have some that survive the winter). For a chart of the best indoor and outdoor planting dates for many seeds your area, click here and enter your zip code.

Now on to my new topic - ease of access. If you can move freely about your garden, you will enjoy it more and will probably spend quality time there. I took this concept into consideration to a degree when I made a 3 foot center aisle the original layout perpendicular to the beds (of my 50 feet wide garden). It intersects with a similar path behind the raspberries and connects to the compost area. I can move a wheelbarrow (visible in picture below) of compost or tools to any path. When I enclosed the garden with a rabbit fence, I put a gate at the center aisle and another by the compost/leaf bins (I made them from old storm window frames and screens). When I enlarged the leaf bin last year, I moved that gate to give me easier access to the raspberries (previously they dead-ended at the fence).

                                                                    Garden entrances

This year I am making a few more accessibility improvements. I am widening my paths between beds from 12" to 14" (which is the width of my garden rake used to re-level the paths). It is still less than ideal (15" to 18"), but it enough improvement to allow me to turn around (I have nearly fallen because my feet are a foot long). I realized that it was worth giving up some bed width to gain maneuverability. At the same time, I have eliminated the boards connecting all the beds together (so far only the far side) of the main path. They were useful when the path was grass (now with sod removed and covered with weed cloth) for establishing the bed widths, but I had to make dirt and stone ramps to get over them as seen on the near side (see picture below). It would have been so much easier to have done it right the first time.Also note that the short pea vine fences are set back far enough for a row of peas and shallots, but also that a wheelbarrow fits between the beds. Probably not visible at the far end is a one foot space between the pea fence and the peripheral fence. Previous years I connected them and had to backtrack to the center aisle to get to adjacent rows.

                                                                   Raised beds

Till next time - Mr. C.