Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Raised Beds Revisited

You may remember that last year Dianne had a workshop at her home to demonstrate how to build a raised bed.  (See Part I, Part II, Part III.)  This last weekend my wonderful husband, Walter, (and our wonderful neighbor, Raymond) built two new 4x8 beds plus a 2x2 bed for Raymond's little girl, Alice.  Alice was a big helper!  This morning I helped out at PAR Collierville as third-graders from Collierville Elementary School toured the garden.  We explained the benefits of raised bed gardening to them and some of the parents had questions.  So I promised to post details about what I'd done this weekend.  I'm going to break this down into what it takes for one bed.

Per Dianne's advice, we went out to Germantown Lumber to get cedar to construct the beds.  Remember, you shouldn't use treated lumber because of chemicals that can leach into your soil.  Charles Speed, the owner, listened to our plans, then advised us to use cypress instead of cedar.  He said it would last just as long and cost about half.  Well.  We bought 2x12 boards.  He cut them into the correct lengths for us: two 8' lengths and two 4' lengths.  We also bought a 1x8 board and cut it ourselves (don't you like that "ourselves" part??) into eight 4" pieces for the corners.

from the Yellawood Raised Bed Project
Since we bought 12" boards for the frame and 8" boards for the corner pieces, we centered the corner pieces on the frame.  In the above picture, the corner pieces and the frame are the same size.  Centering the pieces gave us the advantage of being able to pick the whole thing up more easily.

The guys put some weatherproof glue on the ends where they joined together, then used 3" deck screws to screw the pieces together. They put the same glue on the corner pieces, then attached them with 2.5" galvanized exterior common nails.  Voila, the frame was built!  We let it sit inside the garage overnight so that the glue would set.

They put the frame where I wanted it, which was in a area previously used for a holly hedge that was removed a few weeks ago, included the stumps.  So it was bare ground.  If you're going to place it on a grassy area, lay down some corrugated cardboard and put the frame on top of it.  That will kill the grass.

Next we used the lasagna method to fill the bed.  We put down four cubic feet of topsoil (four 1 cf bags), then a layer of shredded leaves, then a layer of shredded newspaper, then half of a 50 lb bag of composted cow manure.  We repeated these layers, then topped the bed with another four bags of topsoil.  I soaked each bed and now the layers will start "working."  I'll probably have to add some leaves and topsoil during the winter because the level will drop as everything starts decomposing.  I'll be judicious about the leaves, 'cause I want everything to be composted by early next spring so I can start planting.

You may be wondering about the shredded newspaper.  I did a raised bed last year and tried to shred newspapers with my little home office shredder.  It worked ok, but it was S-L-O-W!  So I've saved my papers for a while instead of putting them out for the recycling truck.  I took them over to Shred Shop of Memphis at 318 Collins Street.  They'll shred your newspapers for you at a cost of $10 for the first 25 pounds and $.25 a pound after that.  It's a deal.  Turns out I had 32 lbs of newspaper.  I was so happy.

So, total cost for one bed:

          Lumber                             $80
          Screws & nails            10 (but we had lots left)
          Topsoil                                21 (16 bags @ $1.30)
          Cow manure                         5  (one 50 lb bag)
          Newspaper                           6 (about 15 lbs)
          Leaves                                  0 (plenty of leaves around!)

                      Total                   $122

A good time was had by all!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Miniature Conifer Garden

I've been going through all my photos from the trip we took to the Missouri Master Gardeners Conference in Springfield, MO last week.  There's lots to share, but just quickly, check out this mountain of miniature conifers!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

PAR Davies 10/2/2013

Hi Everyone,

YTD TOTAL 2262 lbs

We had a good day today and got much done. Gardeners today were Jamie, Susan, G.A., Maxine, Nancy, Cathy and myself. Jamie was already busy shredding the bean and sweet potato vines when we got there. We are going to have some excellent compost, and Jamie has really beefed up our whole compost area. We have already used some of the compost on the savoy cabbage, which is is flourishing.

Nice rich compost ready to use
Nancy cleaned up the area along the front fence, and it looks so much better. Maxine did us a big favor by weeding all the beds and some along the back fence.  G.A. did some thinning of radishes and rutabagas. Susan and G.A. planted another bed in vetch. We got busy with the harvest so Cathy could deliver, and today picked kale, okra, white icicle radishes, more peppers (bell, banana, jalapeƱo, serrano, shishito, habanero), tomatoes, eggplant and basil. We are starting to harvest some of the fall crops and still plenty of summer crops are coming on.

Some of our harvest. Look at the pretty white radishes
I thought we'd be pulling out some of the tomato vines today, but there was a change of plans. G.A. suggested that since they look so good and have so many tomatoes still coming on, to leave them until we get a freeze. But we will have to harvest all the green tomatoes when we hear prediction of a freeze. It is amazing how the tomatoes took off. You wouldn't believe that a month ago they looked almost dead.

Wild and crazy tomatoes
We had a visitor at the garden today, Nikki Boertman, photographer for the Commercial Appeal. She had planned on running some pictures of the garden in the Bartlett edition of the paper tomorrow. However, I just got a call from her to say that a reporter was interested in doing a regular article for the paper, so they will skip tomorrow's pictures. We'll be waiting to hear when that is going to be.

Susan and Nikki
Below is a picture of the bed we planted with just a few black bean seeds. I found out that these seeds were an experiment at the University of Mississippi College of Agriculture. This was 10 years ago, and they have been in the deep freeze of the person who rescued them from being thrown away!!! So these seeds have a history. You can't see how nice and plump the pods are, but they are some great beans, and I hope we can plant a whole bed of them next year.

Black beans climbing on tomato cages
I purchased a muscadine vine which will go in the ground later this month. We have plans for blueberries and raspberries next spring, but will have to test the pH where we are going to put the blueberries, and adjust accordingly. Today was the first day of our new hours 9:00-11:00. It is still a little warm, but the garden is not as wet as at 7:00, which makes for 'cleaner' harvesting.

Just a note from my own garden.  I've been enjoying the Shishito peppers immensely.  Just blister them in a scant amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  You can't eat just one!  I'll be planting these again next year!

Blistered Shishito peppers

'Til later,