Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Raised Beds

Some of you followed along as Dianne built and planted her raised beds.  I used her method when I built some raised beds last fall.  Unfortunately, the place where we "planted" those beds was deemed unacceptable by the contractor who is renovating our house.  So early this spring, we moved them to our next door neighbor's yard.

When we transported all of the fill, we were able to put all of it into one of the frames, due to the natural decomposition that took place over the winter.  That meant that one frame was empty, of course.  I didn't have time to go through the method that I used in the fall - layering shredded newspaper, shredded leaves, topsoil, and manure - because I wanted to be able to plant for this summer.  I remembered a mix from Square Foot Gardening, looked it up, and filled the second bed with it.  The formula is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost mixture.  For the compost mixture I used cow manure, composted chicken pellets, some fish emulsion - basically all the different kinds of compost I could get my hands on one Saturday morning!

In mid-April, I planted tomatoes and herbs in Bed One (with the original fill) and yellow squash, zucchini, zinnias, and cucumbers in Bed Two (with Mel's Mix.)  The difference is astounding.

Can you believe it?

As it happens, I got a soil test on Bed One that showed a pH of about 7.4.  That's on the high end of what is recommended for vegetables.  One of the symptoms of a higher than desirable pH is chlorosis, where leaves turn light green or yellow, but veins remain green.  This is what is going on in the tomato bed.  The soil test also recommended that I add nitrogen as the plants became established.  What with trying to finish up the renovation, I haven't been paying too good attention to these beds.  So last weekend I added aluminum sulfate (to lower the pH) and nitrogen to the bed.  I also sprinkled some Epson salts around the tomatoes, per Dianne's advice.

I'll take another photo in a few weeks so that we can see if there's any improvement.

P. S. - Dianne is amazed as well and plans on changing her recommendation re the fill for raised beds!

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