June 8, 2010

Raised Garden Bed update!

Remember last week were I had my first unsupervised experience with a power tool and built my super simple raised garden bed? Well I'm happy to report that the garden is trucking along and I'm working on filling it will all sorts of plants that produce organic deliciousness. Mainly plants of the tomatoes and basil variety. I'm trying to master growing a few plants before I branch out into more veggies.

Last you saw the garden it was a cedar box with the grass below torn up and a diy paper weed barrier down. A garden only really works if there is dirt and plants in it. A quick trip to Lowe's provided me with three 1.5 c ft bags of organic soil, three larger tomato plants, two pots of basil, two small rosemary bushes and 12 Petunia plants for some more color in the front flower garden. Total bill, $48.

The next morning I got to work on figuring out how to fill the garden with dirt. I was reaching the limits of my budget but really needed to mix the baged dirt with native soil. My friend was having great success with using mushroom dirt from a local nursery but I didn't have the time to get there if I wanted to get the garden done that morning. First I contemplated taking a little stroll to the near by field to borrow their dirt. Then I remembered my way in back backyard. Which is full of free dirt for me, provided I did the digging! We never ever go way back there, plus I knew that the old owners used to use that area as their veggie garden, so I was hopeful that the dirt was going to be really rich. Also, New Jersey does have GREAT soil. I mean, we were at one time The Garden State, before we became The Oil and Petro Refinery State...

First attempted shovel full, I dug into an ant hill. So I moved locations and then inspected each shovel full as it went into the wheelbarrow. About an hour of sweaty dirt digging later and I had enough to mix with the bagged dirt. I commenced with the planting at the point using all the tips I could ever remember my dad teaching me. Such as, did you know that you should plant a lot of the tomato plant underground? That's how they establish a good root system because the roots grow out of the stem.

I would like to get a few more basil pots to plant along the front of this side. We both love basil and I'd like to get the plants full enough to try out a few pesto recipes this summer. Looks like we're not the only ones with plans to nom on the basil. Stupid friggen' slugs! I'll have to get the crappy beer from the back of the fridge and set a few beer traps around to catch the slimy buggers.

Last year I planted one mint plant and all summer had nothing more than three straggly looking stalks. Holy wow the mint took off this year! It has spread like gangbusters in its little space under the crepe myrtle and is about as tall as my knee. Mint will send out creepers which spread very fast and it can be very invasive, so be sure if you do plant mint to have it in a contained area. My mint was choking out the lemon thyme plant I had down in the little garden as well.

See this poor half dead guy? I pulled him out and transplanted him to the front garden since he was being choked out by the mint. I don't have much hope he'll rebound this year, but maybe next spring he'll come back to life. It happened with the other half dead thyme I planted as a last ditch effort, so maybe I'll get lucky twice.

I picked red mounding petunias this year to add color to the front gardens. Last year I did so well with them, they grew amazingly and lasted so late in the season.Fingers crossed to have a repeat performance like that again this summer.

Edited to Add: I got this great tip from a reader and wanted to pass it along to anyone who might be looking to fill a new garden with dirt. Crossing my fingers that my backyard dirt will be mostly weed free next year.

I HIGHLY recommend filling the bed with the square foot gardening mix. Just google square foot gardening and you'll find lots of info. It's a little pricier upfront, but last year I did my gardens with the SFG mix and my friend got topsoil delivered. This year her beds were wall-to-wall weeds, and mine just had one or two weeds that I was able to pull out easily in a few seconds.

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