Get the most out of raised beds

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Raised-bed garden

“Spring is coming!” may be my favorite words to hear. Though, this year, it’s been hard to believe, given that winter is still rearing its ugly head.

I am still hopeful every time I hear the peepers and when I see the trees start to bud, I am reminded that spring truly will come. This time of year and over the next few months, tends to be the busiest at the Soil and Water District here in Noble County.

Folks are coming in requesting rental equipment, needing soil analysis done and chomping at the bit to get working. Many have started early with frost seeding and soil sampling, but I know the rush of spring will soon be in full swing.

With spring fever hitting the office, I find that I am excited to get things moving for my personal garden.

This year, because of limited space, my husband and I have decide to do most of our gardening in a couple of raised garden beds that we have constructed.

We have read extensively about the benefit of raised beds and we are excited to try this new-to-us method of gardening.

From decreasing soil compaction and making the most of limited space, many urban areas are seeing an uprising in this trend, and all for good reason.

We built our beds out of untreated 2-by-10-inch pine boards (coated with Linseed oil), and have given one a “U” shape construction to allow us to walk in the middle of the garden without creating soil compaction issues, and the other is a standard 5-by-10-foot rectangle.

If building isn’t an option for you, prefabricated kits and designs can be found and purchased online. And, where limitations may make getting on hands and knees difficult, many designs can be built several feet off of the ground to accommodate a variety of needs.

We have chosen to use a quality animal manure, peat moss and topsoil mix to give our garden a good nutrient base. It is also common for folks to use home compost in their raised beds.

One cautionary remark would be to make sure the compost reaches temperatures high enough to kill pathogenic bacteria. The manure we are using, and what is going to be of best value, is that which has been broken down over time.

This allows for any seeds that the manure has in it to germinate, and then be terminated. Before I put in the manure, I have put a layer of cardboard under the soil mixture as a biodegradable weed barrier.

Many will use newspaper as a weed barrier, in our case, we had more cardboard available, and we are hoping it will have greater longevity and more durability.

As I continue on this track, I am sure I will learn pros and cons of what works best and what I should use for the plants I am trying to produce.

Finally, and probably the most exciting part of the process, has been starting our own seed, this way the entire process is laid out before us. We used a Jiffy Greenhouse peat moss seed starter kit, and luckily we had huge success!

At first, I was just using the greenhouse kit, and soon, got a heating mat and thermostat set to go under it.

With this, I was able control the temperature of the pellets and increase the temperatures within them to what is considered “optimal” for growing and germination of the plants in both of my greenhouses.

We saw amazing success with most of our plant varieties and we had to transplant many into bigger pots and put them under a grow light until its warm enough to put them out in the garden.

Unfortunately, we found out, too little too late, that our cat, Ramsey, loves to nibble on fresh tomato plants, and we’ve had to replant many and, get creative in how to deny him access to his new favorite treat.

As an added bonus, we are looking forward to using hoops over the raised bed to extend our growing season into the fall, and cold beds to harvest greens through the winter months.

To start your own raised bed garden system contact your local extension agent, soil and water office and do some quality research.

There are plenty of resources available to learn from, and the benefits of this system are bountiful. From flowers to veggies, and even pollinators too, this method of gardening means there is something for everyone to get involved in.

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