Fun Fact of the Day

Fun Fact of the Day: Squash is a very old food crop. There is evidence of its cultivation going back at least 8,000 B.C.E. in Central Mexico, Peru, and the Eastern United States. Squash (along with corn and beans) formed the staple diet of Mesoamerican Indians and made the creation of these empires possible.

Raise my Beds

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I have been contemplating making raised beds for my garden for some time now.

You can use wood, rocks, or concrete blocks to construct your beds. Last year, I tore down a garage on an extra lot I own. I have over 270 cinder blocks piled up. I will be using these.

Typically a bed is 3 to 4 feet wide in any shape or length. The height ranges from 6 to 24 inches. The only truly important thing is the width. You want it wide enough to be able to reach into the middle and not put too much strain on your back.

Since I will be using cinder blocks, my beds will be either 8″ or 16″ tall. I am not sure yet if I will have one or two layers. It really depends on how big I make the garden. Traditionally, I have a 20’x40′ garden.

It may take me some time to get the beds and the walk ways built, but the benefits of having the raised beds is very enticing.

1) Time and Labor

After the initial set up of the beds and walk ways, most of the labor intensive work would be complete. There would be no more tilling up the whole garden to get it prepped for the growing season. I could take a hoe, pitchfork, or my favorite tool, The Claw and flip the dirt by hand.

2) Weed Control

This can be done in many different ways. Before planting, a weed barrier can be laid down and holes cut in where the plants will go. Also, if the plants are placed properly, when they reach maturity, they will form a canopy to inhibit weed growth. Finally, with the beds at a more reasonable height, weeding is much easier.

3) Pest Control

Rabbits, gophers, and moles are just a few of the critters who enjoy a garden as much as we do. Its a free farmers market for them. For the borers, if you lay chicken wire down during construction of the bed, an effective barrier is laid and they cannot come up. For the rabbits, a mini fence combined with the height of the beds, should keep them out.

4) Soil

Amending the soil can take years to accomplish. With a raised bed, this can be done with a few bags of peat, manure, and gardening soil. Water drainage and retention is easier to manage. The best benefit, the soil does not get trampled down by feet, keeping it loose for roots to take hold and grow.

5) Higher Yields

With loose, better soil, the plants produce more vegetables. Need I say more.

6) Earlier and Longer Growing Season

Since the beds are above the ground, they have a tendency to warm up faster than the regular lawn. This allows the plants to go in earlier. With a little ingenuity, a temporary green house can be made for the colder months in the beginning and the end of the year.

7) Beautification

A raised bed can add beauty to your lawn with its neat manicured look. The clean rows and boxed look of the beds can make a drab corner of your yard more appealing.

The higher yields are the main reason I wish to put in raised beds. I love to eat. I love to eat fresh vegetables. The first time I grew potatoes and baked them, I knew, I would never buy potatoes in the store again. Never in my life had I eaten such a flavorful potato. And don’t get me started on the cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis, radishes, lettuce, and ….. Who am I kidding, this list could go on and on.

There is no comparison to freshly grown vegetables. Don’t even try it. Plant a garden and you will find out what I mean.

Seed to plant

My seed order has been placed. I didn’t need as many as I have ordered in the past, just some potatoes and brussels sprouts.

This year, I am going to start my broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage indoors, but I have the seeds for those already. Along with my tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots, beans, peas, corn, radishes, squash, lettuces, spinach, and beets. 

Nothing beats the taste of vegetables from a fresh garden.

Yes, it is the middle of December, and Christmas is right around the corner, but a vegetable garden is a gift that gives all year round. 

I was harvesting vegetables from my garden as late as mid-November. The potatoes, onions, carrots, and after 3 years, my garlic. 

The best time to bring your crops in, is right before you are ready to eat them or to store them. This allows for the best flavor and most nutrients. 

I start most of my vegetables from seed. It is cheaper, its easier on the plant, and you can keep the pests away during this vital stage of their lives. 

Most plants should be started indoors. Beans, corn, peas, and many of your root vegetables are the exception.  

About 10 years ago, I purchased a compost tumbler. One of the smartest investments I have ever made. It took me a few years to figure out how to use it. Now that I have, I consistently get the black gold of gardening, fresh, nutrient rich compost.

I use the compost from the tumbler to start my seeds. I bring in 5 5-gallon buckets before I empty it out for the year. After 8 years of replenishing the ground with this compost, I find the plants take to the ground much easier if the soil is close to that which they are started in. 

Many plants need to be sown 8 to 12 weeks before transplant. Heavy rain, frost, and damaging winds can ruin a crop quickly. With the plants protected from the elements, it allows for a better survival rate.

I have 5 mini green houses set up in my basement. I use my basement, because it is a constant temperature and dark enough for me to manipulate the lighting. 

The good thing about the constant temperature is that it does not dry the soil out as easily as if it were outdoors. The grow lights are set on a timer to ensure the plants get the recommended amount of light needed for proper germination. 

I will probably start the planting process shortly after January 1st. Once they are seeded, I will have to water them about twice a week. Come mid-March, the hardening of the plants begins.