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Friday, February 27, 2009

Rededicating the Bird Bath Garden

Our bird bath garden will always be in my mind the bird bath garden, but it has also become something of a memorial garden to our recently deceased feline friend, Amber. I won't go into detail about Amber in this post as I did that back in December but she was a good friend who we were lucky to have known for as long as we did.  She had acute renal failure, which is failure of her kidneys. We knew that her days with us were numbered and already had something in mind for her burial.  The birdbath garden seemed to be a very fitting place for our fallen friend to rest. We buried her very close to the kitty cat statue in the picture below.  Maggie, our neighbor's cat, is sitting fairly close to Amber in the picture. They never really got along as Amber was always territorial and didn't behave well with other cats. 

Amber and Maggie never had the opportunity to meet face to face without a pane of glass in the way because we kept her inside all the time. We were always afraid of her wandering off and missing her treatments that kept her going strong. The garden doesn't look very impressive now but this past summer it was doing pretty well and will be once again when the weather warms.  I packed quite a few plants into this little garden.  Probably more than I should have.  I moved the purple leaf plum after the deer dined on it for the second or third time and the miscanthus will be moved to new locations this spring. 

There will be some changes and additions.  I'm planning on extending the garden to the left (in the above picture) another 6-8 feet which will change the overall layout into an "L".  I hope to include more ornamental grasses like switchgrass, a bench, and of course catmint.  It will be a tranquil spot to sit and watch the kids play while peacefully enjoying the garden.  The ornamental grasses will create a good privacy screen from our neighbors.  It will also be a nice place to share time with Amber in the garden.

Related Posts:
Bird Bath Garden in June
The Bird Bath Garden Progress (July)
The Evolution of the Bird Bath Garden

For more about pets in the garden visit Gardening Gone Wild's Garden Design Workshop.

Bradford Pears Breaking Buds

I bet when you read the first three words "Bradford Pears breaking" you immediately though of another kind of breaking. One of the reasons they are on my least favorite ornamental tree list is because the trees frequently break in storms. These trees grow so fast that the wood suffers and they just can't muster the strength to hold out through heavy winds. That being said they can be very attractive, to the point of everyone having two in their front yard as they do in our neighborhood! The builders went crazy with the cheap, easy to plant, fast growing pear trees. If only they knew what they were doing!

These trees are even becoming invasive here in Tennessee. But they sure are pretty, so let's plant them anyway. And they stink too, let's plant more! When in bloom their blossoms reek of a rotting flesh smell that seems very attractive to the bees. At least someone enjoys them.

If you can enjoy one from a distance please do, just don't get too close, stand downwind, or plant one in your neck of the woods!

Related Post:

Why You Shouldn't Plant Bradford Pears But Some People Do Anyway

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening

A couple weeks ago I was sent a copy of William Woys Weaver's Heirloom Vegetable Gardening from Mother Earth News. I'm always excited to get more information on a favorite subject of mine, vegetables!

The book was first published in 1997 and is now available on CD. Unfortunately you don't get the tactile sensation of reading a book on paper but if you can move beyond that and look at the great information available you will indeed learn something!

After the foreward by Peter Hatch and an introduction that displays where Mr. Weaver's passion for heirloom vegetables and seeds originated, he begins his book with a section on the kitchen garden which I believe is only becoming more and more relevant today. He talks about the history of the kitchen garden, its Mediterranean ties, and how it came to be what it is.  It's very interesting information if you have ever wondered how things evolved into the backyard gardens we have today. 

As my favorite category of vegetables is the tomato my first look at this tome of heirloom lore was to see what Mr. Weaver wrote on that subject. The amount of detailed historical information is simply astounding. Each heirloom variety has its own heading with information on the origin of the vegetable as documented from various sources. You learn things like who developed it, what possible ancestor varieties the heirlooms had, and even what variations developed from the original cultivar. Since heirloom vegetables are open pollinated there are constant changes between generations which helps to build resistance to diseases.  You also learn about the loss of varieties that you may never have known about like the 'Crimson Cluster' Tomato whose descendants are most likely the 'Tigerella' or the 'Schimmeig Stoo'.  I've heard of 'Tigerella' but not 'Schimmeig Stoo'  but it sure sounds interesting! But alas for the 'Crimson Cluster' we will never know its flavor. Skimming through all this information is making me appreciate seed saving a whole lot more.

I can only begin to tell you how much good information is in this book.  My only reservation in recommending it is that this is the type of book you want to pull off the shelf and sit down with for a spell and not the type of book I would want on a computer screen. Unfortunately Heirloom Vegetable Gardening is out of print in other forms.  Of course you could print it off chapter by chapter as you go through the book, which is just what I may have to do!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Little Green Roof

Now wouldn't this be cool to have in the yard? No not the gnomes, the green roof! I took this picture last year at the Bloom'N Garden Expo in Williamson County last year. It's a great example of nature and man working together to make something good for both. Green roofs are catching on all over because they help to ease water runoff. I'm not ready to build my shed yet but when I do this is something that I am considering. The green roof consists of several layers designed to prevent water from leaking into the structure and to provide growing material for the plants. Green roofing systems tend to be a little more expensive than conventional roofing systems but the cost equalizes over time.

This particular green roof would make a perfect little house for the family pet or could easily be constructed on playhouse for the kids (hmm ... there's an idea!). The plants on top consist of sedums, Hen's and chicks (Sempervivums), phlox and a few other miscellaneous plantings. Generally drought tolerant plants that have shallow root systems work best.

This might be the closest I can get to my own hobbit hole!

For more information on green roofs check out Growild.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Things to Look Forward To

Spring is coming. Really.

Signs of the coming gardening season are beginning to appear all over from the daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths beginning to emerge to the swelling buds on the trees. Very soon warmer weather will begin again and we will be fully emersed in the garden once again. In anticipation of the coming gardening season I thought I'd give you a preview of what may come.

All of these images are from April of last year when many of our spring blooming plants were peaking.

I can't wait to see my favorite blooming tree the Yoshino Cherry (Prunus yeodensis) in bloom. We now have two of them in our yard along with a third cherry tree from the Arbor Day Foundation. It was supposed to be a Yoshino as well but I have some doubts that they sent me the right tree. I'll know for sure once it blooms.

The Yoshino cherry puts on a fantastic show each spring.
I can't wait to see the hostas start to emerge from the ground with their variegated foliage. I like to let them flower in the summer and collect the seed. I'd like to add a few more hostas, particularly the ones I'm growing from seed, to the corner shade garden.
The tulips should be in full bloom by April. These tulips in the front sidewalk garden are a mix of 'Negrita' and 'Shirley'. They began forming yellow flowers that eventually became the white and purple colors you see in the picture. Sometimes tulips don't come back but since I've noticed quite a few leaves emerging from the ground I'm hopeful that we'll have another nice display.
My mailbox garden will be undergoing some changes this year. For some reason one of the two 'May Night' salvias didn't do so well through the summer last year. I added three divisions of another kind of salvia ('East Friesland' or 'Caradonna' I don't remember which), a Russian sage, and some daylillies. Every garden undergoes tweaking from time to time, or maybe it's more like all the time! The 'Homestead Purple' Verbena is a power house in the garden and blooms prolifically from spring through summer. It's a great perennial to propagate through cuttings.

There's a quick look at a few of the things I'm anticipating for this spring. Spring is coming. Really, it is!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Seeing Seedlings (Dianthus and Hosta)

Yesterday I gave you a sneak peek at one of my favorite perennials that I decided to try and grow from seed this year, the heuchera! The seeds came from our corner shade garden which contains a small variety of heucheras like 'Palace Purple', 'Mocha', 'Melting Fire', 'Fireworks', and a heucherella named 'Stoplight.' Even in the winter they keep great foliage on display. Most heucheras are vegetatively propagated through division (which I'll be doing this spring) but some come true from seed like 'Palace Purple'. Truthfully I wouldn't mind seeing some unique variations in colors but what ever grows from our open pollinated heucheras will be fun to watch grow.

We have several other plants growing in our seed starting area. Here's a look at the progress they have made.

In this batch we have dianthus (in the back), some larkspur and some lavender. I really need to begin the transplant process for the dianthus soon, there are just too many in each peat pellet. Yes those are yogurt cups in the back, in my world everything that holds dirt can be a container! Besides, most of those yogurt cups can't be recycled so this is a good way to get another use out of them. I use them in the propagation of cuttings as well as for seed starting.

Here is a close-up on the dianthus. I haven't decided where to plant them in the garden yet although the self sowing garden is an option. I have dreams in my head of a green roof shed and dianthus would be perfect perennial for planting one. Regardless of where they eventually go the safe planting date is still several weeks away.
And here's another one I'm trying to get going from seed, a hosta! If you look closely at the center peat pellet you can see some green protruding from the seeds. There's no telling what the hosta seedlings might look like in the end. If they are solid colors that's fine, if they are variegated that's good too. It's just fun to experiment. I suspect they are a hybrid of some 'Patriots' and 'Gingko Craig's. That's just one reason why you should let your hostas grow flowers, aside from the beauty of the flowers you just might get bonus plants!

I'll have more updates in the future on these seeds. It's time to start a few more. Only 52 more days until the safe planting date!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who Might I be?

I know what this little seedling is, do you?

See if you can guess what it is.

This perennial does well in almost any setting and is sought after for its foliage, not necessarily its flowers. Although I find the flowers very interesting in a light and airy way. This particular seedling was collected from one of our gardens. If you need another clue observe the shape of the largest leaf.

Can you tell me what this little sprout might be?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This Week in the Garden

I did several little things in the garden this week that weren't worthy of individual posts but when grouped together give me a little something to talk about. 

  • Planted seeds for rudbeckia 'Cappuccino', gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', Verbena bonariensis, mixed heucheras, Panicum virgatum.
  • Constructed a suspended staking system out of fallen poplar branches for our sugar snap peas.  I'll go into greater detail later but here's a quick summary.  I took two large fallen branches from our tulip poplar tree, stripped them of bark, sized them appropriately and screwed them together with deck screws.  Once the peas start coming up I'll tie twine on the cross beam and run the peas up the twine.  
  • Transplanted two cilantro sprouts and two basil sprouts from peat pellets into a pot for the kitchen.
  • Made a few more willow cuttings.
  • Schemed and plotted.
  • Transplanted my red twig dogwood rabbit-cuttings into small individual pots.  The roots were smaller than I hoped but present.  Who knew that rabbits could propagate plants?
  • Cleaned up a few more weeds from the gardens.
  • Planted a Yoshino Cherry tree!  Yes, another one!  I put this one near the rain garden. I'm looking forward to seeing the white blossoms explode on both trees this season.  
  • Cleaned up some brush and put it in a dump pile for future composting.
  • Ordered vegetable seeds.
  • Ordered flower and ornamental seeds.
  • Plotted and schemed.
  • Dreamed of getting out in the garden on the warmer days ahead.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sedum Signs of Spring

The signs of spring are coming up all over if you know where to look.  In some cases like with the daffodils it's obvious.  Bright yellow flowers and buds are beginning to stand up for us to take notice.  Other plants, like sedums, are beginning to show elements of growth.  On the left is an unnamed sedum that I believe is a Sedum sieboldii, but I can't be sure as it had no name tag.  We bought it along with two 'Stoplight' tiarellas and two 'Ginkgo Craig' Hostas at the Bloom N' Garden Expo last year.

Below is a staple in almost everyone's garden, 'Autumn Joy' Sedum.  It's such a carefree plant that it's easy to understand why it thrives in so many gardens.  On the right is how it will appear when it is in bloom.  Each year it gets larger with more blooms and stalks which means more opportunities for cuttings.  Every 'Autumn Joy' sedum that we have came from a cutting.

Even the Dragon's Blood Sedum's (Sedum spurium) foliage is brightening up for some stupendous spring time splendor. The burgundy color blends well with the 'Blue Spruce' Sedum that is growing in the same bed.

All of these sedums propagate easily.

Did I say easily?

I meant extremely easily! Sedums rank right up there with willow and coleus cuttings on the easiest plants to propagate list.  Maybe I should make up an ease of propagating scale? Hmm...maybe later!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Few Vegetable Suggestions for the Garden

Yesterday I asked people what varieties of vegetables they would recommend from their own experiences.  My goal is to add a few new vegetables each year just to try something new.  Some vegetables are tried and true and will always be in my garden but there are so many types of vegetables out there that I know I will never get to sample them all.  That's why I asked one of the best resources available to all gardeners, other gardeners!

Here's what the gardeners said:

TC (The Write Gardener)
I have a couple of suggestions for ya; sweet corn - 'Bodacious,' and heirloom tomato - 'Hillbilly' or 'Green Zebra.' If you like sweet corn, and who doesn't, Bodacious is bodaciously sweet! And those two heirloom tomato varieties are delicious also. Neither are as sweet as other varieties, but I don't always like a sweet tomato for sandwich makin. If you want a sugary sweet cherry tomato variety, 'Sun Gold' is tops.
Heather (Idaho Small Goat Garden)

Maestro peas (Park Seeds) were wonderful and high yield. I plan to plant 10x more this year, they froze well and ate even better. This year I will try Green Arrow. Last year I also tried the Blondie variety and the very dense growth habit made it difficult to harvest.

Tina (In the Garden)

I like the Bradley for their taste the best.

Frances (Fairegarden)
I can only suggest the eight ball squash. I love the size and shape and the taste was great.
Tim (A Chef in the Garden)
The San Marzano was awesome, as were the German Red Strawberry Tomato and the Dr. Carolyn Yellow Cherry Tomato.

David (The Door Garden)
I'm trying stevia this year - an herb which is a natural zero calorie sweetener many times sweeter than sugar. If it works out I might make some herbal tea mixes with it. Naturally sweetened blackberry mint sound good?

Randy (Randy and Meg's Garden Paradise)
Ever try patty pan squash, we are trying Flying Saucer this year. The best cukes I've had were Lemon Cucumbers. My favorite tomato is Cherokee Purple, that are the best eating summer tomato.
 Anna (Flowergarden Girl)

I grow Better Boy tomatoes and Crimson Sweet Watermelons always. I prefer Silver Queen corn.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Vegetables for the 2009 Garden

As real gardening time approaches and we stop planning and dreaming to actually begin planting we have to know what we are going to do with our gardens. The big thing on my mind lately has been the vegetable garden. I miss the tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers that came out of our garden fresh everyday. I want to grow more vegetables in the garden than I did last year which means a little more planning. Questions like "what varieties should I choose?" and "how much should I plant?" come to mind very easily. So today I put together a list of all the types of vegetables I would like to grow this year. For some of them I already have the seeds I need to plant but for others I am still in the selection process. Here's where I would like some input. What are your favorite varieties of the vegetables below? What was successful? What tasted the best? Your input might steer me toward a variety I may not have considered before or it might just make me hungry, but I'm willing to take that chance!

Sugar Snap Peas

Monday, February 16, 2009

Progress Update on the Vegetable Garden Remodel

Things are going well with the vegetable garden remodel even though the pictures may not fully illustrate it (see the layout to get an idea as to what it will look like). Right now it looks kind of like a war zone complete with with bunkers, foxholes, and fencing but soon it will come together.  You have to start somewhere!  These photos were taken toward the evening from inside the house and are not the finest quality. Right now I have a random selection of raised beds reorganized and you can easily see the difference between the new wood and the old wood.

On the right side of the garden I have the 4'x8' garden bed complete and filled with soil, a 4'x3' bed filled, and a 4'x6' bed filled and planted with strawberries.  For now I'm going to leave a grass pathway down the center as it should be easy to mow once I get a different push mower, maybe you remember how I blew up the last one (if any mower company wants me to review one right now I'd be happy to oblige! Especially one of those cordless electric ones.  I'd love to get hold of something I can't blow up!). Once I get that part complete I can put the wire fencing back up and resume gardening as usual. I still have some digging and grading to do in the back right corner of the garden. I also need to get a hold of a few more boards to complete the raised beds and I need to till the area for the back beds which won't be raised beds this year but may become so one day. For now they will grow the corn and beans. 

When the weather warms up I'll complete the remodel and begin the planting.  The warm weather we had last week gave way to regular old Tennessee-in-February weather.  Now I need to do some serious planning on what is going into the garden this year! 

Kids and Gardens

Recently I was asked some questions about gardening with children and while there are certainly quite a few tips I could mention about the subject there is one idea that stands out above all others in my mind.

Do what the kids love!  Every kid is different and each one has as many different ideas as to what makes a garden as we do.  Some enjoy getting their hands dirty while others may just want to look at the flowers and enjoy the show.  I think when you give the child free reign to express their gardening ideas it goes a long way toward encouraging them to take up the habit...I mean the hobby! The picture above is of my daughter looking at the bees in the bird bath garden sometime in October.  In that bed we have sunflowers, salvia, mums, coneflowers, ornamental grasses, and a butterfly bush.  You could call it a butterfly garden if you wanted to since it entertained quite a few of the winged wonders.  Gardening brings kids closer to nature which I think in the end is important to us all.  A better understanding of our environment can't help but help us. 

I had the idea for this post after seeing this picture on our screen saver.  Of course I may have just wanted to show how cute my daughter is in pigtails.  Can you blame a dad?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Plants that Bloom in February

I'm amazed this year by the blooms I actually have in the garden. Maybe it was the warm snap, or maybe we'll be lucky enough to have some great blooms each and every February.

My feature plant today is one that comes every spring much to the chagrin of the lawn lover.  Tiny purple flowers bloom enmass across yards all over Tennessee making a virtual carpet of purple to gaze at.  What is the feature plant?  Henbit!  It's a cool season flower that most people consider a weed and will fade very quickly once the weather warms. For now it is very showy.  I like it best in the lawn and not among the garden plants as it can be very invasive.  I'll take it any day over chickweed!

How about this lovely flower? It's a Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) that I picked up at a plant swap last year. I didn't expect much from it and while it is still very small I see potential for this winter bloomer on our front porch.

The other day I showed you the first daffodil bloom of 2009 and here's one of its friends.  Several of the daffodils have begun opening up to show us that spring is coming. Really, it is!

Have a heath?  Try a Mediterranean White Heath that blooms in winter and lasts through late spring.  You gotta love those plants that bloom for a long time especially in the colder months.

That's about it right now in our garden.  It's more than we've had in the past at this time of year and I'm looking forward to adding more in the future.  For now though if you want more February Blooms take a look at Carol's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Post!

I'll try to update you on my seeds later today.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hyacinths for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!
I gave these to my wife but thought I'd also share them with you. 


Too bad you can't smell them!

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Russian Sage Propagation Experiment

The other day I had an idea.  Instead of taking my pruned Russian sage branches and just dumping them in the compost, I thought what if I tried to make cuttings from them? I've propagated Russian sage cuttings very easily in the spring from softwood cuttings and even some during the summer but I've never tried hardwood cuttings.  This may just be an exercise in futility but it's worth an attempt if I manage to get a few more good plants before spring starts in earnest.

Here's what I did.

I took hardwood cuttings from two of our plants in the front sidewalk garden.  Both of which had significant hardwood stems from the previous year's growth.

While I was prepping the sand in it the container for the cuttings I put them into some water to prevent them from drying out.

Then I dipped the stem cuttings into the rooting hormone and stuck them into the sand.

Last I made sure sand was wet and put them into a sunny window.  We'll see if it works.  I would do the same technique with red twog dogwoods or any other hardwood cutting.  There is potential for success but you never know!  Free plants are definitely worth the effort.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The First Daffodil Bloom of 2009

Who would have thought? A daffodil (Narcissus) blooming in mid-February! The little sprouts are coming up all over but this one and a couple others like it have decided they like the weather. It could be that they are in a slightly warmer micro-climate near concrete but mostly it's because of the extremely unseasonably warm weather we've been enjoying. It's been in the 60-70 Degree Fahrenheit range for the last several days tricking the daffodils into thinking it's spring.

The weather has been fooling me as well. All the nice temperatures have been perfect for gardening and playing in the yard. I know I will miss this warm snap in a few days and long for spring weather once again. I can't wait to start harvesting vegetables again in the garden or to smell the sweet scent of the earth as I dig new plants into the soil. Hopefully the daffodils will be treated gently by mother nature, and maybe, just maybe we will be too!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

3 More Things About Raised Beds

In my last post I mentioned 11 Things to Think About When Designing Your Raised Bed Vegetable Garden.  Here are a few more ideas suggested by commenters!

  1. Think about a fence (From Tina).  Whether for aesthetics or for function fences are good for the garden. Different fences can solve different issues.  A simple wire fence may keep out the smaller garden pests like rabbits but a much taller version is needed for deer.
  2. Consider engineered lumber as a material (From Carol).  It's also known as composite wood and goes under a couple brand names. It's made from recycled plastics and wood particles and lasts a long time. If I remember right it has a nearly 20 year warranty. Not bad!
  3. Look for salvaged materials (from Kookster).  You can find salvaged or leftover bricks and materials to use for your raised beds at listing services like Craigslist and Freecycle.
 Now go out build yourself a raised bed vegetable garden!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

11 Tips to Consider When Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Raised bed garden with tomatoes
During my quest to make my raised bed vegetable garden layout more efficient and easier to maneuver through I've learned some helpful raised bed garden tips that may help gardeners to avoid the same mistakes I made when planning and setting up my first raised bed vegetable garden layout. If you keep these ideas in mind while you are designing your raised beds you can make your gardening experience as good as it can be. Here are 11 tips for planning your best raised bed vegetable garden!

11 Tips and Ideas to Consider when Designing a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

  1. Set up the raised bed garden the right way in the beginning!

  2. Plan your raised garden bed exactly how you want it because it can be difficult to move later. Trust me, I know! Make it adaptable so that you can add more raised beds as you need them. There is never enough space in the garden and you will eventually want a larger garden. Make sure the raised bed garden is expandable as you may want to add more raised beds later.

  3. Make each vegetable bed a separate box garden.

    Originally I connected a few beds together and discovered that it was a pain to move around. When I attached the beds together I found that I either had to climb across them or make a long trek around the beds to get to the other side. Smaller unattached beds will allow for greater mobility. A 4'x8' is probably as large as you need and a 4'x4' box garden works very well. Follow the next tip and you will be on the right track! Square or rectangular beds are a simple and efficient use of space.
  4. Leave a space of at least 2 feet between beds for easy access.

    Larger spaces might be better for wheelbarrow access or (if needed) handicap access. Your vegetable garden's raised bed arrangement should make things convenient for planting, harvesting, and cleanup. You want a garden that is comfortable to move around which makes your time in the garden much more pleasant! 
  5. Consider the best materials for building your raised bed.

    Designing a Raised bed vegetable garden
    Over time the initial costs of the materials will even out. Stone will last as long as you could hope for but it is initially more expensive. Cedar will last much longer than other types of wood you will pay more for it. Using cedar might help your beds last 3-6 years as opposed to 1-2 for pine. I'll be replacing the pine wood I used next year. The one advantage to pine is it is cheap. Using a food safe wood sealer on the wood can help your beds last longer. How you build your raised garden beds depends on two things time and money. If you can afford it and can move stone works great because it lasts with wood you will eventually replace the raised bed. Consider alternative materials like metal for your raised beds.  Here's one raised bed I put together this year: sheet metal raised beds.
  6. Level the soil underneath the raised beds.

    A slight slope isn't a big deal but you definitely don't want your soil to flow out of the raised beds. You can also adjust for the slope with the construction of your raised beds. Just make the low end of the raised bed higher.  Don't let a sloped property discourage you from making a raised bed garden.  Raised beds can in fact be a solution to problem areas!
  7. How to execute and install an irrigation system.

    Drip lines are relatively cheap to install but soaker hoses work well too (Links to Amazon). Whichever route you take place the water line underneath your mulch, this will keep it from evaporating your money...oops, I mean water! Using a sprinkler will send water into the air which will evaporate and allow water to rest on the leaves of plants which can contribute to fungal diseases.
  8. Sunlight!

    Position the garden to maximize the amount of light it will receive. Most vegetables like full sun and will thrive in open areas with plenty of exposure. Find a location that gets a minimum of 8 hours of light, but for most vegetables the more light the better.  For those vegetables and plants that may prefer less sun consider interplanting taller vegetables as shade cover or use a trellis with a vine vegetable like cucumbers to cover the more sun sensitive plants.
    Summer squash blossom grown in raised beds

  9. Plan what kinds of plants and vegetables you want to grow ahead of time.

    This will help to determine how much space you need. Consider making a layout of each vegetable bed to help plan it out. Graph paper works well for a quick and easy sketch garden plan. Consult the back of the seed packets for space recommendations.  Proper spacing of your plants can reduce fungal diseases and make it easier for harvesting your vegetables.
  10. Consider companion planting your plants to maximize space.

    Many plants have repellent properties to ward of pests and others help enrich the soil with nitrogen fixing properties like members of the legume family. Herbs make good companion plants as do many flowers. Some plants may be used as a trap crops to catch pesky bugs like aphids then maybe either removed from the garden or treated with insecticidal soap. Flowering plants attract pollinators which are always helpful! Companion planing isn't going to protect your plants 100% but it will significantly reduce your crop losses due to insects.  I think it's an essential part of any garden plan!
  11. Arrange the raised vegetable beds to make them suitable for crop rotation.

    Plants need different nutrients in different amounts and a heavy feeder in one year needs to be replaced by one that nourishes the soil. Crop rotation will help improve the sustainability of your garden. Make sure that you plan ahead for a good crop rotation and never plant the same bed with the same vegetables the following year.
  12. Compost!

    Putting your compost bin near your garden will make things much more convenient. Your vegetable garden will produce waste material which needs to be dealt with and composting is the best way to do it! Using soil high in organic matter (like compost) helps your raised bed provide all the nutrients your plants need. Organic content allows the roots to gather available resources like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium much more easily. Plus it holds water well which reduces your irrigation needs. If compost isn't convenient consider other organic matter that will break down fast like grass clippings, leaves, or straw as amendments. If it's convenient animal compost is great to use in the garden too, just make sure that it is completely broken down. Never use chicken manure directly on the garden as it will burn the plants.  Compost bins are easy to put together with some old leftover pallets, wire mesh and posts, fencing materials or can even just be a pile in the corner of the garden.  Turn your compost periodically and continue to add new green material to keep the bin composting.
    Picture of compost bins made from fence panels

  13. Whether you have been gardening for a while or are just now starting your first vegetable garden I hope you can find these tips useful! If you have questions please leave a comment below or ask on the Growing The Home Garden Facebook page!

    For More Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Tips 

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Weekend Working on the Vegetable Garden

What a weekend!  You don't get weather like we had very often.  The thermometer hit the 70's for the first time in a long while and we took advantage of it.  We spent very little time indoors, how could we?  After being cooped up in the house since fall any outside opportunity had to be taken.

So what did we do? We worked in the garden.  Or maybe on the garden would be more accurate.

I dug, the girls dug, the girls played in the sand, ...

I dug, I rearranged the garden beds, the girls played in the sand, ...

I dug and drilled, the youngest girl ate the sand. Hopefully not much more than a bite!

We made a good deal of headway on the garden redesign that I posted about a couple weeks ago. Most of the beds are rebuilt and rearranged.  I made an error in my calculations and ended up not being able to complete the 4'x6' bed.  I used the pieces of wood that were intended for it on another bed.  To tally up the raised beds now we have: two 4'x8', one 4'x6', three 3'x4', and one 2'x4'. I still need to assemble one 4'x6', one 3'x4', and three 2'x4' beds. My battery operated drill ran out of power before I could complete a 2'x4' bed. I just need a couple more boards to complete the raised bed garden. What a great weekend!

Can you tell we like gardening?

Photos by Jenny

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Garden Blogger Seed Swap 2009

To kick this Garden Blogger Seed Swap off I'll share with you what I have to offer! Anyone is invited to join in even if you don't have a blog. Just post what you would like to trade for and what you have to offer in the comments or drop me an email! I will update this post to reflect each seed claim as I go. I may have a few more to trade as I sort through the seed jars (baby food jars are great for storing seed!)

Coreopsis 'Sunfire'

Coreopsis 'Sunfire' (Tickseed)
10-12 offers of 20-30 seeds. These are second generation coreopsis seeds, the original plant was a 'Sunfire' coreopsis. They may have some variations. Very easy to grow from seed!

'Arizona Sun' Gaillardia

5-6 offers of 20-30 seeds.

'Oranges and Lemons' Gaillardia
'Oranges and Lemons' Gaillardia
3-4 offers of 20-30 seeds

Mixed Heucheras
1-2 offers of 20-30 seeds. These came from 'Purple Palace' and several others. The 'Purple Palace' heucheras generally breed true.

1-2 offers of 15-20 seeds.

Morning Glory
Blue Morning Glories
5-8 offers of 15-20 seeds.

Thai Basil
I have a couple of extra packets of Thai basil that I could spare. It's a purple basil with a little more tang than its Italian cousin.

Mixed rudbeckias from various spots. I have quite a few of these.

I have several packets of this that I don't need that people are welcome to trade for. To err on the safe side I'll say I have 3 to trade.

I have no earthly clue, I have so many! Just tell me if you would like some! Many people plant these near tomato plants as a companion plant. I did last year and had very few pest problems. It either worked or I was just lucky!