The Responsible Survivialist


A Productive Week In The Garden
April 11, 2010, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Gardening

We had a very good week in getting this year’s garden ready.

Just as background for the readership, I work a non-normal work schedule in that, one week I work Monday and Tuesday, then Friday and Saturday. Then the next week, I just work Wednesday and Thursday. It’s basically two days on, two days off, and no work on Sundays, though when we get busy if your work Saturday, then you usually work Sunday too. This seems short but we work 12 hour shifts, so we get 36 hour paychecks. Hard when I first started with them and was getting only $8 an hour, livable now that the company has bumped me a few dollars higher.

While this week was one where I just worked Monday and Tuesday, we didn’t work Sunday, so I had a three day weekend with temperatures just nudging 80, and sunny, and then two days later, still mild and sunny, where I could get started putting in the raised beds in the side of the house for the garden.

Raised Beds:

I decided on using raised beds early, primarily because we use outside lawn care and without some sort of border, any young plants might easily be mistake for weeds and wacked down with the weed eater. Happens at my sisters all the time. She has ornamental plants along her driveway that the neighbor’s lawn guy mows over every time he comes by.

At first I planned on using wood to build them but as I did some research I found that most people don’t recommend using pressure treated wood in vegetable gardens due to the possibility of chemical leeching out and into the plants. Untreated wood can warp due to moisture and Missouri gets alot of that in the form of rain during the Spring, which means I would be replacing a portion of my beds next year.

Luckily on a trip to Home Depot last month to replace the wall of my sister’s shower, I ran across a landscaping stone called a “medium weight block“. It’s concrete and the same dimensions as a regular cinder block, but only half as thick at 4”. Priced a little less than a dollar a piece, the math works out to less than $20 for a 2×10′ bed. Very reasonable price wise. Wood would have run twice that.

Here is the first bed in the ground.

first raised bed in the ground

Along with being inert and no problems with chemicals, these blocks offer a couple of additional advantages.

First they are heavy and don’t require staking or mortaring together. You can place them in the ground a couple of inches deep, as I did and then just fill the bed. They have enough mass not to move outward.

Secondly, as Bierbrauer over on the Zombie Squad Forum suggested, you can use the holes in the blocks for planting too.

This is helpful in several ways.

Many of the vegetables I’m planting need bees or other wild pollinators. Planting flowers in the border attracts them to the garden. and it looks good too.

Also, having a plantable border allows you to use companion plants for natural pest control. This is a technique used for centuries where certain plants attract the insects which can damage your vegetables. Planting them in close proximity means the companion plant suffers, not your crop.

A nice thing is, they are much more attractive than bare ground gardening. A plus considering I’m a renter. Perhaps like a few our the readership. True I have a very good relationship with my landlord. He is a long time friend of the family. Still a landlord will be mindful of anything you do that might affect the rentablity of his property.

BTW that’s my potato bin in the background.

Potato Bin:

One of the things I’m trying this year is the vertical potato planting method that Sinfonian used on his garden HERE.

Most people plant potatoes in their garden and then wait for the roots at season’s end. Vertical bin growing, like Sinfonian used takes a different approach. When each plant grows to 4-6 inches, you bury all but the top inch in dirt. This kills the leaves and causes the shaft to instead form roots, which then produce tubers.

Keep at it until the season ends and the plant dies. Then lay down a tarp, unscrew the boards on the front and carefully pull your potatoes from the dirt. Store and eat later.

potato bin

As you can see in the construction of the bin. The boards are screwed to the vertical posts. Each time the plants grow taller than the next board, you bury them. With luck you will get to the top of the vertical posts before the season ends.

I’ve gone with a rather modest 2×4′ bin since it is the first year I’m trying this. If its successful I may add one or two more bins with different species. Potatoes are subject to a blight which can carry over to the next year’s crop, if you are re-seeding from the previous harvest.

Here’s the second bed in:

second raised bed

It’s three feet longer than the first, and is where I plan to plant my leafy stuff. Lettuce, broccoli and spinach with okra and cucumbers growing up a trestle on the wall. All totaled I plan for five beds. One more along the fence line, toward us in camera, then two on the cross fence at the gate.

The planters you see in the bed is because we are forecasted for a thunder storm tomorrow and my Moringa seedlings are still sensitive to alot of wind. I put them there for some protection. I’ll move them back out when the storm passes. They grew a bit lanky and tall at the start because I didn’t providing enough light when they germinated.

Moringa Update:

I lost three of the seedlings this week when one of the two lights dropped down and laid on them for a few hours. Didn’t see it until I got home. I’m going to reseed those.

moringa seedlings at two weeks

The four late sprouting seedlings, now with two lights on them, are more bushy and lower to the ground. Those are the four to the left. The first three to sprout, those on the right, I put into a single pot together and will harvest them early to try Moringa horseradish sauce. Of the original 11, now nine, I’ve given four away to a friend and to Joyce, my neighbor. Her seedlings are in the two round pots you see in the earlier photo.

First Seeds Started:

I got the first batch of seeds started in the starter sets this week. I wanted to get the corn and the sunflowers started especially, since they need to be 4-6″ before I start the beans. Remember, the “Three Sisters” method uses a three step seeding, where first the corn goes in, then two weeks later the beans, then two more, the squash.

first batch of seeds in starters

The corn is in the peat pots in the middle, 18 total which will give me 4-5 per mound. That was all the pots I had available. I may interspace the seedlings with fresh seeds once I plant them. that would give me two teers of corn at different heights and maturing dates.

I also started the Steva in the other six peat pots to the right. Since they will be going into hanging baskets I put 6-7 seeds in each pot, spaced around. The seeds are incredibly tiny. That will make it interesting in the Fall when I go to harvest seeds. Seed Savers does put the instruction for how to harvest, on the back of each seed packet.

In addition, I started the three tomato varieties, the peppers, and the greens going into the wall bed, which is the lettuce, the spinach, the broccoli, the orka and the cucumbers. I seeded ten cells for each because I expect for a few not to sprout. 2-3 out of 10 is about what I’ve gotten in the past from commercial packets I bought at Home Depot. Hopefully these will have a better rate.

By the way, check out the size of the sunflower seeds!

big sunflowers

More next week…

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