Summer 2020 Crops

As you can see, if you look closely, the actual state of my wooden raised beds is worse for the wear.  They are several years old and have been reconfigured.

The first 2 years I gardened at this house, I started with a plastic raised bed, 4'x 8'.  I had good results with tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant.  I even tried broccoli, but then I found out that you can't sow vegetables in the broccoli/cabbage family in the same place, so I only grew that the first year.  I also had problems with the zucchini and borer bugs, but eventually I learned that if you companion planted them with nasturtiums I wouldn't have that problem because the bugs that like zucchini don't like naturtiums and vice versa.  nasturtiums are also good with cucumbers as they are in the same family with zucchini.

However, don't actually plant nasturtiums in with the veggies.  The first year I put one nasturtium plant in the zucchini bed and one in the cucumber bed.  The nasturiums completely took over the two beds (but it did work in keeping the bugs out).  The next year I put the nasturiums in a pot with a trellis and placed the pot between the two beds.  Excellent.

As I was approaching my third year of gardening (at this house) I read a book called Designing the New Kitchen Garden, by Jennifer Bartley and fell in love with a beautifully landscaped package of raised beds that would be a delight to behold as well as offering up a great selection of fresh food.

My space wouldn't accommodate the semetric design she had, so I had to improvise (I know it looks like a lot of unused space, but there is a gate, and you need a path to get into the backyard):

My adaptation of the French Kitchen Garden

The two L-shaped boxes are actually all in one.  The boards on the outside are each 12" high by 9 feet long.  The inside of the El - the boards are 12" high by 6 feet long.  The two ends are 12" high by 3 feet.  Actually the 12" is really a little over 11".  The 4x4's are 12" x 4'.  The same height lumber is used for the 3x6 and the 3x9.

All that growing space proved too much for me, especially at ground height, so I changed the configuration.  The bottom El I flipped over on top of the top El (well, I had my landscaper flip it over).    I had my landscaper add another level to the two 4x4's and the 3x6.  I put the 3x9 on top of the reconfigures El.  The gave me 5 boxes.  The El on one side of the 3x9 is 33" high.  The other side of the  El is 3x6 and 22" high.  The two 4x4's and the remaining 3x6 are also 22" high.

These are good heights for a gardener in her 80s.  If I had known earlier, I would have done everything differently.  All those boxes are filled with soil from top to bottom.  That makes it hard to change things.  If I had to do it over again, I would have built boxes 15" high and placed them on legs, using the area underneath for storage.  While an older person may need to garden at a 22 to 33" high, it's not a bad height for anyone.  One thing I might not have right now is burrowing chipmunks and a groundhog that we've seen scampering away.

I've been thinking about this recently because the Scotch Pine is warping with age.  When I first put them up the only safe preservative you could put on the wood was linseed oil (on the outside only) because you don't want your vegetable plants to be contaminated.  But even linseed oil won't protect the wood forever.  Now new products have come out  to preserve the wood that are both organic and non-toxic.

 

This is how the garden is laid out now

And how it will be laid out again if I build boxes on legs.  A little less soil, but with a wooden bottom, I wouldn't be having critters boring tunnels through my boxes and then underground.

It's been a little tough this spring.  I'm older. Covid19 has messed up the availability of plants.  I hadn't thought about that in January when we only had the knowledge that China was under siege by a new virus - not the disaster that has descended which is not just the natlural disaster of the virus, but a country that would once have handled this with intelligence and diligence, is in a state of decrepitude that no one would have thought possible.  The farm I get my organic plants from emailed early on that the pandemic was causing problems for  them.  By the time I got myself in gear some of the plants I buy locally were not to be had.  In fact, I'm already planning what I will order next January, not waiting till March as I did this year.  I was expecting a late shipment of eggplants, but they never came, so no mousaka this year, or imam bayaldi.  But yes to fried zucchini and homemade tzatziki.

But the plants I have are growing gang-busters.  In place of the nasturtiums, I am growing string beans with both the zuccini and the cucumbers and everything is going well.  When I was looking up companion planting, I found out that pests of all kinds don't like mint - so every raised bed has a pot of some kind of mint and that seems to be working.  You have to be careful with mint, however.  plant it only in pots and watch to make sure that the mint runners don't leave the pot and get into the garden soil.  Outside of pots, mint is an invasive weed, no matter how good it tastes.  There-s only so much mint you need.

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  1. Weil, the zucchini have died. one cucumber plant died. The tomatoes are going well, but we have to pick the tomatoes when they’re not fully ripe, because if we let them ripen fully, the critters will get them. Another reason why I need to redo those raised beds. In addition to chipmunks, there’s a groundhog somewhere about and rabbits.

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