Thursday, March 26, 2009

i should be resting, but...


...I'm trying to figure out if raised beds are the way to go for our garden this year. Anybody had success with this method?

My main motivation is the realization that our soil is going to need SO many amendments to get it in shape that I'd almost rather start from scratch with a really decent mix, all nicely boxed up so it can't erode away, and this would help us with the drainage problems too...plus it would be nice to have something up a little higher so Juliet isn't running through the garden. And I really like the idea of not having to weed the enormously long rows this year, especially since I don't know how much mobility I'll have later this summer anyway. Packing plants into weed seed-free soil sounds soooo appealing (last summer I was weeding for one or two hours every single day). And lastly, as someone obsessed with tidiness, scraggly garden rows drive me mad and I like the thought of neatly framed boxes containing the wilderness.

Cons: it seems silly to put in raised beds when we have a garden plot already dug out. And plus we have to buy all the lumber and things to fill it (although we'll save on a tiller rental and we need soil amendments anyway.

Last year our garden was so disheartening--we had too much rain, too much wind, and too much cold. We worked SO hard and the return was depressing--I really want to change that this year! At the same time, I can't help wondering how much of that was just due to the weather (for instance, we planted 18 tomato plants and didn't have enough to freeze or dry a single tomato, whereas the year before we planted 8 and had tomatoes coming out our ears). So I'm caught in this "should we overhaul the soil/planting methods, or just give it another shot as is?" trap. My primary hesitation with raised beds is that it seems like most raised beds are used for smaller crops--like growing all the ingredients for a salad, whereas we'd like to use our garden to grow enough food for four (five?) people all summer, plus a winter's worth of frozen vegetables. Would they be big enough?

Your thoughts?

5 comments:

kilerkki said...

I know less than nothing about actually gardening, but I like the way raised beds look and how (presumably) you can kneel next to them without getting your knees in the dirt. The soil/drainage issue seems like a good point too. And I think you could make the beds bigger (or do more of them?) and be able to fit lots of plants in. I mean, you're not growing corn, right? Plus, better soil will probably help your yield. And if you're worried about hail and such, you could always make little sockets in the sides of the beds for poles for a tarp-roof! Oooh, or even a clear plastic tent with sides you could roll up for easy access or down for a greenhouse effect!

sarah said...

funny you should mention - pioneerwoman is doing a little mini series on raised beds in her home&garden section right now...I think she's three posts in and is dealing with dirt. I recommend checking her out if you're serious about it! :)

Rachel Mae said...

Remember Kristin Matthews? She lives down the street from me and we garden together. She does raised beds and put in a new one last year. Just two really big beds. And her garden went WILD. She had so much food. I think you're right about it being much easier to regulate your soil, etc. that way. I'd say go for it--think of it as a long term investment even if the weather doesn't work out for you this year. I think we're planning on doing them next year.

Meghan said...

I have a friend who combines raised beds with square-foot gardening, and she gets huge yields. Plus she does Blue Lake Pole Beans and Cukes climbing, so she only needs a few feet of ground space for a huge amount of produce.
Weather--I think we understand a farmer's life a bit more.

Adrienne said...

I say no to the raised beds. It's more expensive and more work to get started even though they look better. Gardens don't have to be perfect. Just get it to grow. So I'd jsut get your soil right and go from there. And, we had a garden last year and I didn't do nearly that much weeding. I'd let yours go a little more wild since you're pregnant. Things still grow well. Of course, I'm in Utah and the climate is a little different but still.

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