Archive for the ‘Raised Bed’ Category

9/5 Weekly Garden Update

September 5, 2010

Green beans

We are now clearly into late season garden phases here.  No rain for at least the past couple weeks (Earl notwithstanding) and there is none forecast for the next 10 days either.

Garden 1

Garden 2

The cursed deer ate my 6 apples on the other apple tree that was producing this year.  I would curse them less had I had a chance to have eaten just one from it.  They also stripped the tips of several limbs of leaves.

Garden 3

Garden 4

We have begun ripping out a few tomato vines, all the blue lake bush beans, and we plan to continue as items stop producing.

Garden 5

However we’re still getting harvests of cucumbers, tomatoes, Dutch half-runner green beans, field peas, butter beans, and all kinds of peppers.  I have enough picked anchos now to dry, and they should make the base of a nice chili powder.

Anchos, etc.

Melons, etc.


We got 2 charentais melons, and 1 moon & stars watermelon.  We have more ripening of both.  The butternut squash is now putting more of its efforts into making little squashes, if it continues at this rate and we are able to harvest all of them we might get as many as 20 to store in the basement and eat throughout the winter.

Field peas & Eggplant

We’re still putting up green beans.  The last time I canned them, I had a rare occurrence, i.e., a jar that didn’t seal.  We warmed them up in the microwave and they were really really good, clearly the next best thing ever to having them fresh from being picked.  They beat the dickens out of the blanched and frozen ones we did last year.

Bucket o' Harvest

One day's pickins'

Voles are seeking to make inroads.  I keep trying to poison them as fast as they show new tunnels.  Sammie Squirrels are stealing tomatoes and running off to the woods with them, little orang- red blobs in their mouths.  Deer are starting to nibble on our green bean vines.  I seriously contemplate building a deer blind on my porch so that I can have some nice venison tenderloins, squirrel stew & barbecued squirrel.



Mustard and kale seedlings are doing well!  Cabbages, broccoli and other brassicas are coming along.  The lettuce and carrots could not stand the heat and the desiccation we are currently having and will have to be replanted.


Seedlings 2

We put up another cover on a box.  This morning it was 67 degrees outside, fall is peeking over the horizon of Labor Day.

Irrepressible Basil

Squash & Melon plants


Lettuce in a Box

Well that’s all for now!



May 19, 2010

We have almost 4 inches of rain in the big gauge from the past 72 hours.  Over 3 inches of it on Monday, enough to put a gully through the mulch at one place, and another gully down the driveway.

After only having 0.75 inches in the previous 45 days, we certainly needed rain.  It came down in sheets, thick enough to obscure the green forest around us in a blur, drumming on the roof in that thick quiet hum, like standing in the middle of a power station, feeling the electricity thrum through you.

The garden loved it.

A couple of weeks ago, right after we put the peppers in, it got down to the upper 30s at night two nights in a row.  It seems to have halted the peppers’ growth a bit, hopefully they will pick up again now.

Snow Peas

We direct seeded Greek and Genovese basil this past week to augment the container plantings, as we harvested some lettuce plants (enough for 2 weeks of eating).  There is still at least a month’s worth of lettuce out there.  We harvested all the spinach we had left, as it was starting to bolt.


The haricot verts are growing well, as are the cucumbers.  We filled in a few gaps where some seeds didn’t germinate with new seed.



This is our first really successful planting of snow peas.  We have tried them 3 times before, and were about to give up on them in this environment.  Lo and behold, they are growing up to 6 feet high, and we’ve now harvested 2 meals from them, with a lot more coming.  The blossoms are lovely on them.

Snow Peas


Some of the potatoes are blooming.  Apparently voles ate 8 of the stalks coming up, ruining at least 4 hills of our potatoes in the lowest box and 2 hills in another box.

Our onions are doing waaaay better than last year.  The sets are still much farther ahead than the seeded ones, but one of the varieties of the seeded ones are far ahead of the rest.  Hopefully they will make this year.  At this time last year we already knew the onion crop was a failure.



Carrots are happy in several box locations.  The rabbit has not been caught again leaping over the 2 foot high fencing.

We started 9 each of the watermelon and charentais melons 3 weeks ago.  Only 4 charentais and 3 watermelons germinated.  We will direct seed once we put them out in place of where the sugar snap peas are now.


There is apparent deer nibbling on some of the potatoes in the box at the edge of the woods, but they must not have been a meal of preference because it has been relatively minor overall.

Two of the 8 eggplants have been lost to voles, as have a few more celeries and 2 ancho peppers.  I’m stunned that they’re attacking eggplants and peppers, and it brings out the Marvin the Martian in me (“I hope you realize that this means war”).

Traps have gotten 2 of the little you-know-whats so far.  We’ve disseminated mothballs in the mulch and down some of their holes and placed mouse traps out for them.  In addition, we gave up and bought some warfarin.  Warfarin has the least risk and rate of secondary poisoning (things that eat things killed by it).  I am limiting it down their holes in boxes with fences and covering netting.  We don’t want to be killing hawks, and I don’t want the dog, or even the rabbits and squirrels to get at it.  On the other hand, we really need to get the voles, or they are going to destroy the garden.  We’ve never cared if  voles or moles or anything dug in the yard, but the count is up to over 10 celery plants, 6-8 potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and sugar snap peas.  We don’t have the space, the inclination, or the resources to afford to house a vole colony, though we don’t like putting down even controlled bait stations.  When even the resident rabid animal welfarist says “kill them”, I know it is time.

Garlic is looking like it should.  We plan on grabbing a garlic every week and eating it, not only to enjoy the fresh green garlic, but to monitor the grow of the bulbs.   Summer and winter squash seedlings are spreading their big leaves, already you can see the variegations in the leaves from the house.  The tomatoes are growing like there is no tomorrow.

We have achieved broccoli!  We have 4 heads of broccoli making.  This is the first broccoli we’ve started ourselves and we’re very excited.  The cauliflower is looking indecisive.  The (mostly) early heat this year may inhibit this spring’s crop; several of the farmers I’ve talked to have indicated that all the field broccoli looks fairly stunted in this county.


We’re trying to figure out why stuff we’re growing in containers inside and on the porch don’t do as well as things we put in the boxes.  It’s the same dirt, and we try to treat them the same.  The only thing we can figure is that maybe the containers dry out faster than we think.  They all look a bit leggy compared to the same stuff in boxes.  I’m going to seed some more mycorrhizal fungi into them; maybe that will help.

This update is late because of the weekend goings on, see the previous post.

Weekly Garden Update 5/9

May 9, 2010

Attack of the Varmints:

One day this past week we saw:  rabbits, hummingbirds, deer, bluejays, a hawk, squirrels, and cardinals all in the space of about 15 minutes.  That was a lot of fun.

What is not so fun is the very large rabbit who has decided that he wants to be clever.  He has patiently nibbled his way through the plastic green fencing in at least 2 boxes so that he can just hop through into them.  After we thwarted this effort, we saw him this morning jump over the 2 foot fence into a box with carrots, not realizing that we had a thin black plastic chickenwire netting on the top.  It freaked him out a bit, but not enough, and by the time I got downstairs and out the door he was sitting happily amongst the carrot greens.  I yelled, “get outta here, you pernicious thieving little sneak!” and he ran away, but only to the edge of the yard, where he sat arrogantly.  When the dog ran outside, he went further, but I suspect we are going to have to take more severe action against him.  Maybe I can do a post on my braised rabbit dish.

The real problem however is the voles.  They have just ruined one 4’ section of beets, and are starting to steal our celery plants, like eating one every other day or so.  Now they are attacking our sugar snap pea roots as well.  We are trying some organic repellants that don’t seem to be working, and have placed some mouse traps out that they aren’t going for.  We knew that putting mulch around the boxes had the potential to be a two-edged sword, but the pros seemed to outweigh the cons.  Something has to be done, and advice is welcome.

The two most recommended things to do are things we probably can’t:  get rid of the mulch, and buy a cat.  Our dog doesn’t play nice with cats, alas.  There are a lot of products out there that claim to help take care of the problem, from high-pitched rodent sound repellers to in-ground traps to poisons, etc.  I hesitate to leap from one idea to another unless I know that someone else has actually had success.  We don’t really want to put down poison unless we can find one that doesn’t have significant risk of secondary poisonings for pets and hawks, and we have no idea if the sound things work or if they would drive the dog crazy as well as the voles.

Other things in the garden are going well, though we had the driest April on record (120 years of record).

In the orchard parts, we have blueberries on the bush and apples in the tree.



The potatoes are growing so tall I’m starting to worry about their ability to support themselves; two blew over in the wind the other day.

Potato Box

Potatoes 2

We planted our eggplants under a hoop cover.  I made the hoops out of pex piping, held them to the box by using nail-on pex clips, and secured the cover with the same clips.  We have 8 eggplants and 2 thai peppers under the cover.  Flea beetles are death on eggplants in this area, all but one of ours was eaten last year they were so bad.  So this year we’re growing them under cover, hoping the additional heat will also help their growth.  We’ll be doing more of these covers over time, particularly for wintering various species that need just a bit more warmth.

New Hoop Cover

End View

We planted charentais melons and moon & stars watermelons.  They have germinated and are growing nicely, almost ready to put out.

Happy pepper


Haricot Verts

Snow Pea Blossoms

A tomato

Box 'o Tomatoes


Even more potatoes

It’s May! It’s May!

May 1, 2010

Tra la! It’s May!

The lusty month of May!


That lovely month when ev’ryone goes

Blissfully astray.

(end singing now)

Lettuce in Harvest Basket

Och Aye, It’s May.  Today we shopped at Carrboro Farmer’s Market and the South Estes Farmer’s Market, buying beets and carrots and biodynamic strawberries that taste like Vanessa Redgrave’s voice sounds.


This afternoon we spent in the Garden.  We harvested green garlic, which makes great garlic bread, and oodles of radishes and enough lettuces to satisfy the entire Efrafa warren.  We harvested young spinach, and the last of the wintered cauliflower.

Trellised Peppers

Then we transplanted peppers to a box, only 21 of the ones we have ready to go.  We harvested lettuces and thinned the rest out by transplanting them so they had more room.

Pepper Seedlings

We have Sugar Snap Peas!  Not many, but enough have come in for a dish.  And we have blueberries growing!


And lit-tle ty-ny apples.  We have half a dozen tomato plants blossoming, plus both our tomatillos.  The snow peas have lovely purple and pink blossoms.

Tomato Blossom

We transplanted winter squash that we set to germinate last week into a box, and the summer squash are starting to unfurl from beneath the top layer of dirt.  The haricot vert are germinating as well as the cucumbers.

Squash Seedlings

Below are photos of many of our herbs we have growing in railing boxes and by windows and in large containers outside scattered amongst the Garden.

We’ve been growing mung bean sprouts from beans purchased at our local Co-Op, and have gotten nicely efficient at having them on hand most of the time.  Mostly they go into the salads.

Sometimes I feel redundant; shooting what seems to me to be similar pictures over and over.  Then I remind myself that a year from now it will be nice to have a visual record of the weeks passing in the garden.

More cilantro


More tomatillo blossoms

Tomatillo blossom







Tomato Blossom




April Garden Update

April 27, 2010


More Lettuce!

Spinach & Lettuce

We have harvestable baby spinach, along with the ubercrop of lettuce and radishes.  The potatoes have been mounded yet again, the boxes are all full (we started with a 4” deep soil base, and have been adding to them since).

Bed o' Taters


Our broccoli and cauliflower are doing much better than the ones we did last year.  The seed onions needed thinning, and the set onions are way ahead of them in size.  All the garlic now has 5-7 leaves, a few of the stalks are nearly 4’ high.

We planted 30 tomato plants this past weekend, including green zebra, bloody butcher, brandywine, beefsteak, early girl, better boy, and san marzanos.  We also planted 2 tomatillos, 1 box of haricot vert (2 rows each 12’), and 6 summer squash:  yellow and zucchini.  We planted 3 varieties of cucumbers.  Winter squash seeds were set to germinate inside, both acorn and butternut.



The pepper seedlings are in their final stages of hardening off, and we hope to plant them either this coming weekend or the next at the latest.

In the flower parts of the lot, we have azaleas and irises in bloom now, the daffodils and the tulips have faded away for the spring.  We have dahlia, oriental lily, day lily, and calla lily bulbs that will be coming along.  The moonflower vine almost looks like it is biding its time, though its growth is thick near the ground.



The apple trees have what look to be tiny apple pods on them.  Given their young age, we are most pleased!  The figs and the blueberries are puttering right along, doing nicely.  My lime mint hasn’t come back up so far this year, not sure why.  If it doesn’t, I’ll try to plant it again in a different location.

We gave away celery and tomato seedlings that had prospered, but that we had no room for, we hope that they will do well in their new homes.

After we planted everything last weekend, we went back in and put up the trellising for the year.

Black Jack Fig


Boxes View

New boxes


Grow, my pretties, Grow!

April 17, 2010

We saw our first hummingbird of the year in the garden yesterday!  Last year we had one feeder up, and one hummingbird was a bit of a bully, trying to guard it as much as possible.  She received a Christmas present of another one this year.  We put up both earlier this week, and have been rewarded with their presence already.

Mounded potatoes

Mounded Potatoes

Celery Seedlings

We mounded the potatoes twice this week, that’s just how fast they are growing.  We transplanted 45 of our celery seedlings to the garden.  All the other seedlings we have needed to be repotted *again*, so we’ve been doing that.  We found a lot of seedling pots at the local recycling center, because we’d run out.

We’re busy researching how to cure garlic, including asking local farmers for tips.  And we’re researching how to keep our garlic the longest, because frankly it looks like our harvest is going to be more than we could eat in a year, which would be exciting.



Broccoli raab

We continue to harvest record quantities of lettuce with even more coming along, and also this week harvested radishes and broccoli raab, as well as some pea shoots.



In two weeks, we’ll be putting our tomato plants out, along with all our pepper plants.

Since we put out the castor oil granules, I haven’t seen any new vole digging in the boxes.  We’re crossing our fingers.  I gave some of my moonflower seeds to a couple we’re friends with, they had moved this winter and are restarting their farm all from scratch, and didn’t have a moonflower plant in the new location.



One of our cauliflowers is heading up!  Now it is a race for how big can it grow before we can’t stand it anymore and just take it to be eaten.  I’m favoring just simply steaming it, served with a bit of butter and some pepper.

Heat Wave

April 11, 2010

The heat wave is over, for now.  From March 31 until April 9, we had at least 10 days with highs in the low 90s, and one day that got to 98.  Evening lows were in the 60s.  Yesterday and today we have lows around 38.  Wow.

Parts of the garden therefore kicked into overdrive.  I had to mound potatoes yesterday for the first time, as we had a bunch that were in the 3-6 inch range.  The onions and garlic continue to grow at alarming rates.  The pretty redbud from Easter is now all leaves.


Snow Peas

Cauliflower and broccoli are growing like weeds, and the lettuces have reached that cute stage where they are large enough to actually *look like* lettuces, but so small they look unreal.

She thinks we have voles, and I am inclined to agree.  So yesterday we picked up some caster oil granules and strew them into the boxes.  I can never think of castor oil without thinking of cod liver oil.  My parents decided on advice (of who, I forget; perhaps a mean doctor or a meddling great-aunt) that at the age of five I needed dousing with the stuff.  I could tell right away that this was going to be awful, but they looked very serious so I opened up and let them feed me a big spoonful.  It was the worst thing.  I’m told I looked up at them like a beaten animal and said, “I wouldn’t feed that to a dog” then went outside and sat on the rear steps staring off into space.  They never had the heart to give me another dose.

We harvested lettuces this week,  enough for 2 weeks of regularly eating salads, and only got about 25% of the lettuces.  So we’ll be eating salads for at least a month, by which time, I expect the next planting will be ready.  We also harvested radishes and carrots, small but tasty.

The Kentucky colonel mint is coming up next to the compressor, but my lime mint hasn’t made an appearance yet, though I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  The blueberry bushes are busy generating little pods that will become blueberries.  The fig bushes have nice leaves now.

The snow peas are doing well.  The sugar snap peas look as though the heat has inspired them to say, “Well, we never germinated well this spring, what with the 20 degree February all month, so we just give up”.  Actually I trellised 2/3rds of a box of them, but that is far short of the 2 boxes we planted in them.



Broccoli Raab

Indoors, the seedlings are doing their best to make our efforts last year look laughable.  It is a veritable jungle in the basement, all our tomatoes are 8” high or more, and we had to raise the light over them 3 times in the past 10 days.  The celery is booming, and all the peppers are gamely and uniformly pluggin’ along.


Tomato Seedlings

When she saw the planting jig made by Laura at Modern Victory Garden, I knew by the look on her face that soon I’d be making one.  And I did.  The instructions for making one were easily followed, and the result is a prideful thing.  I used scrap plywood.  The first one is 20″  by 24″, and has 2” spacing.  The second one I’m making is pegged at 1” intervals and is only 4” wide but 48” long.  This will allow us to easily make long rows down one side of a box, so if we’re growing tomatoes or cucumbers or something else tall and trellised on one side, we can move to the other side and run a row of something.

2" planting jib

Jig with handles

4" by 4' jig

For the mathematically inclined, if you are planting something like radishes or carrots on the long narrow one, that is 192 plants per jig, or 576 plants in a 12′ row.  If you wanted to plant a whole 12′ box of them, it would be 2880 plants.  For anything on a 2″ or 3″ spacing, the results are 96 for the jig, or 288 plants in a row.  That’s a nice addition along side a row of 10 tomatoes in a box.

My father gave us 2 brandywine and 2 better boy seedlings he grew from seed, along with 4 water wall day-glo plant protectors.  I set them out in a box, set the water walls around each one this past Monday, and they’re looking fine.  With luck, these 4 plants will start producing tomatoes weeks ahead of the rest of ours.

Water walled tomatoes

These are moonflower pods.  In them were these seeds.


Moonflower Pods


Pod Close-up


Moonflower Seeds

The last average frost date is this week.  That means that as of tax day we can start direct seeding, and putting many of the rest of our seedlings in the ground..

Spring has Sprung

March 31, 2010

Thunderstorms rolled through night before last, and we got about 1.25 inches of rain, which happened to be exactly what we needed as water for the next week.  The weather is uncooperative enough for all gardeners and farmers that I like to give it credit when good things happen.

(Indoor Lettuce

Indoor Lettuce

I think we’ve finally gotten the hang of growing actual stuff inside and/or on railing boxes.  The production of lettuce and cilantro this time around has really perked up.

Harvestable Cilantro

Harvestable Cilantro

New cilantro

New cilantro coming up

Meanwhile the garlic is jumping.  We planted 40 s.f. of box in garlic this fall and buried it in leaf mulch.  This is our first stab at garlic, and the diagnosis is “so far so good”.  We’re hoping to get at least a years supply of garlic, but will adjust next fall’s planting accordingly.

Garlic jumping

Garlic Jumping

The remains of the winter lettuce and carrots are maturing rapidly.





The snow peas are putting out tendrils and growing like a crazed yeast culture; we put up the trellises on them this past weekend.  The sugar snap peas aren’t doing quite as well this year, for some reason the germination rate on them hasn’t been nearly as vigorous as last spring.

Snow Peas

Snow Peas

The blueberry bushes and apple trees are leafing out; the fig bushes have nice buds on them and the stems are showing signs of being ready to start lengthening.

We have a dozen logs inoculated with mushroom spore – oyster mushrooms and shitaki, and they’re slung on a hammock of the same green plastic-wire fencing we use to guard the raised boxes from random animal incursions.  No mushrooms yet this spring, but we’re hoping.

One of the most frequent questions we get when someone sees the garden is, “Don’t you have deer and other varmint problems?”  Herds of whitetail deer cruise through the creek bottom at the back of our lot.  We have rabbits that live out there who come up into the yard to graze in the early morning and at dusk.  Between the dog and the little fences and the occasional plastic netting we throw over a box we don’t seem to have much of a problem, actually.  The dog roams inside her invisible fence, which includes the garden area.  We’ve watched the rabbits hop right between the boxes while crossing the yard, and we’ve never seen one stop and try to investigate a box.

The worst animal problem so far has been neighborhood cats.  Any box near the perimeter of the yard without a little fence is a potential litter box target for them.  Deer have come in and nibbled a couple of times, mostly when we are out of town and the dog isn’t out regularly.  For some reason early last fall, they decided to come and nibble the haricot vert vines, which I’ve never seen them do before.  A hen turkey ravaged the one box closest to the woods which had broccoli planted in it, and dug a roosting hole.  We put netting over it, and she sat off in the bottom and cursed us for a week or so before deciding to move on to live somewhere else.

The new boxes are set and filled, we’re surrounding them with mulch.

Placed and filled

Placed and filled