September 24, 2009
We just added this raised garden bed to our backyard mix. We designated it “Joe Henry’s Special Garden” and we told him he could grow anything he wanted in it. As you can see, he has decided that the best current use is for earthmoving with his diggers. He’s also planted plum seeds (even though we told him they probably wouldn’t grow to produce plums like the one he ate.) In addition to plums, he also wants to plant corn and strawberries (strawberries, ah-ha, finally something that works in this planting season!)
There are so many things to say about building raised beds in Austin. Many folks choose raised beds over in-ground beds because you can fill them with some really fabulous, imported soil mixes and get good results right away. Raised beds are often easier to manage too. There are many different ways to build raised beds and many different materials to use. Some of my favorites for outlining the bed are untreated cedar or pine, tree logs including native cedar, cinder blocks and rocks. We had some old limestone blocks sitting around and decided to use them to outline Joe Henry’s garden. It might be hard to see in the picture, but we leveled the bed since it is built on a slope. When building on a slope, it is important to level the beds so you don’t end up with a bunch of seeds and soil running out one end. Also, if you are building a raised bed in an area with a lot of weeds or grass, you should try to put down some sort of weed barrier underneathe the raised beds – make sure it spreads out into the path area since weeds love to creep through the paths and into our gardens. Good weedbarrier material includes things that may break down over several season such as cardboard, layered newspaper and paper mulch. These will all allow water and air to move through and will hopefully kill the grass and weeds below. Once these materials break down, the soil underneathe the raised bed will provide additional depth and fertility for your plant roots. Here’s a link to an interesting discussion about raised beds. I really love the raised beds made out of willow. Anyone out there trying anything like this in Austin? I’d love to hear about other interesting materials used to create raised beds.
September 17, 2009
September 16, 2009
I enjoyed Carol Ann’s article on fall planting in the last issue of Edible Austin. She’s right: fall planting here in Central Texas does require a good attitude and a lot of optimism. For instance, I planted these Brussels sprouts last week (with the help of my son and his trucks, featured in each picture.) I acquired some early starts and figured I’d give it a try even though it was a little early and a bit too hot and dry. But I was optimistic and I got lucky – it turned cooler and rained a few days later. Of course, I didn’t anticipate 6 inches of rain! My in-ground garden beds are on a slight slope and lost some topsoil during the downpour since I had just worked the soil. I could have prevented this if I had mulched them before the rain. Mulch does so many things for your garden – it helps maintain fertility, retains moisture, regulates soil temperature and minimizes the impact of downpours! I finally got around to mulching the Brussels this week with some stockpiled grass clippings and pine needles:
September 9, 2009
Chickens in the vegetable garden. It sounds like a good idea, right? Well, I guess it depends on the season. We let our chickens free range in our garden this time of year. There’s not much the chickens can destroy in the garden – in the above picture, our barred rocks nibble on some swiss chard that is past its prime. Of course, chickens provide all kinds of benefits to the garden. They fertilize it, rid it of bad bugs, aerate the soil and eat weeds. But of course, where there is a pro, there is usually a con. Chickens will also chow down on your plants and eat your earthworms and poop on your edibles! But hey, as long as you have some sort of chicken tractor that keeps them contained in certain sections of your garden, the combination works great!
September 5, 2009
While I’m on the subject of spinach, I had to take a few shots of this malabar spinach plant growing up the trellis in our frontyard planting box. It is actually not related to spinach but you can use the leaves just like you would use spinach. This gorgeous, red-stemmed vine is perfect for our summers and will grow quickly over any trellis or fence.