Monday, 2 June 2014

Update on the raised beds

I have been so preoccupied lately with getting my hands dirty in the garden (I do own garden gloves, honestly, I just don't often wear them!) that I have failed to post some updates on the actual progress of the garden - the completion of the raised vegetable beds, what has been planted and what is and isn't growing. So, since I need to take a break from baking in the sun and fighting off mosquitos, I will give you a quick update.

As you can see from the photos above, there has been a lot of work going on in the back yard! The raised beds and surrounding area are complete. The beds measure 4 feet by 4 feet with approximately 3 feet spacing in between the boxes. They were built using cedar and treated decking screws. The cost to build the boxes was approximately $200 - as I mentioned previously, I did not shop around for wood, so I'm sure it is possible to get some cheaper wood and as far as deck screws goes, they can be a bit pricey, but the bigger the pack the cheaper they are...the problem with that is I knew we didn't need 500 screws, so I had to go with the smaller, slightly more expensive option. Surrounding the beds is natural cedar mulch, in total I think 18-20 bags were used at a cost of $2.99 per bag. The boarder keeping everything neat and tidy is made of cement paving slabs, they were basically the cheapest we could find, just something to hold the weed barrier ($20 for one roll, $15 for the landscape staples) down and make a clean edge. The pavers were $1.49 each and 46 were used. The beds were filled with a mix of compost and peat moss. I didn't track the cost as closely as I would have liked because we hopped from one store to another over the course of a few weekends buying whatever was on sale - I checked weekly flyers to get THE best price I could - who wants to pay big money for dirt?!

Slowly, I have been planting in all four beds a mix of plants I started from seed as well as direct sowing many vegetables. Unfortunately I quickly realized I had a battle on my hands: the animals - chipmunks and squirrels to be specific. Birds so far have not been a problem, beyond cheeky starlings stealing the cedar mulch to make nests. Squirrels keep running through the beds and chipmunks have not stopped digging up everything I've planted! Every morning I would head outside to check on the garden progress and every morning I found a different area destroyed - seeds tossed around, plants ripped apart. I had no choice but to net the four beds. Netting isn't the best looking, but if I want anything to grow this year it's my only option. I bought cheap bamboo poles and stuck one in each corner of the beds, topped the poles with a plastic cup and pulled animal netting over each bed. The cup is so the end of the bamboo pole does not go through the holes in the net. I have tucked all open ends into the mulch and used garden clips and leftover bricks to close off the bottom. What a pain! If I have to get into the beds its an ordeal but so far nothing has got in and the plants have had a few days of undisturbed growing time to get moving!

I started zucchinis, marigolds and tomatoes from seed. The two healthiest zucchini plants are now taking off in the beds with the early signs of an actual zucchini forming (yay!), the marigolds are doing well and the seeds I didn't have room to start indoors are now taking off outside. I was lucky to get more than enough viable tomato seedlings, there are about 3 tomato plants in each bed. The varieties that I have are Beefsteak, Brandywine and Old German along with some Tiny Tom cherry tomatoes that were started from some seeds that were about 3 years old (what luck!). I also planted radish and lettuce seeds, also 3 years old and everything has taken off! I can't believe how fast the radishes are growing and how strong they look! The other new seeds that have been started straight outdoors are spring onions, parsnips, turnips, some FREE carrot seeds, rhubarb Swiss chard, beets, red Russian kale and dwarf curled kale. So far the onions are popping up pretty fast, the beets are also showing themselves (but most of those beet seeds had been tossed around by chipmunks, so they aren't growing in the neat rows I planted them in). The kale and chard is starting to sprout and looks much better than the specimens I tried starting indoors. All in all I am pleased with how things are growing at the moment - it was difficult to predict what success - if any, I would have this year. As long as I work to keep the animals out I think I should come away with a few good bites of veg!

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