Back Tracking a Bit, and Looking Ahead

A while ago, my daughters cleaned up the beds in the main garden area while I worked elsewhere. I’d asked for photos, but thought they’d forgotten to take any. One of them, however, did remember to get before and after pictures, and recently passed them on to me.

So here is some of the cleanup done by my daughters, almost a week ago.

This first bed had two types of onions in it; the yellow onions we stared from seed that actually survived the cats, and red onion sets. Before those were planted, a row of… Hmm. I’ll have to check back. I believe it was the purple kale that we got as free seeds from Baker Creek that got planted down the middle. If anything germinated, something got to them before we ever saw them.

As the onions got harvested later, the bed was left empty when they were done. It had been weeded as much as I could, between the onions, while the onions were growing. This turned out to be one of the easiest beds to clean up and took them very little time.

This is one of the three beds that started out with spinach. After the spinach was harvested, they sat empty until the heat waves finally passed. On the left of this bed, I planted radishes and … gosh, I can’t remember, but it was another cool weather crop. Neither survived the grasshoppers. Eventually, we planted some lettuce seeds that had spilled out of their envelopes and got mixed up. They turned out to be mostly one type; Merlot, I believe they were called, with a couple of buttercrunch that we got as free seeds from Baker Creek. We were able to add a mesh layer over the chicken wire cover on this bed, so they survived. Unfortunately, after a while, the lettuce leaves got very bitter and nasty tasting. I don’t know why. It’s not like they were bolting, and we weren’t getting anymore heat waves, but it got so bad, we just couldn’t eat them anymore. It’s a shame, because they handled the frosts we got extremely well. They didn’t go to waste, though, and are now adding nutrients to the high raised bed. 🙂

This was another bed that started out with spinach. Believe it or not, this bed got weeded quite thoroughly before I planted different radishes and one of the chard varieties. You can see the one chard that survived, surrounded by wire, in the background. Closer to the front you can see some bricks and stones that are surrounding the last couple of radishes that survived. This bed turned out to be very difficult to clean up and was thoroughly filled with rhizomes. It took so long to clean up, this was where they had to stop for the day.

Before they left, though, my daughter had gotten a before picture of this last bed. It was the third bed with spinach in it, then it got planted with the Bright Lights chard and French Breakfast radishes. The chard did well until it got hit repeatedly with frost. It handled a couple of frosts very well before finally freezing beyond recovery. There were only a couple of the radishes that never quite recovered from the grasshoppers. Like the lettuce, they got pulled and composted into the high raised bed. My older daughters were able to come back to finish cleaning this bed a couple of days ago, and it was much faster and easier than the last one they did!

Over time, each of these beds will be replaced as high raised beds. They are about 14-15 feet long, but will be reduced to 9 ft, so it will be easier to build frames for protective covers that can be easily moved by one person. We will keep using the dead trees we clean up from the spruce grove to build the beds for as long as we have enough of them. That should be enough to do the remaining five beds. That will leave us room to do a second row of high raised beds, if we choose, but by then, I think we will no longer have enough wood from dead spruce trees to use. We shall see. It’s a big job that is going to take a while to do. In the spring, we will plant into these beds as they are, but now that we have a chain saw, I expect to be able to cut down the dead trees and cut the lengths we need in advance, so that in the fall, we will just need to assemble them.

To get the height of our first high raised bed, we used eight 9ft logs and eight 4 ft logs. With five more beds to build, that means 45 nine ft logs and 20 four ft logs. It took us most of four trees (including one that was smaller than the three we cut from the spruce grove) to make this one bed. The remaining trees that need to be cut are all quite large, but if we assume four trees per bed, that means we’ll need 20 more trees to do the remaining beds.

We have more than that many dead trees to cut. It will only be a question of how solid they are, or if they have rot or ant damage to the trunks. A few of them are so big that I would want to split the logs cut from the bases of the trunks, lengthwise, and use them at the very bottom of the beds, so they’re not too thick. If the wood on all the remaining trees is sound enough, given their size, I am thinking we will probably need closer to 15 trees to finish the beds rather than 20. Considering we have probably another 24 dead trees to cut, that just means more beds we can build!

Just thinking of having a whole row of high raised beds here makes me very happy. I can hardly wait!

The Re-Farmer

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