New and old beds

Last year I decided to redo the raised beds that run between my orchard rows. I now have two 4’x12′ beds along with my three original 4’x4′ ones.

4'x12' raised bed between the first 2 rows in my orchard

4’x12′ raised bed between the first 2 rows in my orchard

The bed above was whacked together in late fall/early winter. After filling the bed up with a bunch of stuff I called compost (really just partially decayed wood chips), litter from the hen-house, and some good old poopy dirt from the chicken run I heavily sowed it with oats, barley, and red wheat. The idea being to suck up some of that nitrogen from the raw chicken manure and mellow the bed a bit before spring. Red Wheat is all that came up and then not until about a month and half ago. It is hard to see but there are 5 tomatoes spaced about 18″ apart down the center of the bed with an artichoke anchoring the end in the foreground. Outside of the maters there is some spinach up at the top end with 10 chicory plants below that. My sweety Karen and Lexi picked out the pretty flowers to liven it up a bit and attract bees. Weekly I have been chopping and dropping the wheat forming the basis of a planned heavy mulch layer that should be in place by June.

This raised bed is between rows 2 and 3 in the orchard

This raised bed is between rows 2 and 3 in the orchard

This bed didn’t get setup until a little over a month ago and it shows. The fill is composed mostly of my compost/mulch piles that washed under the oleander during last summers floods. Mixed into this is another big batch of litter from the hen-house made up mostly of partly broken down star and chicken shit. As you can see the bottom end is similar to the previous bed in that there is an artichoke plant but only one tomato. Above that I am trying a “three sisters” planting. Down the center of the bed is a double row of sweet corn with 6″ separation between the rows and seeds spaced 8″ along the 8′ long rows. Six inches outside of the corn on either side is a row of pole beans again spaced 8″ apart but offset 4″ to give a little more room. Finally 6″ outside the beans is a row of yellow and green summer squash spaced 12″ apart. As before the women in my life have claimed the perimeter for “pretty” flowers and herbs. This bed didn’t get any mellowing time and I am beginning to see a bit of chlorosis, probably from the raw wood chips scavenging up the nitrogen. Hopefully an extra spraying of cold processed liquid fish will help get this bed on track.

What a mess!

What a mess!

This was the first bed I put in last year. It has a lot of scrap wood and coffee grounds under the soil(my half-assed attempt at hugelkulture) I’m going to chop and drop all the mess then plant a couple of pumpkins or squash plants and see what happens.

Bed #2 from last year

Bed #2 from last year

It is probably hard to tell but this half-assed hugel bed has already been chopped and dropped from an overwintering of cereal plants. There are four roma tomatoes in here that will be mulched with straw as the get bigger.

Hugel Bed #3

Hugel Bed #3

This final bed is again a sorta kinda hugelkulture bed with scrap wood, wood chips, and coffee covered with a load of compost from the UNCE orchard. It did OK growing broccoli and cabbage over the winter, I am going to chop the rest down and toss it to the chickens then plant peppers in here.


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6 thoughts on “New and old beds

  1. artsifrtsy says:

    Sounds like you’ve got salad! In raised beds do you have to worry too much a out the soil below the beds? Can you just set up frames and fill them with topsoil?

    • Max says:

      That’s the whole idea of raised beds, creating a good environment for your plants in an area that might not be good due to poor soil or drainage issues.

  2. Only a gardener would see beauty in that mess. I can see that you really had a very productive garden with a lot of variety, most of it looks like it was pretty successful.

    Good luck with your 3-sisters planting. I have to say mine was only marginally successful. The corn did really well, the climbing beans did okay (not as productive as bush beans) and the squash came on late and half of it died off. I ended up with everything growing to its own schedule so I now have a few pole beans left with non-productive tomatoes in-between (the corn is long gone but the stalks remained supporting the beans so I sowed some tomatoes) and a couple of squash plants rambling around, each with a single squash on it. Wonder what I did wrong.

    • Max says:

      I haven’t had luck with corn here, and beans have been so-so. My squash went bonkers last year though. The one that surprised me was the pumpkins, I thought I had 3 or 4 till I started clearing out vines and ended up with about 2 dozen nice sized ones!

      I have one third of my chicken run fenced off that I tried turning into a pasture, didn’t work out, so this year I am trying to plant it in blocks of sweet corn and bush beans. My thinking is that if I plant a block every week or so I should get a successive harvest.

      That first “mess” is turning out to be rather therapeutic, I find it relaxing sitting out there cutting wheat and layering it around the plants that are keepers. By the way my wife uses the same term, one of the guys doing tile work at our new house is from Mexico and when he came through the fence to look for me he stopped put both hands over his heart and said, “this reminds me of home it is just like Mexico”. I took it as a compliment Karen on the other hand said, “see! I told you you need to clean this mess up!”

      • Sure, Karen might complain about the mess, but did she complain when you walked in with 2 dozen pumpkins? I somehow doubt it – she seems a sensible lass, just with a bit of a problem with aesthetics.

        Good luck with successive plantings – something else I’ve tried (only a little) and found didn’t work too well. I think the problem is that when the season peaks, everything rushes to ripen so plants that went in the ground 2 weeks late magically catch up. See if yours are better behaved.

  3. kkneifl28 says:

    You are inspiring me and my path to raised bed gardens. (I also find it very therapeutic to be in my garden. However, since my garden beds are not at this stage yet, that entails turning the compost with a pitch fork…over and over again. The little neighbor boy that lives behind me thinks I should get some worms to speed up the process…but I plan on being here for a while a it is the slow progression toward completed compost or a tomato seed finally sprouting that truly gives me joy!) Love your photos!

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