Raised Gardens

 

Tips for Successful Raised Gardens

  1. Start small. Start with a small raised garden to see if it works for you.
  2. Keep any weeds down with a deep layer of mulch.
  3. Start with easy seedlings like lettuce, parsley, and basil
  4. Make sure you use great soil. Good soil is important in any garden, but it is essential in a raised garden. There’s not a lot of room for error here, so get the best soil you can afford.
  5. Make it as deep as you can. Shallow raised gardens are much harder to deal with than deep ones.
  6. Add trellises to grow vegetables up and save space. One zucchini left to its own will take up a huge amount of space, for example. Train it up so you can grow low-growing vegetables in front. Here are 15 sturdy trellis ideas.
  7. Fertilize regularly. Use a good organic fertilizer, as often as the packaging says.
  8. Start a compost pile so you have a ready supply of goodness to add to your raised garden. Remember, raised gardens do not “make” their own nutrient like an in-ground garden might. You’ll have to feed it everything it needs.
  9. Plan for a cover. Raised gardens are even more susceptible to bugs and animals than in-ground gardens. It’s a good idea to plan for an animal-proof cover if the need arises. Could be anything from a simple net cover to a complete roof.

2020 DDC Garden

Note that all layouts the top is north.

Garden A

pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber

  PuCuZu
PuCuZu
PuCuZu
PuCuZu

Garden B

corn, bell pepper, jalapenos, bush beans, asparagus beans, onion, cabbage, broccoli, radishes

cobpzucujaab
cogbromaromagrape
cogbysbryo
cogbbpbrrora

4/24 planted crimson red radishes

Garden C

radishes

    ra

 

Growing Cilantro

cilantro_closeup_tnCilantro needs its own space in the garden where you can harvest it and then let it go to seed. It grows fast in the cool weather of spring and fall, creating a rosette of lacy leaves. When the weather gets warm, the plant sends up a long, lanky flower stalk bearing flat umbels of white or pinkish blossoms which later produce coriander seeds. Plant cilantro in a bed devoted to herbs where it can reseed, or in a corner of the vegetable garden.

In mild climates, cilantro makes a handsome winter companion to pansies. Leaves withstand a light frost.

Soil, Planting, and Care

It is best to dedicate a patch of garden to cilantro since it self-sows. Seeds germinate in about 7 to 10 days.

Cilantro is best grown by directly sowing seed in the garden for two reasons. It grows so quickly it needs no head start indoors, and since cilantro develops a taproot, it doesn’t like being transplanted.

South

Grow cilantro in full sun and well-drained soil with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8; it will tolerate light shade in the South and Southwest where the sun is intense. In the South and Southwest, plant 12 to 18 inches apart in the fall or the spring about a month before the last frost. Fall is the ideal time to plant in zones 8, 9, and 10 because the plants will last through until the weather heats up in late spring. When plants begin to bloom, the foliage becomes scarce; for steady harvest, set out plants every 3 to 4 weeks until the weather gets warm in spring, or until the first frost of fall.

North of the border
Cilantro is productive for only about 6 weeks in cooler climes, so here are some tips on dealing with cilantro’s persnickety nature.
• Dedicate a small patch of garden to cilantro.
• Direct sow plants every 2 to 3 weeks, starting about 2 weeks before the last frost date (around May 15).
• Once the plants bolt, allow them to go to seed. (Cilantro bolts when temperatures climb above 75°F for a few consecutive days.)
• Retain the patch so self-sown plants will come up in the spring.

Application of compost around the base of the plant adds nutrients, helps retain water, and keeps the roots cool.

Cilantro frequently self sows. As seeds fall to the ground, little plants often come up during the season and the following spring.

CULTIVATION

Prepare soil by adding some compost or other organic matter to the planting area and working it into the soil to a depth of at least 18 inches. Rake the area smooth. Sow cilantro seeds 1/4-inch deep directly in the garden in late spring or early summer. Sow seeds or thin to 6 to 8 inches apart in rows spaced about 1 foot apart. Provide plenty of moisture and feed cilantro plants with a water-soluble fertilizer when they reach about 2 inches in height.

Since cilantro grows so quickly, it can also be sown again in the fall in warmer zones. For a steady supply of fresh leaves all summer, make successive sowings of cilantro seed every 2 to 3 weeks beginning in the spring.

Cilantro Harvest Tips
Cutting cilantro near bottom of stems

For Cilantro

Harvest cilantro by cutting the leafy stems near ground level. Cut only about one-third of the plant at a time. The leaves can be cut at any time. Use the upper, new, finely cut leaves in cooking, but not the mature, lower ferny-type leaves. Cilantro is not normally saved and dried like other culinary herbs since, as stated, it loses almost its entire flavor when dried. Harvest cilantro by cutting the leafy stems near ground level. Cut only about one-third of the plant at a time.

For Coriander
The large coriander seeds are easy to harvest and handle. Harvest on a dry day. Cut the top of the stems when the seedpods begin to turn brown and crack if pressed. Make sure pods are harvested before they release seeds into the garden. Once stems are cut, place seedpods in a paper bag so seeds will be caught. Finish the ripening process for a few weeks in a dark, well-ventilated, cool place. Pods can be shaken or rolled around in your hands to release the seeds. Harvest the seeds by clipping the brown, round seed heads; place upside down in a paper bag. In a few days, the round husks will dry and split in two, dropping the edible seed inside. Don’t delay seed harvest, or the weak stems will fall over.

If you’re growing the plant for seed, don’t bother fertilizing since that may delay flowering and thus seed production.

Troubleshooting

 

Field of white cilantro flowersCilantro will grow tall and wispy as it starts to bloom. The white flowers later produce the seeds we all know as coriander.

Cilantro occasionally has problems with aphids and whitefly, wilt, or mildew. For the insects, use insecticidal soap. To prevent or control wilt and mildew, make sure you clean up spent cilantro plants at the end of the season, and remove any infected plants as soon as possible.

One of the surprises that most gardeners get from cilantro is that it moves through its life cycle so quickly, especially in spring. If you are lucky enough to live in a mild winter climate, fall and winter give you the longest season to harvest. Once you understand this fast little plant, it’s easy to manage. Give it its own patch in the garden where you can harvest, then ignore, then harvest again. Harvest while it’s low, let it get tall when it wants to, then cut off the tall plants after the seeds drop to get it out of the way. This makes room for the new plants that start themselves from the fallen seeds. Or, of course, you can set out new plants every 3 to 4 weeks for as long as we have them in the stores, but the harvest and ignore technique will get you through the in-between times.

You can harvest cilantro’s foliage continually in the cooler months of spring and fall and through winter in areas without hard freezes. Harvest by cutting the leafy stems near ground level; most will be around 6 to 12 inches long. Avoid cutting more than one-third of the leaves at one time, or you may weaken the plant. Fertilize with Herb & Vegetable Plant Food or fish emulsion after 4 or 5 harvests.

Since we are taking leaves often frequent fertilization is a must to keep the leaves coming

it will start to yellow if it is not fertilized regularly. Keeping it fertilized means more leaves for us to harvest….more salsa at my house. Cilantro leaves may also fade from that dark green color when it is grown in soggy soils.

Uses

 

Growing cilantro adds a lot of healthy, fresh flavor to your kitchen. Freshly chopped cilantro is an excellent source of potassium, is low in calories, and is good for the digestive system. It is best to use fresh cilantro in cooking since it loses its flavor when dried. Add chopped leaves at the last minute for maximum flavor. Cilantro blends well with mint, cumin, chives, garlic, and marjoram. Store by freezing the leaves in cubes of water or oil; you can dry them, too, but they lose a lot of their flavor this way, which explains why growing your own is far better than buying it from the spice rack.

Store coriander seeds in a cool cabinet or the refrigerator. Use them in curry, poultry, relishes, and pickles.

Q&A

My cilantro is tall and lanky with few leaves.

It sounds like your cilantro has started to bloom. Once the weather begins to get warm in late spring or early summer, cilantro will transition from a round, leafy plant with parsley-like foliage into a taller, lacy-leaved plant with white flowers in clusters at the top. In a few weeks, you’ll see round seeds forming. When harvested, these can be ground into coriander. If you leave them to mature, plants will fall to the ground and sprout again in the fall or early spring. While your plant will die after flowering, its offspring will take over, giving you a seasonal supply of flavorful foliage. Without adequate lighting though, expect the cilantro to grow ‘leggy’ or spindly.

Year round cilantro?

Cilantro is a biennial, which means it grows leaves the first season, and then it flowers and dies the second. Set out plants in early fall for optimum growth. They will develop into round, leafy plants that look a lot like flat-leaved parsley, but the flavor is distinctly different. If the winter is mild, you’ll have cilantro for months. Then in spring you will notice the plant growing taller and the leaves changing to a very lacy form. There will be white flowers on top, and after the seeds ripen, the plant will die. Seeds that fall to the ground in summer will germinate in fall, so the cycle begins again.To have a supply of cilantro in summer, you’ll need to preserve it. Drying is not the best for cilantro. Instead, chop or puree the fresh leaves with olive oil. Store this in a heavy plastic container or freezer bag in the freezer for later use.

Composting

Compost is a wonderful soil amendment and very easy to make. You need organic matter, moisture, oxygen, and bacteria.

Compost bin

Containers need to have plenty of ventilation and some moisture.

Nothing. Compost can be created by making a 6x6x5 foot pile of alternating brown and green debris. The brown supplies carbon, the green supplies nitrogen.

Chicken wire in a cylinder. Mount 2 stakes in the ground and wrap chicken wire around it. Remove the chicken wire, turn the compost, put the compost back in chicken wire receptacle. The cylinder should be about 3 feet in diameter and 3 to 4 feet tall.

A homemade container can be made by taking a small garbage can and perforating it with 1/4 inch holes on the sides and bottom. A closed container has the advantage of keeping critters out better and hiding the contents from the neighbors.

Compost tumblerCompost tumblers have an advantage of being easy to turn the compost material. They do not hold as much as a garbage can.

How to make compost

Construct a pile 4 to 6 feet tall. Start off with a 6 inch layer of brown material followed by 3 inches of green material.

One layer is (green) plant debris, which adds nitrogen.

  • leaves
  • grass clippings
  • unseeded weeds
  • kitchen scraps
    • vegetable and fruit scraps
    • coffee grounds
    • breads
    • pastas
    • tea bags
    • ground egg shells

6 to 8 inches deep followed by 1 to 2 inches of (brown) debris, which adds carbon:

  • cow manure
  • topsoil
  • dried leaves
  • dried grass clippings
  • shredded newspaper (not colored ads)
  • straw
  • hay
  • sawdust
  • nitrogen-rich fertilizer
  • soil
  • twigs

Do not use:

  • poisonous plants (e.g. poison ivy)
  • meat
  • fat
  • bones
  • dairy products
  • oils
  • diseased plants
  • pesticides
  • used kitty litter
  • garden plant roots
  • plastics
  • styrofoam
  • medical waste
  • batteries
  • diapers

Chop or grind large materials into small pieces. Run over stuff with a lawnmower. Use a leaf sucker that chops up leaves.

Keep compost moist but not soggy nor dry. It should have consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Add a thin layer of soil every once in a while. Soil is rich in microbes.

Turn the compost pile every week or so. This reduces odors and helps compost decompose evenly. Compost should be ready in 1 to 3 months.

Before using compost, sift it through a 1 inch mesh screen, like chicken wire. Chop up the pieces left over.

In order to get the composting kickstarted, your pile needs to be hot and wet. The two biggest problems a compost system encounters are lack of heat and lack of moisture. These affect the composting process in different ways.

  • Try to keep the internal heat of your compost bin at 110 °F (43 °C) or higher. Between 110 °F (43 °C) and 140 °F (60 °C) is the ideal temperature for your pile. If your pile dips below 110 °F (43 °C), consider adding more green nitrogen-rich material or more water.
  • Try to keep the compost pile damp throughout — never soaked and never dry. A moist pile will heat up more efficiently, allowing for better composing in the end
  • New compost needs more water than a partially rotted one.
  • Don’t get the compost too wet

Tips

Use a lawnmower or leaf picker-upper to chop leaves into a fine mulch. The mulch can be left on the ground or added to the compost pile.

Keep the composter in a sunny area to speed up decomposition and keep out ants.

Bury kitchen scraps under at least 10 inches of compost in the bin so the smell does not attract animals or flies.

If there are a lot of ants, that is a sign the compost is not being turned enough.

Build three containers: one for composting, one for soil to add to compost, one for starting compost.

Turn the compost often.

Composting process

The composting process involves four main components: organic mattermoistureoxygen, and bacteria.

Organic matter includes plant materials and some animal manures. Organic materials used for compost should include a mixture of brown organic material (dead leaves, twigs, manure) and green organic material (lawn clippings, fruit rinds, etc.). Brown materials supply carbon, while green materials supply nitrogen. The best ratio is 1 part green to 1 part brown material. Shredding, chopping or mowing these materials into smaller pieces will help speed the composting process by increasing the surface area.

For piles that have mostly brown material (dead leaves), try adding a handful of commercial 10-10-10 fertilizer to supply nitrogen and speed the compost process.

Moisture is important to support the composting process. Compost should be comparable to the wetness of a wrung-out sponge.

If the pile is too dry, materials will decompose very slowly. Add water during dry periods or when adding large amounts of brown organic material.

If the pile is too wet, turn the pile and mix the materials. Another option is to add dry, brown organic materials.

Oxygen is needed to support the breakdown of plant material by bacteria. To supply oxygen, you will need to turn the compost pile so that materials at the edges are brought to the center of the pile. Turning the pile is important for complete composting and for controlling odor.

Wait at least two weeks before turning the pile, to allow the center of the pile to “heat up” and decompose. Once the pile has cooled in the center, decomposition of the materials has taken place. Frequent turning will help speed the composting process.

Bacteria and other microorganisms are the real workers in the compost process. By supplying organic materials, water, and oxygen, the already present bacteria will break down the plant material into useful compost for the garden. As the bacteria decompose the materials, they release heat, which is concentrated in the center of the pile.

You may also add layers of soil or finished compost to supply more bacteria and speed the composting process. Commercial starters are available but should not be necessary for compost piles that have a proper carbon to nitrogen ratio (1 part green organic material to 1 part brown organic material).

In addition to bacteria, larger organisms including insects and earthworms are active composters. These organisms break down large materials in the compost pile.

How long does it take?

The amount of time needed to produce compost depends on several factors, including the size of the compost pile, the types of materials, the surface area of the materials, and the number of times the pile is turned.

For most efficient composting, use a pile that is between 3 feet cubed and 5 feet cubed (27-125 cu. ft.). This allows the center of the pile to heat up sufficiently to break down materials.

Smaller piles can be made but will take longer to produce finished compost. Larger piles can be made by increasing the length of the pile but limiting the height and the depth to 5 feet tall by 5 feet deep; however, large piles are limited by a person’s ability to turn the materials. You may also want to have two piles, one for finished compost ready to use in the garden, and the other for unfinished compost.

If the pile has more brown organic materials, it may take longer to compost. You can speed up the process by adding more green materials or a fertilizer with nitrogen (use one cup per 25 square feet).

The surface area of the materials effects the time needed for composting. By breaking materials down into smaller parts (chipping, shredding, mulching leaves), the surface area of the materials will increase. This helps the bacteria to more quickly break down materials into compost.

Finally, the number of times the pile is turned influences composting speed. By turning more frequently (about every 2-4 weeks), you will produce compost more quickly. Waiting at least two weeks allows the center of the pile to heat up and promotes maximum bacterial activity. The average composter turns the pile every 4-5 weeks.

When turning the compost pile, make sure that materials in the center are brought to the outsides, and that materials from the outside edges are brought to the center.

With frequent turning, compost can be ready in about 3 months, depending on the time of year. In winter, the activity of the bacteria slows, and it is recommended that you stop turning the pile after November to keep heat from escaping the pile’s center. In summer, warm temperatures encourage bacterial activity and the composting process is quicker

Troubleshooting

The compost has a bad odor

Problem: Not enough air. Not enough water. Too small.
Solutions: Turn it, add dry material if the pile is too wet.

The center of the pile is dry

Problem: Lack of nitrogen.
Solutions: Moisten and turn the pile.

The compost is damp and warm only in the middle

Problem: Pile is too small.
Solutions: Collect more material and mix the old ingredients into a new pile.

The heap is damp and sweet-smelling but still will not heat up

Problem: Lack of nitrogen.
Solutions: Mix in a nitrogen source like fresh grass clippings, manure or fertilizer.

Large, undecomposed items are still in the mix

Problem: Low surface area.
Solutions: Remove items, and chop or shred large items.

References

Compost Info

http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/needs_temperature.htm

http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/needs_temperature.htm

2015 DDC Garden Layout and Notes

2015 Garden Notes

Garden C layout

North ^

ba  se  ja  bp sp ra sp  cy
or  bp  cu
 to  cu
 to
 zu
 zu  ci

2 rows of spinach (bloomsdale long standing), 4/27
1 row of radishes (early scarlet globe), 4/27
cayenne hot pepper plant, 5/3
2 roma tomatoes, 5/3
2 bell pepper plants, 5/3
1 row of jalapenos, 5/5
2 zucchini, 5/5
2 cucumber, 5/5
cilantro, 5/6
basil, 5/6
oregano, 5/6
serrano hot peppers, 5/6

Garden A Layout

North ^

pp
pp pu

2 sets of pie pumpkins in hills, 5/15
1 set (3 seeds 3″ apart) jack-o-lantern pumkins, 5/15

Abbreviations

ba = basil
bp = bell pepper
ca = carrots
ci = cilantro
cu = cucumber
cy = cayenne hot pepper
hp = hot pepper
ja = jalapeno hot pepper
le = lettuce
or = oregano
po = potato
pp = pie pumpkin
pu = pumpkin
ra = radishes
ro = red onion
sc = sweet corn
se = serrano hot peppers
sp = spinach
sw = sweet potato
to = tomato
yo = yellow onion
zu = zucchini