It’s been a long time since I did a proper garden update. I’m going to cover each area of the garden separately so each post is a more digestible chunk.
Raised Bed #1
This was the first raised bed we built in 2009 in the far northeast corner of our backyard. The majority of it has been taken up by strawberries in past years. But because I failed to keep the strawberries watered last year, they burned up and I had to rip them out.
We opted to try growing the strawberries in a tower this year instead, so that opened up a lot of space in #1. It also made it possible to move part of the bed. We ended up building beds #2 and #3 a few feet farther back in the yard, so I decided to move #1 back so they would all be consistent.
We’d never moved any of our beds after building them, so it was an interesting experience. We essentially took the blocks from one end of the bed and added them to the other end, more or less “moving” the entire bed, without having to move every block.
Last year and this year we planted asparagus crowns in the bed, so moving the blocks gave us the opportunity to see the root structure of the asparagus. It also revealed intricate worm tunnels, which is pretty cool considering the beds are separated from the soil by landscaping fabric. We throw worms in the beds whenever we find them around the yard, so it was nice to see that the ones we’d thrown in there had either survived or been replaced by intrepid worms who managed to work their way into the bed through the cracks.
About half the bed is taken up by last year and this year’s asparagus. We got a few spears this past spring, but they mostly came on while I was away at a training and they were too tall to harvest by the time I got back. Next year will be their third year, so we should be able to harvest them fully. Until then, they’re tall and ferny but not doing much.
I planted most of the rest of the bed with five varieties of winter squash. They seemed to grow well at first, then got hit hard by squash bugs and cucumber beetles. I thought I had them under control, though, before I left for another trip. When I got back the whole entire original planting area looked dead. Strangely, though, a couple of the varieties had vined 10-15 feet around the asparagus, and those sections of the plants looked fine, despite having their roots in the original planting area. It stymies me. I still haven’t figured out what happened or how the remaining parts of the vines are alive.
Before the bulk of the vines died off we had two nice spaghetti squash form. I left them on the vine, thinking I would pick them in the fall with the rest of the winter squash. Wrong. They literally cooked in the record high heat, and rotted where they sat. Lost.
The vines that are still hanging on are primarily our Pennsylvania Dutch butternut variety. They’ve formed two good-size mature squash and are busy setting new ones. I plan to pick the mature ones as soon as I can, lest they succumb to the same fate as the spaghetti squashes.
So, bed #1 has not been a complete success. One of the benefits of growing a wide variety of plants, though, is that we’re less dependent on any single one of them. If we don’t have a lot of winter squash, we will still eat sweet potatoes and kale and Swiss chard instead.
Eventually I think we will learn how to keep each plant happy and healthy, and how to avoid pests and diseases. But in the meantime, we hedge our bets and diversify.