Jul 05 2011

Raised Bed Garden – July 2011 Update

Posted by Seth in Gardening, Home Improvement

My garden that I built way back when (ok, so a few months ago..) is doing great.  For as much work as I put in, I am starting to reap the benefits, and I can’t wait until next year where I don’t have to focus on construction.   I thought I would update everyone on the lessons learned so far, and some things I will be doing differently next year.

First..  I severely underestimated how tall my tomato and cucumber plants would get. I was used to having a dinky container garden at my old apartment, now that the plants are in the ground and being properly watered, they are growing like they should – and my trellis is definitely not tall enough. Next year, I will be building a much taller trellis, using the 3/4″ electrical conduit and tent parts that I built the protective cage out of.  Total height will be in the 8-10 foot range, it will be the last time I build it for sure!  When the plants were young, I trimmed back the lower branches to promote upward growth – that was definitely successful!

The cucumber vines are ridiculously long, one of them I would guess is at least 10 feet. You can train them to go where you want, but I just ran out of trellis for them – I’m letting them go wherever they want now.  Good news is the tomatoes are already mature and they don’t seem to mind.

For reference.. the random poles holding up tomato plants on the right of the big bed are 10 feet long!

Part of the garden.. holy tall tomato plants!!

Next.. the hops plant will require some sort of extraordinary system to climb up as well, as it’s well over my garage roof already. Some sort of 30′ tall contraption with pulley system is in order.

Probably the best money spent so far is the irrigation system.   I water twice a day, 5pm & 5am, for 95 minutes.  The plants are doing great!  I have been adding some vegetable plant food per the directions on the container at the recommended interval, and it’s helped tremendously, probably because this is brand new soil and was lacking some nutrients.  I have a nice compost pile going that will be great for the next growing season.

Honeydew, Canteloupe, Watermelon vines

The watermelon, honeydew, and canteloupe vines are EVERYWHERE.  Next year, I probably won’t plant as many as they are hard to manage.  There are overgrown weeds in the neighbor’s yard, on the other side of my fence, which I need to cut back, but you can see how the melon plants have taken over this area.

Peas – thanks to my cousin’s advice, I found out why they are not doing so well.. they do not do well in the heat. I just put some seeds in the shade of the tomato plants, we’ll see if they do well or not.  Next year, I’ll be planting these much earlier / later in the season, when it’s not so hot.

 The squash plants are in the main bed with all of the pepper plants.. they have really taken off and are HUGE. They are starting to overtake the pepper plants, I will be keeping a close eye to make sure this does not hinder the peppers at all, if it does, I will cut back the squash if I have to.


May 20 2011

DIY Raised Bed Garden – Part 2 – Security and Irrigation

Posted by Seth in Gardening

Continuation of DIY Raised Bed Garden Construction

It became apparent about 2 hours after planting some of my first vegetables, that I would need some sort of security fence around the plants. The squirrels or birds around my house seem to think it is fun to chop the plants in half and leave them for dead.  Originally, I made a wooden frame with some plastic poultry netting to keep them out, but I knew that was temporary and I needed something more permanent.

Cage installed, and you can see the tomato/cucumber trellis as well.

I took out my tomato cages and changed over to a trellis system, using some electrical conduit – this stuff is very cheap and easy to manipulate. To do that I needed to buy the conduit pipe cutter, so I figured I would get my money’s worth out of the investment in that tool.  I decided to use some 3/4″ EMT conduit along with some tent frame pieces that you would normally find vendors using to build tents at outdoor flea markets and shows.  Above is what I came up with, a nice “box” around the plants, that has plastic netting on all sides to keep out the creatures.  The temporary wood structure worked great, I’m sure I’ll get many a season out of the metal version.  It’s also hinged on one side so it just swings away.   You can find the pieces you need via a google search, mine came from http://www.ysbw.com/ .

1/4" Drip line connected to 1/2" main line

The next item I wanted to tackle was an automatic watering system.  I started to clear out the area along my fence to make way for some items like berries, and melons, and along with the second bed I built, I had things to water that were not so easy with a regular sprinkler. On top of that, sprinklers suck – they spray the leaves and it’s hard to get the roots in the beds soaked properly.  I decided to build a drip irrigation system and permanently install it.  Pieces for drip irrigation are available at Home Depot and Lowes under various brands, but right now the shelves are pretty barren because of the time of year, so I suggest buying online. I went with Drip Depot.

The systems are very simple to set up.  On top of that, they are efficient.  You will only be soaking the roots of your bed, for exactly as long as you need, so it doesn’t waste water. Mine runs on a timer, for 75 minutes each day at 5:30AM.   

 Basically, you hook it up to your hose outlet, run a main line near your beds, then branch off smaller lines to directly feed the plants. It literally takes minutes to install.  Mine took a little longer as my garden is nowhere near the hose hookup, and I opted to bury the 1/2″ line in the ground all the way to the garden.  The main line is called 1/2″ poly tube, the feeder hoses are 1/4″, and your garden hose hookup is a 3/4″.   At a minimum for the “foundations” of the system, you need:

That’s it for the foundations, then you need to accessorize in order to be able to water the plants.  How many emitters do you need? Well that depends on your plants. I did a good bit of reading to figure out which plants required which amount of water.  What I gathered is that Tomatoes needed the most water while peppers and just about everything else in my garden was good with 12″ spaced dripline running on either side of the plants to soak the roots.  I highly recommend a hose timer, so the garden waters itself. This Orbit one (and ones that look like it) had great reviews, that’s what I went with.

To water the plants, you have a variety of emitters to choose from.  My raised beds use mostly 1/4″ drip line which just plugs right into the 1/2″ main line with barb fittings.  The lines also need to be plugged at the end just like the main line, so you’ll need 1/4″ goof plugs for each run.  My raspberries and blueberries that are in the actual ground have adjustable drippers on them so that I can crank up the water as they grow if I need to.

Drip line for peas, and adjustable emitter on the oregano

Do some reading, and piece together what you need. My total investment for the irrigation system was about $100.  I work at night, and I travel a lot, so having this on an automatic timer is worth the $100 for peace of mind.  Plus, I don’t have to wake up at 5:30am and water the plants, ever!