Fun feature: Ask-a-Gardener
nooz812 asks: I would like to build an elevated (raised) garden atop a wooden, slatted patio table that is 5 ft x 3 ft. None of the raised garden kits I have seen online are the right size so I will likely be building my own. I will be planting herbs and veggies that can grow in shallow soil so I'm thinking probably 6" deep. Any advice on building this thing and what to line the bottom with so that the soil doesn't slip between the slats (1.5" slats)? Thanks.
Sundownr answers: Hello nooz812,
Have you considered planting your herbs and veggies in small individual pots that are placed into a window box (minus the hanging hardware), or small trough-like containers? You can replace pots as needed, move them into the house in bad weather, and you can add a decorative layer of mulch across the tops of all the pots for a uniform look. The following photo shows a wallpaper trough/pan I used in a hurry to contain several rescued basil transplants that I found at the home improvement store. I liked the look so much that I started planting all my annual herbs in larger containers with a blanket of mulch over the top to hide the individual smaller containers. I do make drainage holes in the container bottoms and line them with landscape cloth so the the soil stays put.
This method should allow you to design whatever looks best on your table and change the mulch every growing season if you like. Your main concern would be if your table can handle the added weight of your containers, WET soil, and any heavy mulch (such as rocks) that you might use.
Hope this helps answer your question!
Tahlequh asks: I collected some bags of leaves from a neighbor's yard only to discover that they were leaves infused with sweet gum balls/seeds...my question is..should I till them into my garden...will they break down...is it worth the pain of working around them until they break down...or do I just get rid of the bags altogether?
Melody answers: Don't discard the leaves! Sweetgum (Liquidambar styracifula) does produce the spiny seed balls, but as someone who has dealt with them for years, I can assure you that they will break down. The actual seeds are very small and there are many in each ball. Seedlings are not generally a problem either. I may get a few, but they are easy to pull up or transplant to another area. When I say a few...I mean a couple each season, not a couple dozen! Kudos to you for finding the free amendments! The seed balls are great organic matter and your gardens will benefit from the addition.
critterologist adds: My first question is, do you garden wearing clogs and gloves, or do you go barefoot and bare-handed into your garden? I think sweetgum balls will break down in a couple of seasons, just like pine cones, fir needles, and other organic materials that are not kind to bare feet... but I wouldn't want to hop around my garden yelling "ouch! ouch!" while waiting for them to decompose.
If you are a barefoot gardener, I would suggest putting that batch of leaves into a compost pile. Whether you actively compost it by layering "green" and "brown" material, watering, and turning, or whether you just dump them and forget them for a couple of years, the sweetgum balls will have a chance to break down with the leaves, and you'll have some "brown gold" to spread on your garden at a later date.
I think sweetgum balls are really cool, despite being hard on bare feet, so I planted one at the edge of our yard (where bare feet could reasonably avoid the fallout). I had to look hard to find a tree that wasn't a sterile variety, so apparently I'm in the minority in actually liking those spiky balls! Sadly, mine hasn't fruited yet, so either it's still too young (8 years old), or it's sterile after all. But it's a fall foliage favorite, just the same.
miked1 asks: How much azomite do you use for one cubic foot of soil?
Sundownr answers: Hello miked1,
Since Azomite is a natural amendment with various minerals and elements, it will not harm (or burn) your plants if you add too much to your soil. It comes in a powder or granules (maybe other forms too), so you should check the distributor's suggestions for best use of their particular product. Personally, I would use the amount listed for square foot use and not worry too much amount the soil depth (cubic foot measure), as the nutrients will be washed down to the root zone with each watering. Subsequent Azomite applications can be made often as well.
I hope this helps to answer your question.
marcusmmx asks: I was told not to plant certain things close together. Such as tomatoes and peppers. What should I seperate in the garden?
Melody answers: There are several opinions about plants that shouldn't be planted next to each other and most of them are simply ‘old farmers tales.' Tomatoes and peppers will be just fine as neighbors. The thinking behind the practice is that since peppers and tomatoes are both in the Solonaceae family, the heat from the peppers could migrate to the tomato fruit if they cross-pollinated. It simply won't happen. Now, if you have hot peppers and mild peppers in the same garden, it is wise to separate them by a trap crop such as squash, since the pollen is insect-borne, not wind-borne. If hot peppers cross-pollinate with sweet ones, the seeds inside will contain heat. Another no-no is beans and onions, and I can see how this could possibly cause a bit of an issue, but haven't had any problems myself. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil and bulbing plants such as onions produce more tops in a nitrogen-rich garden and smaller bulbs. There are many opinions on the subject and quite a bit of mis-information on the internet with complicated instructions. My advice is to concentrate on good soil and nutrients with responsible pest control. This will produce a happier garden, as opposed to who your veggies' neighbors are.
Remember, if you have a gardening question that you would like to suggest for this feature, post it here. Our writers and admins will handpick a few of your questions and answer them in an upcoming Ask-a-Gardener, one of our Saturday morning features. Other questions may be moved to one of our other forums so your fellow members can help you.
The image in Question #1 is courtesy of Bev Walker (Sundownr)