This is the fourth installment of our season-long adventure in elevated gardening. Our friends at Gronomics have provided the Western Red Cedar planters we are using. In our first installment, we received the planters and documented putting them together. Both of us were quite pleased with how easily they went together without using a single tool. In our second installment we filled them with our growing medium and planted them with seeds and transplants. Both of us chose a combination of edibles and ornamentals and in the third installment, readers were shown how things were growing. In this fourth installment, Terry and Melody have beautiful planters, brimming full of ornamentals and edibles. The harvest is beginning in ernest.
Melody: Eggplants love the Gronomics beds! I've been harvesting several every third day or so. My husband has finally decided he likes it too! He was an avowed eggplant hater for many years and now, he asks if there is eggplant for supper nearly every night...granted, his favorite way to eat it is fried, but I take it as a small victory. Flea beetles have turned the leaves into swiss cheese, but they are still blooming and producing well. The hot weather continues a problem and I've had to be dilligent about watering, but that is the case for my other containers too. The composted manure is helping a great deal with water retention and I'm glad I added some to each bed. Something (or several somethings) ate a couple of pepper plants down to the nubs, but they look like they are on the rebound and putting out new growth. Since I am not using pesticides, butterflies, bees and moths are frequent visitors, along with a few blister beetles and stinkbugs. Predator insects stand guard and help control the bad guys.
Terry: The Gronomics beds have definitely made my little vegetable garden much easier to tend this year. I'm battling the Bermudagrass in every other planting bed, so it's really nice to be able to just feed and water these plants without having to attack more weeds each time I do. On the flipside, an in-ground garden can sometimes go a little longer between waterings because there is a certain amount of moisture in the soil that the roots can tap into, at least temporarily. With raised beds, the gardener needs to be very diligent to water regulary. And I've found the "all season" fertilizer that was in the initial potting soil has been used up, so at the first sign of paling foliage, I scratched in some all-purpose plant food (an extended-release pellet form) to help them stay properly fertilized throughout the growing season. Our clay soil is frustrating to garden in, but it does contain a lot of nutrients that bagged soil simply doesn't have. It's just another point to remember with any container planting - be sure your plants have both food and water to keep them growing strong, even through the hottest weeks of summer.
Melody's beds are lush and beautiful. The mail lady even had to get out of her car to take a closer look. Melody waters deeply every day and so far, nothing appears stressed. Melody perfers to water in the morning so that the foliage is dry by nightfall.
The peppers are great, despite the fact that something decided to eat the plants down to the nubs. Melody is freezing a few along with enjoying them in salads and other recipes.
The pentas and marigolds are beautiful. Hummingbirds and butterflies are frequent visitors to the beds. Melody dead-heads the spent blossoms to stimulate the plants into producing more. A by-product of dead-heading is that the plants produce lateral branches and look fuller and bushier.
After several moves (which aren't easy because these beds are heavy!), Terry's beds finally wound up on either side of her "outhouse" garden tool shed. Yes, those are storm clouds in the background, but they aren't likely to produce any real moisture.
Most afternoons find Terry out watering the garden beds, along with other containers. Conventional wisdom says to water in the mornings, but surely plants like a cooling off mid-afternoon, too - right? Just be sure you water early enough for the foliage to dry out before nightfall.
Terry's tomatoes are starting to ripen, despite the heat. Hopefully when the nighttime temperatures start to dip below 80F, these plants will start putting out blossoms and fruit.
Melody's first real harvest! Two kinds of eggplants, beet greens, hot and sweet peppers made for a feast!
Melody's little succulents are starting to take off. They will soon need a new home and she has plans for them. She intends on using the beds for more plant-starting experiments.
The zinnias in Melody's bed are colorful and really add to the overall look. She's very happy that someone suggested planting them in these beds. They also benefit from regular dead-heading.
Since Melody is growing organically, she has a good population of critters wanting to eat her crops. Thank goodness for the critters that want to eat the other critters! A healthy population of predators could include, spiders, praying mantis, ladybugs, lacewings and robber flies.
The cayenne peppers are very happy in these beds. Melody has been harvesting quite a few green ones. She's now letting the rest turn red, for a bit different flavor.
The first ripe Chocolate Cherry tomato! Melody ate it right there, still warm from the sun. It was delicious. By growing in the elevated beds, her tomato is not infected with the seasonal blights that affect so many in-ground plants. The leaves are fresh and green all the way to the top of the soil.
Terry was happy to find that 42-inch cages stand up well, even in the smaller beds. But if the tomato plants become too bulky, they could topple them over. Fortunately, theses are determinate tomatoes, so they will stop growing at some point.
Terry's Anaheim peppers are loving their raised beds and the heat, and they're putting out scads of peppers, which will be roasted and frozen for winter stews and foods.
The flat Italian parsley and Mexican coriander are elbowing each other for growing room these days. One word to the wise: Mexican coriander (an Eryngium) has very sharp spines. Ask Terry and she can tell you just how sharp they are!
Melody has baby carrots, baby beets and a handful of wax beans, along with the peppers and eggplants. Her salads are colorful and tasty, especially since the herbs are flourishing too.
The tomato plant is full of little green tomatoes. By the next installment, they should be running out of Melody's ears! Since tomatoes do not have good fruit set in high temperatures, she was concerned for the tomato on the hot south-facing area. So far, it has been producing blooms and little tomatoes at an astonishing rate.
The eggplants love these Gronomics beds. Despite their flea beetle chewed leaves, they are full of blooms and fruit, in various stages of development. Melody is quite happy that her husband has finally decided that he likes eggplant!
Terry's Cubanelle peppers are enjoying a mid-day drenching soak. They're yellow now and should turn to a nice ripe red in the next week or two. They make delicious fried peppers along with Italian sausages.
Fennel is such an easy and beautiful plant to grow. After getting a soaking, the water looks like crystal droplets. Every time Terry or her family brushes against it, the smell of licorice floats up. The caterpillars love it, but its growth is outpacing what they cats are eating.
These are Terry's yellow 'Yum Yum' Peppers. A little more elongated than a sweet bell, but they are supposed to be a mini-bell pepper, and a bright golden orange when ripe. We're excited to try them this year!
As we wrap up this fourth installment, we welcome your questions and comments. We'll be back in about four weeks with another report. We hope you will follow us through this summer and possibly beyond, as we experiment with our planters!