Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Planting the Raised Vegetable Beds

I don't often post about the vegetables that I grow, but I do have two large raised beds in the back garden where I grow vegetables every year. I spent a couple of days these past two weeks preparing and sowing seeds in those beds. I used vegetable seeds from a few different sources this year.

I'm growing Napa cabbage, Arugula, mustard greens, spinach, Mesclun, leaf lettuce, sweet Spanish onions, and two kinds of baby turnips. I couldn't stand the mashed, watery, bitter-tasting turnips that my mom used to try to get me to eat when I was little. But on my last birthday, I had a roasted baby turnip, and it was delicious, so I decided this year to give them a try. I'll also be growing three kinds of squash this year (Delicata, spaghetti squash, and a Zucchini called Lolita), but I sowed those seeds in the greenhouse, not directly into the beds, and some time soon I'll be setting those plants out in the raised bed. For the first month or so I'll be keeping them under the hoophouse, so they can stay nice and warm, and in mid- to late April I'll be adding a couple of pepper plants to that area. And of course I'll be growing tomatoes inside the greenhouse all summer. I'm planning to grow eggplant in the greenhouse too, I already sowed those seeds into pots, and they've sprouted. I'll buy my tomato starts from a local nursery, probably Windmill Gardens in Sumner. Oh, and I'm hoping to have room for some carrots too.

In one bed I already have garlic and shallots growing, planted last fall. There was still room in the bed for my Napa cabbage starts (I started them from seed in the greenhouse), for my sweet Spanish onion starts, which arrived last week from Pinetree, as well as the arugula, mustard greens, leaf lettuce and Mesclun. The other raised bed has the baby turnips, and more arugula and spinach, and eventually will also contain the squash, carrots and peppers.

My seeds this year came from Pinetree (Spinach Tyee, Tokyo Cross turnip, Eggplant 'Slim Jim'), Botanical Interests (arugula, Mesclun, leaf lettuce 'Waldmann's Green', Spinach 'Bloomsdale') and Renee's Garden Seeds (mustard greens, Japanese baby turnip 'Mikado',  Napa Cabbage 'Little Jade', and arugula). The seeds from Botanical Interests were all in the form of seed tape, which is paper tape that looks a lot like bias tape (for the seamstresses out there), which has been impregnated with seeds at regular intervals. This is my first experience with seed tape. Renee's offers garden bloggers up to 15 packets of free seeds, with no obligation to write about them, but I'm writing about them anyway.

Raised beds for growing vegetables

An example of the kind of info on the back of the Botanical Interests seed tape package. Each package also contains a little pamphlet of seed-starting info.

The info on the back of the Renee's Garden Seeds package

Pinetree's packaging, with its simple line art, is not quite as attractive as the other two, and its cultivation info is succinct

But it does have this convenient, gummy, restickable flap

Onions from Pinetree

Napa cabbage seedlings, started in the greenhouse from Renee's Garden Seeds

If you're wondering about the wooden skewers in the bed, those are a cat deterrent, to keep the neighborhood outdoor kitties from pooping in the beds. They're quite effective, I've stabbed my hand painfully several times in the past while harvesting from the beds, but they do need to be redone every year, because they rot. I have to think no cat is going to want its tender nether regions anywhere near those poky things. I occasionally get pawprints in the beds, but since I started using the skewers, no more cat poop.

Each Botanical Interests seed tape is printed with the name of the kind of seed, and they are perforated and need to be separated.

I cut each 5-foot-long seed tape in half, so that I had two approximately 2 1/2-foot tapes, which I planted between the skewers about 6 inches apart in rows. When using seed tape like this, it's not as convenient for spacing plants if you're doing square foot gardening. I've tried making my own square-foot seed mats in the past, using flimsy paper napkins, but it's labor-intensive and causes mind-numbing eyestrain (what Nigel calls going boz-eyed). The seed tape was very easy to use. I made a shallow depression the same length as the tape, laid the tape down on the soil, and sprinkled more soil over it to cover it up and hold it down.

Each row got a label made from a mini-blind, with type of seed and name of seed company

It was a windy day, so I had to anchor one end of the seed tape with a ground staple. But if you don't have ground staples, I'm sure a rock will do the trick.

You can see the clusters of seeds, spaced evenly.

After a week of alternating sunshine and torrential rain: teeny-weeny, itty-bitty sprouts from Renee's Garden Seeds, the first ones to sprout.

Mustard greens (Renee's Garden Seeds)

Arugula (Renee's Garden Seeds)

Those were followed only a couple of days later by arugula from the seed tape.

Arugula from Botanical Interest seed tape

And then a day or so later, some of the seed tape mesclun began to sprout.

Mesclun sprouting from the Botanical Interest seed tape


One spinach sprout trying to surface

And then, just yesterday, finally the turnips, from both Renee's and Pinetree, have put in an appearance. Unfortunately, slugs have appeared too, so I've had to throw some Sluggo down in the bed.

Turnip sprouts

I'm looking forward to eating lots of greens this spring (the turnip greens are edible as well as the roots). I'll probably revisit the vegetable beds over the course of the summer, and maybe post a recipe or two.

Just to reiterate: Renee's gave me free seeds, with no obligation that I write good things about them. My opinion about their seeds is my own and is based on my personal experience.