I have been gardening for more than 60 years, starting with my mom’s garden, which was very large and played a serious role in providing food for a family of 15.
I have been gardening for more than 60 years, starting with my mom's garden, which was very large and played a serious role in providing food for a family of 15.I well remember my brother and I literally working like horses - one pulling and the other pushing the little cultivator up and down those long rows of veggies. And the rocky, shale soil of Berks County, Pa., wasn't the easiest soil to work, and like most gardeners very well know, it's much easier planning and planting a garden than it is to successfully finish the project.In the mid-South, it doesn't take long for the weather to turn quite hot and dry. The soil becomes compacted and hard to work, weeds show up everywhere and bugs seem to come out of nowhere. And of course, an aching back and gardening seem to go hand in hand.To avoid these pitfalls, I have found raised-bed gardening greatly reduces the amount of time, labor and stress of conventional gardening. So, what exactly is raised-bed gardening? It may include anything from simply hoeing your soil together on a mound or ridge for better root development to a convenient 2-foot-tall box, built with wood or cinder blocks. The most common method I have seen is a 7-inch-tall bed made with railroad ties and filled with a good topsoil and potting soil blend.My favorite type is a 6-foot-by-9-foot bed that is 2 feet tall. Three railroad ties are stacked on each side and two 2-by-12-inch, 6-footlong treated planks fastened on each end with 3.5-inch deck screws. The lower 12 inches is then filled with any kind of fill-dirt like gravel, shale or other porous material to provide proper drainage. For the top 8 inches to 12 inches, I like to use a blend of mushroom compost and earthworm castings. The worm castings are organic and have a high peat content and a well balanced soil ph, which aids in making plant food available to the plants. To fertilize these beds organically, I like to add about 1 inch of rabbit manure or other composted manure and mix it into the top 3-4 inches of the soil.All this creates a beautiful soil texture that stays loose and workable. Planting, weeding and digging can then be done without tools and using only y our bare hands. Yes, raised-bed gardening is gardening made easy! MPFor more information, contact JohnMartin at Martin's Home and Garden, 867-7121.