When I lived in England I had a couple of allotments which was quite fun. I lived in a small house with a small garden so this was my only chance to grow anything. I had a smallish allotment in the beginning which was perfect and then a couple years after getting that one I took on another allotment 4x the size.
When taking on the large allotment, much to the dismay of the gentleman who ran the allotment, I refused to double dig as I had watched people do this on another allotment and was horrified by the amount of time it took them to do. I decided I would use half to grow potatoes and the other half for winter squash. I had heard that growing potatoes can help fight out the weeds. For the squash I put down black plastic and cut holes for the squash, again to suppress the weeds and keep the roots and soil underneath warm.
Weeds, especially bindweed, was a constant battle even with this approach. Every weekend I spent hours weeding and each weekend I returned there were more weeds.
When I moved to Seattle and bought a house with some land I think the fear of weeding led me to build my 30 inch high raised beds (also I needed them high enough to keep the rabbits out). Raised beds are not ideal for potatoes, onions etc. as I could not grow the quantity that I would find satisfying.
At the same time I have developed a system to ensure that I am getting massive amounts of vegetables and fruits for the space I have. The key to keeping the raised beds as productive as possible is to start the seeds in containers rather than sowing seeds in the beds. Vegetables like radish can't be done this way but most fruit and vegetables can. The benefit is that when you gain space after harvesting a crop, you have a ready supply of new plants to put in. This works so well for lettuce, spinach and other salad crops. I even start beans and peas in pots and plant them out when appropriate. When it comes to peas I plant the seedlings and then sow another pea seed close by for succession planting in the same space.
By using this approach my raised beds are pretty much full and productive 100% of the time (from May - October)!
This is my first video so don’t judge me too harshly. I realize that some things are just better in a video than in writing. I often search for videos on very specific things and they are so useful. I remember a time when I was given 20 very unhealthy orchids that someone was going to throw away and I was determined to nurse them back to health. This was before I knew anything about them and what saved them (well about 25% of them if I am being honest) was the knowledge I picked up from the video!
I have been starting seeds in the same way since I built my greenhouse. I have made some small changes but all in all I have found a method that works and is cost effective. I love the jiffy pots I buy at Home Depot, they are really cheap and easy to work with. Anyway, I don't want to give too much of the video away so please do watch it and remember it is only my first one!
When I built the greenhouse I decided to put in cold frames down the long, southwest facing side of the greenhouse. When living in the UK I saw how useful these were, essentially you were able to keep things frost free during the Spring and in the Summer you can give plants more warmth and essentially extend the growing season.
In the past I have grown melons and this year I thought I would try something different. When I lived in the UK and had an allotment I had the space to grow winter squash like Butternut Squash and Acorn Squash. I loved being able to eat vegetables that I grew long into the winter months. As I don't have large beds here I miss things like winter squash, potatoes, onions and other things that just need lots of space to get a decent crop.
I plan to keep the cold frame shut until the plants flower. As a lot of squash have male and female flowers they require pollination for fruits to set so once I see flowers I will open the cold frames so the insects can do their jobs!
I decided to grow the following types of winter squash:
I used Smart Pots again as these are a great size and are easy to move around!
When I moved into my house there was nowhere to grow vegetables despite the house being on a 1.2 acre plot of land. The previous owners had done amazing things with the landscaping including a 60 foot stream flowing downhill to a 15x15 pond! At the same time I wanted to grow vegetables.
In my quest for growing vegetables I wanted to share a few tips:
Tip 1 - Build Higher Than Normal Raised Beds
I needed a way to grow vegetables and keep the rabbits and weeds out. I decided to build 30 inch high raised beds, I built 5 of them in a sort of grid pattern. This higher than normal raised bed means that any weeds in the ground will not grow up 30 inches and you don't have to bend down to the ground all the time.
Tip 2 - Soaker Hose
As the property already had a sprinkler system I added another zone and hooked it up to soaker hoses. I cannot rave about soaker hoses enough, you can just attach to a normal hose so no need for an irrigation system. Soaker hoses deliver the water directly to the soil which offers so many benefits. You use less water, the leaves do not get wet and you are deliver water exactly where the plants need them. Additionally, this means that with a timer you can water the plants in the middle of the night which also reduces evaporation!
Tip 4 - Pack Those Plants In
When growing in a raised bed you are growing in such a way that you can reach in from all sides (I would not have the beds any more than 4 feet wide). This means you can ignore the spacing recommended on the seed packet. When growing in a raised bed you will get little to no weeds so you don't need to leave space to weed. Additionally you don't need rows to walk down either. So just pack those vegetables in!
Tip 4 - Grow In Clumps, Don't Stick to Rows
People think you need to grow plants in rows but this does not always make sense. I grow things like green onions, radishes, carrots and many more plants in clumps. So when I am sowing the seeds I scatter them in the designated area. You will get more vegetables for the space this way.
Tip 5 - Forget Plastic Labels, Use Popsicle Sticks!
Don't get wooed by the expensive plastic plant labels which, if you use a marker, means you can use them one time. Also if you use a pencil who wants to erase a pencil mark from a label? I buy a big box of wooden popsicle sticks and use those. Additionally, once you are done using them just put them in your green waste bin!
FINALLY the sun is out in Seattle so I am taking this chance to get outside for an hour and plant some more seeds.
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I am super lucky to have a greenhouse in the Pacific Northwest as this enables me to grow some extra special things. I have about 40 orchids that I grow and in the winter, I keep the greenhouse heated to about 55 degrees, and they actually bloom year round. In January/February the greenhouse really gets going with the heat pads coming out and the grow lights turned on to get seed sowing in full swing.
May is when things get even more exciting as this is when my tomatoes are ready to be planted in the grow bags, I am usually lucky enough to start eating tomatoes in June and I can enjoy them all the way through October. These are tomatoes on steroids (as a side note I only use organic fertilizer :)) as they reach all the way to the roof and often start growing out the of the roof vents. This means that I have SO many tomatoes which I can enjoy in many different ways (I will share all my ideas and recipes later in the season!).
The tomato fun starts in January when I select my seeds, I love buying them from Territorial Seed Company as they have an amazing selection suited to every condition. I grow Indeterminate tomatoes in large bags and small bush tomatoes which are suited to containers in smaller bags. This year here are a few I selected:
My tomatoes are getting close to 5 inches now, I reckon I will be able to plant these tomatoes in their final homes in a few more weeks. Stay tuned!
Why is thinning seedlings SO hard? I genuinely feel like I am killing a living thing when I do this. It seems so odd to deliberately plant 1 - 2 extra seeds only to rip them out of the soil once they start growing. When I start to feel the onslaught of guilt I always refer to the experts to feel better about the killing spree I am about to go on. Gardeningknowhow.com is a great source of the extra confidence I need at this time. They say ‘The practice of thinning plants is done to allow them plenty of growing room so that they can receive all the proper growth requirements (moisture, nutrients, light, etc.) without having to compete with other seedlings. When you thin seedlings, you’re also helping to improve the air circulation around them. Crowded plants limit air movement, which can lead to fungal diseases, especially if the foliage remains wet for extended periods.’
I do feel a little better when I see the remaining seedlings, they seem to have so much room. Additionally, I am putting the seedlings that I am thinning to good use. Just today I had to thin some basil plants. The plants that did not make the cut made a delicious addition to my tomato and avocado salad. Everything will be ok...
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