New raised beds create heavenly spot for plants

PHOTO COURTESY SUSAN CARTY A view of the columnist’s new raised-bed garden area.

I love cutting flowers and bringing them inside. Even though we have had little rain, the resurrection lilies/naked ladies have been blooming, and there is a big vase of them on one of my tables. Other vases have zinnias and dahlias; purple cone flower and black-eyed Susans are blooming and can be cut and enjoyed inside as well as outside; even marigolds can be cut and brought in.

My garden has been in the same location for almost 30 years, but for the first 25, I battled the clay soil. Every fall, two to three feet of leaves was tilled in, but in wet springs, the pea seeds and potatoes rotted and by summer, the soil cracked open.

As a retirement gift to myself, I had the garden area delineated and raised beds put in. The beds are 10 inches high, mine are three feet wide and 10 feet long.

I did two experimental beds three feet by three feet, but filling them was a chore. When the new beds were done, I filled them with compost from the wastewater treatment plant on North Water Street. The plants are in heaven, the soil is loose, easy to plant, and it’s easy to pull the few weeds that try to grow. The drainage is great; the downside is that in drought, they must be watered, but I only have to water the beds, not the whole area.

So far, everything except Brussel sprouts has grown exceptionally well. To prevent weeds from the old garden getting into the new, I put flattened cardboard into the bottom of the beds and in the walkways between the beds. The walkways were then covered with mulch (also from the wastewater plant).

Compost, made from leaves picked up the previous fall, is available the beginning of October and is limited to one scoop (from the front-end loader) per day for the first two weeks (call 419-448-5440 for more information). If you decide to build a raised bed soon, it will be ready by October. The compost continues to break down so needs to be replenished each year, and I add an occasional bag of soil and granular fertilizer.

The leaf compost in my beds is supplemented by two other composting systems. Kitchen vegetable waste goes into a tumbler during the winter and a large plastic pot with holes punched in the bottom and a screen over the top in the summer. The summer system generates compost tea as rain percolates through the kitchen debris and rapid decomposition keeps the level of debris low.

At the end of the summer, I empty the tumbler into a bed and work it in, then dump out the plastic pot into a different bed and work it in. Because all kinds of things go into kitchen waste, stems, peelings, corn husks, dead leaves from house plants, etc., I imagine I’m providing the soil with a varied diet.

It’s still dry here, so remember to keep watering transplants; woody trees and shrubs planted since last fall will not have enough roots to keep up with water losses through the leaves.