I finally got some of my plants in the ground. This year, I am doing mostly raised beds. Farmers in our area crop dust, and it drifts onto my garden preventing my harvest. I think with the raised beds, when the crop dusting is done, I can easily cover the beds with old sheets to protect them. They are also very very easy to keep weed free. I have my beds spaced out 6 feet apart, so I can mow between them. Two of the beds are made with new, untreated lumber. The rest I will make recycling some lumber that we used to make the concrete forms for the pad in the chicken pen. If I run out of used lumber, I may have to buy more.
My goal was to try and get at least 4 or 5 beds made this year, and then to add more next year. So far, in one bed I have planted onions (which my dad gave me), garlic, lettuce and radishes. The lettuce and radishes are planted in between the rows of garlic and onions. For some reason, this bed seems to attract one of our black labs. Last night I noticed dog prints in it, and again tonight I noticed prints. He is a huge dog, with big feet, so it wasn't hard to nail down the culprit. But, the fact he had onion and garlic breath, was a huge give away also....
Bed two, has cabbage, 16 tomato plants, collards, more radishes and a few broccoli. My potatoes are doing well in their bed, made out of plastic pallets. They are planted in layers.
Still to plant is corn (yep, way late, but 2 times in the past I have planted it in mid June and had the best crop ever...), okra, cantaloupe, water melon, pumpkins and carrots.
I wanted to have it all in the ground by now, but this summer we have had a different schedule. We had an out of state vacation, then home for 10 days, then I am leaving again for a week. So, I didn't want it drying out and dying in the heat while I was gone. However, as it turned out, it rained every day we were in Texas, so had I put them in the ground before we left, they would have been fine.
What I like about the raised beds, is that they are easier to keep the weeds out of, and are neater and more compact. I can put 3 to 4 times the amount of plants in an 8 x 4 bed, that I can in several rows of the garden. I will save fuel, as I won't have to run the tiller between rows. I can cover them easily at crop dusting time, and can easily add netting over the top if needed to protect from the birds.
The one thing I dislike about the raised beds, is right now, they dry out faster, so they require a bit more watering at the beginning. But, this will remedy itself as the summer goes on. As I mow this summer, I will mulch my beds with grass clippings. As they build up, they will help hold the moisture in, and retain weeds and grass from growing in the beds. I think each bed will probably last 4-5 years. I made them from untreated wood, so that the chemicals wouldn't leech into the vegetables. Next year, when I add more beds I am going to compare pricing and possibly make next years beds out of the plastic/resin decking material. It doesn't rot as the wood will.
When we built the beds, we layered newspaper and old paper feed bags in the bottom of each bed to kill off the existing grass under the beds. The paper will allow water to pass through and will deteriorate over time. Above the paper, I layered straw, then dirt. Tonight I watered the beds for the first time and the dirt settled some. I will see how it is next weekend when I return home and may need to add more dirt if it continues to settle. But again, I think when I mulch it with grass that will help as well. And, the grass will break down and add nitrogen to the soil.