by Krystal Krogman
…With the smells of spring! Spring has arrived, and the Midwesterners are itching to get out there… myself included! The smell of freshly cut grass, burning the last of the fallen leaves, and aroma of the beautiful flowers as you visit the stores.
My son and I planted some peas a few weeks back, to scratch that ‘itch’… of course in true Midwest fashion, it snowed two days later. We’ve been toying with the mid 70s lately this April and I couldn’t wait any longer. The peas had since begun to sprout, so we knew the time had come to build our raised bed.
Raised beds are simple, so easy “Krystal could do it”… although my husband did the building. We went small this year, about a 4’ by 6’ bed. We tilled up the land, raked it to the middle and built the bed around it. We chose to build it out of some leftover 4” x 4” posts, using eight or nine, creating an alternating design (kind of like you do when you build a house out of blocks, if you don’t alternate your corners entire walls could fall!) and raked in some top soil with our notoriously sandy yard. The top soil was so moist there were actually frozen chunks of soil in it!
Once all the building was complete, we got the planting underway. Peas, a couple carrot plants, radishes, tomatoes, and bush beans in the raised bed… sunflowers against our back fence… We had the fever.
A few tricks we used this year, which I’d read about and seen in some videos:
- Popsicle sticks – We used these to not only mark our rows, but also put four around each of our pea transplants (and periodically throughout the radish rows). I had heard that you do this for two reasons. First, so you know where your plants should be popping up (helps with weeding the right things) and secondly, if your yard is notorious for feline visitors, you can deter them from lying on your plants.
- Fencing – Our garden had been in a whopping 12 hours when it was dug into. We suspect our dog, who had been eying the peas from before they were in the ground, although our neighbor tells us it was probably a rabbit. (Looked a lot more like puppy prints than rabbit though…) So despite my not wanting to, we put a small fencing around it… But it will probably help keep the dogs from running through the sunflowers, as they begin their growing.
- Mulch – Keeping moisture in, plants (and roots) cooler, we also learned that cedar mulch is also a good deterrent for some bugs. Unfortunately we were about a week late picking ours up, the home and garden store had run a big sale on mulch the week before we got ours.
- Reading Packages – You would think this would be obvious, but we’ve never done this before. We read how deep and far apart we should plant, we read how tall the sunflowers would get, whether we’d need stakes, and how much sun they should get.
- Little gardeners – When you have little guys or gals (whether they’re nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or children), it is always fun to include them. Sometimes, at least with my son, they like to dig and get dirty. So, a little later on, when our plants are (with any luck) flourishing, and all he wants to do is dig we have figured out a resolution. We are going to build him a small bed, likely 2’x2’, for him to dig and play with trucks in.
One of my favorite quotes is by Robert Brault: “Why explain miracles to your kids, when you can just have them plant a garden.” Plus, when they grow them they’re more likely to eat them – it is eating the fruits (or vegetables) of their labor. I know that one of my son’s favorite things to do when outside is “check the plants” and (even when its not necessary), watering them. And as we built our other flower bed, he was right there, pounding in landscaping stakes into the timbers and into the ground.
Once we started building and working in the yard, the fever quickly became a rash. Personally, I think my husband just liked using the tiller. We just kept working in the yard. Before I knew it, we had made another flower bed, we’d re-mulched the front yard, we’d raked up and stacked sticks, raked up the latest leaves that had fallen from our Pin Oak tree, we’d fertilized our front yard (we cannot grow grass there for the life of us!), and we’d planted flowers.
Of course, now that we’ve gotten all of this taken care of, there is supposed to be plummeting temperatures next week. So we’ll have to bust out blankets and buckets to keep the plants from freezing, but such is the life of a Midwestern gardener.