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  • Karri Varpio
    I have some sort of experience about raised beds for vegetables from two summers now. I started making beds in late May, on a field that was previous year
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 3, 2002
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      I have some sort of experience about raised beds for vegetables from two
      summers now. I started making beds in late May, on a field that was previous
      year growing oats with sweet clover as undergrowth. Plowed in autumn, tilled
      in spring + spread some composted manure.

      I first drove with tractor and potato setting machine with only two harrows.
      It wasn't much of a help, but at least it marked the right width (about 1.2
      m, it allows me to drive with tractor on path, if necessary). Then lot of
      finishing with shovel and rake, and I had three beds each about 45 m long,
      height varying between 25-35 cm (I did not want to dig more compacted
      subsoil to the beds), path between them 0.4-0.6 m.

      Then I mulched with hay, 15-25 loose centimeters, (we have lots of old hay
      in the barn), using manure spreader to loosen hay bales, but I wasn´t spared
      from hand work; I had to complete it with fork.

      One bed was then planted with zucchini (+ some corn), second bed with
      cucumber (I did sow some direct), third with bulb fennel. Planting was more
      difficult than without mulch (we normally use lanting tube, but now it was
      almost faster to do with a little planting shovel).

      Growth was good. Even direct sown cucumber produced well.
      In the autumn I just left plant debris there.


      Second year (this summer)

      I made two more beds in the same way. Before planting old beds were mulched
      with a new hay layer (on the beds there was still some mulch left from
      previous year).

      This summer we planted celery, salads, fennel to the new beds and to old
      beds zucchini + corn + fava bean after fennel, celery etc. after cucumber
      and garlic after zucchini (also tried sowing direct some carrots, spinach,
      rutabaga between garlic rows; some mulch was left over it).

      After winter, soil in the old beds was hard. Not stonehard, but one really
      had to dig to make a hole for transplants.

      Growth in the beds wasn't good this summer. Four reasons: dry summer, hard
      soil (old beds), weeds, weak transplants (we had too fine peat and pots got
      too wet and nitrogen disappeared).
      Perhaps some 20 percent of the direct sown vegetables did come up.
      One bed was overwhelmed by couch.

      Because of so many reasons, I can't say what would have been the result on
      'normal' summer, but there are some conclusions I want to make.

      First, weeds. I have been too optimistic on many occasions during my farming
      years, I should learn some day. So, no perennial weeds when you start
      permanent beds (worst was couch (Elymus repens, is it same as quackgrass
      that was mentioned recently?), thistles, dandelion, coltsfoot). I should
      have tilled the field for half a summer first (I haven't yet met a green
      mulch crop that would beat it). Now it was too much hand weeding and, since
      it doesn't help much for couch, cutting with garden scissors between rows.

      Second, some plant coverage (almost) all the time. First year I didn't plant
      or sow anything after harvesting, so there wasn't enough plant debris and
      especially roots to keep the soil structure good. That was main reason for
      hard soil after first winter. Problem is that we have so short summer that
      new vegetables, planted after harvesting old ones, don't have time to grow.
      This year my plan was to sow oats in the summer, so it could grow all autumn
      and die in winter, but summer was so dry it didn't germinate.
      Springtime is another problem. There is almost one month when you can't
      transplant anything, so that time soil is without any growing plants (except
      some early weeds). Perhaps some fall-sown biennials, like sweet clower (it
      has, BTW, excellent and strong root growth), could survive over winter and
      then, before transplanting vegetables, it has to be cut so low that it
      doesn't regrow.

      Third, it was practically a monoculture growing in each bed, and because
      plants were rather large, they were in only one or two rows. There was too
      much open space for weeds, and resources were not used very efficiently.
      Reason for this was that we needed more than one or two plants at one time,
      because we harvested them to market. So it would have been too much labor to
      search one salad here and tenth somewhere else.
      Still, there is need for combining different plants and so having extensive
      (in time and space) plant cover. Planning the plantings would have been the
      key, just keeping in mind also market aspect.

      Also, slugs were a problem, even in dry summer.

      I am aware of the fact that all this can be found in Emilia Hazelips
      instructions, and elsewhere too. That is what I tried to follow but I should
      have done it properly, especially the planning part.

      This became very long and perhaps too detailed description. Still, a couple
      of words about semi-wild vegetables.

      For three or four summers I have had a small patch where I just scatter
      seeds (no seedballs). At the first and second year there were even a few
      plants to harvest (although small), by now only sown plants among perennial
      weeds are a couple of parsnip and white clovers.

      If you have any questions, like 'why not do it this way...?', or anything
      else, please ask.

      Karri
    • Larry Haftl
      ... my farming ... I should ... a green ... and, since ... rows. Have you tried buckwheat or rye? If so, what was the result? ... didn t plant ... and ...
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 4, 2002
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        At Tuesday, 3 December 2002, Karri Varpio wrote:

        >'normal' summer, but there are some conclusions I want to make.
        >
        >First, weeds. I have been too optimistic on many occasions during
        my farming
        >years, I should learn some day. So, no perennial weeds when you start
        >permanent beds (worst was couch (Elymus repens, is it same as quackgrass
        >that was mentioned recently?), thistles, dandelion, coltsfoot).
        I should
        >have tilled the field for half a summer first (I haven't yet met
        a green
        >mulch crop that would beat it). Now it was too much hand weeding
        and, since
        >it doesn't help much for couch, cutting with garden scissors between
        rows.

        Have you tried buckwheat or rye? If so, what was the result?

        >
        >Second, some plant coverage (almost) all the time. First year I
        didn't plant
        >or sow anything after harvesting, so there wasn't enough plant debris
        and
        >especially roots to keep the soil structure good. That was main
        reason for
        >hard soil after first winter. Problem is that we have so short summer
        that
        >new vegetables, planted after harvesting old ones, don't have time
        to grow.

        Would it be possible to plant deep-rooted plants like Daikon radish
        before you harvest so that they would have time to grow before winter
        and help aerate the soil when they die and decay?

        >This year my plan was to sow oats in the summer, so it could grow
        all autumn
        >and die in winter, but summer was so dry it didn't germinate.
        >Springtime is another problem. There is almost one month when you can't
        >transplant anything, so that time soil is without any growing plants
        (except
        >some early weeds). Perhaps some fall-sown biennials, like sweet
        clower (it
        >has, BTW, excellent and strong root growth), could survive over
        winter and
        >then, before transplanting vegetables, it has to be cut so low that it
        >doesn't regrow.

        Would oats survive through the winter in your area? Or rye?


        >Third, it was practically a monoculture growing in each bed, and
        because
        >plants were rather large, they were in only one or two rows. There
        was too
        >much open space for weeds, and resources were not used very efficiently.

        >Reason for this was that we needed more than one or two plants at
        one time,
        >because we harvested them to market. So it would have been too much
        labor to
        >search one salad here and tenth somewhere else.

        Would it be possible to interplant other plants with the rows to
        fill in the space and yet allow practical harvest of the row crops?
        Or would it be possible to plant in alternating blocks instead of
        rows, then , as you harvest a block, reseed it immediately?


        >Still, there is need for combining different plants and so having
        extensive
        >(in time and space) plant cover. Planning the plantings would have
        been the
        >key, just keeping in mind also market aspect.

        From what I have been able to figure out, a crop rotation scheme
        using plants timed to suppress weeds and also provide wanted crops
        seems critical. Fukuoka had several such schemes in "The Natural
        Way of Farming". If you haven't seen them, look on my website under
        "Methods". I've started working on such a scheme for the beds I will
        be making next spring and it is not easy even though Fukuoka's climate
        and mine are not too dissimilar.

        >Also, slugs were a problem, even in dry summer.

        Do you have any poultry on your farm? Chickens? Ducks? Geese? And
        if so, do you let them near the raised beds?

        >This became very long and perhaps too detailed description.

        No for me.

        >Still, a couple
        >of words about semi-wild vegetables.
        >
        >For three or four summers I have had a small patch where I just scatter
        >seeds (no seedballs). At the first and second year there were even
        a few
        >plants to harvest (although small), by now only sown plants among
        perennial
        >weeds are a couple of parsnip and white clovers.

        LOL, at least you got something. My first attempt only grew my desire
        to learn more, no plants. :)

        Thanks for sharing all of that with us. At least for me it is VERY
        useful.

        Larry Haftl
        larry@...
        http://larryhaftl.com
        http://FukuokaNaturalFarming.org
      • tiakd 14477
        We have used both buckwheat and
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 4, 2002
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          <<(worst was couch (Elymus repens, is it same as quackgrass that was
          mentioned recently?), thistles, dandelion, coltsfoot).>>

          We have used both buckwheat and rye for weeds and to cover crop areas of the
          garden. In our climate - it is -28C out there right now! - we get 2-3 crops
          of buckwheat over the summer, and if you plant it thickly, no weeds grow
          with them. The only problem was dealing with cutting it, as when it has rank
          thick stems that were hard to deal with. We have a push trimmer that we use,
          but the stems wrapped themselves around the spinning part and caused major
          havoc.
          ALSO, though there are lots of leaves, and the growing plant shades the
          ground causing no weeds to grow, when we cut it down, it wilted and turned
          into almost no mulch. So you would need something on top or else the weeds
          just grow through the extremely thin mulch. But for adding to the soil
          (especially phosphorus), it did great and really loosened the soil.
          We grew rye (the cereal type) one year. It smothered every weed and got 3-4
          feet high. We had problems with constant regrowth in certain areas, and
          should have applied a thicker straw mulch overtop of it. I know of several
          people who plant rye in their raised beds (with sides), cut it down to half
          an inch when it is heading out, then cover with several inches of leave mold
          and allow it to mellow for 4-6 weeks before planting - 4-6 weeks is half our
          growing season, so it doesn't work if we want to grow something the same
          year. They have regrowth problems where the leaf mold or straw was not
          applied thickly enough, but say it has done tremendous things to the health
          of their soil. We sowed the rye into 1/4 of our garden patch (30x100), so we
          dealt with a lot of grow back, as we didn't have access to the straw we have
          now. Mom's favorite is buckwheat and she said she would have to be very
          desperate to grow rye again :<). The buckwheat grows fast, germinates well,
          grows quickly and wilts nicely when cut.

          > >Second, some plant coverage (almost) all the time. First year I
          >didn't plant or sow anything after harvesting, so there wasn't enough plant
          >debris and especially roots to keep the soil structure good. That was main
          >reason for hard soil after first winter. Problem is that we have so short
          >summer that new vegetables, planted after harvesting old ones, don't have
          >time to grow.>>

          This is our problem also. We have a hard time sowing any winter cover crops
          or cover crops/veggies after harvesting anything due to short season. I've
          found it is best to just cover the harvested areas with more mulch instead
          of trying to grow something in it - except for lettuces, we don't start
          harvesting anything before mid July. We could try oats as they die back, but
          they would have very little time to grow between August and the first frost
          at the beginning of September.

          >Would it be possible to plant deep-rooted plants like Daikon radish
          >before you harvest so that they would have time to grow before winter
          >and help aerate the soil when they die and decay?

          Larry, you mean sowing daikon radishes in with your veggies, and then you
          harvest the veggies and have half grown radishes which you leave in the
          ground? I've sown carrots hither and yon and left them in the garden before,
          so maybe something like that would work if you planted it at the right time.
          But again, not enough mulch is usually our problem. And though we don't like
          using it much, we have used layers of newspapers under mulch in really weedy
          areas, and that works as long as you keep adding mulch on top as it
          decomposes.

          <Would oats survive through the winter in your area? Or rye?>

          Not that he was asking me (*G*), but oats do not survive freezing winters
          well and are usually used for a crop that dies and provides a thick winter
          mulch. Rye does not die back, but the problem we found was that it doesn't
          grow as fast as we had read. By the time we were ready to plant in June, it
          was only 6-8 inches high, and we would have had massive re-growth problems.
          So we had to leave it till the end of August before it had grown tall enough
          to cut back and not worry about serious re-growth. I was told as long as I
          had 4-6 weeks of warmish weather before planting veggies, the rye would be
          able to be cut back, but obviously our weather wasn't warm enough. The nice
          thing was that it was an easy cover crop to pull by hand when it re-grew.

          > >Also, slugs were a problem, even in dry summer.
          We had slug problems the one year we had rain every single night, and it was
          so cold all summer that we weren't able to harvest a single ripe tomato. I
          have found that chickens don't help much, as they are too busy eating
          onions, pumpkins, ripe seed tomatoes etc. If you aren't opposed to using
          something, setting out bowls of beer is supposed to help, plus bran or corn
          meal.

          Thanks for sharing all this.
          Heather

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        • Karri Varpio
          ... Not as green mulch. Rye is said to have allelopathic properties against couch (+ it is very good shadowing other plants), and when sown for normal harvest,
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 4, 2002
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            > > I should
            > >have tilled the field for half a summer first (I haven't yet met
            > a green
            > >mulch crop that would beat it). Now it was too much hand weeding
            > and, since
            > >it doesn't help much for couch, cutting with garden scissors between
            > rows.
            >
            > Have you tried buckwheat or rye? If so, what was the result?

            Not as green mulch. Rye is said to have allelopathic properties against
            couch (+ it is very good shadowing other plants), and when sown for normal
            harvest, it keeps couch in limits, but doesn't kill it.


            >
            > Would it be possible to plant deep-rooted plants like Daikon radish
            > before you harvest so that they would have time to grow before winter
            > and help aerate the soil when they die and decay?

            I suppose so. I think all this is a matter of thinking and experimenting.


            >
            > >This year my plan was to sow oats in the summer, so it could grow
            > all autumn
            > >and die in winter, but summer was so dry it didn't germinate.
            > >Springtime is another problem. There is almost one month when you can't
            > >transplant anything, so that time soil is without any growing plants
            > (except
            > >some early weeds). Perhaps some fall-sown biennials, like sweet
            > clower (it
            > >has, BTW, excellent and strong root growth), could survive over
            > winter and
            > >then, before transplanting vegetables, it has to be cut so low that it
            > >doesn't regrow.
            >
            > Would oats survive through the winter in your area? Or rye?

            Oats no. Rye, very well. Problem with rye is that it regrows strongly after
            cutting.


            >
            > Would it be possible to interplant other plants with the rows to
            > fill in the space and yet allow practical harvest of the row crops?
            > Or would it be possible to plant in alternating blocks instead of
            > rows, then , as you harvest a block, reseed it immediately?

            Yes, and it wouldn't even be very difficult. I think I was just too lazy
            making proper plan, and instead made planting same way as in tilled field.


            >
            >
            > >Still, there is need for combining different plants and so having
            > extensive
            > >(in time and space) plant cover. Planning the plantings would have
            > been the
            > >key, just keeping in mind also market aspect.
            >
            > From what I have been able to figure out, a crop rotation scheme
            > using plants timed to suppress weeds and also provide wanted crops
            > seems critical. Fukuoka had several such schemes in "The Natural
            > Way of Farming". If you haven't seen them, look on my website under
            > "Methods". I've started working on such a scheme for the beds I will
            > be making next spring and it is not easy even though Fukuoka's climate
            > and mine are not too dissimilar.

            I find Fukuoka's schemes rather confusing. But some kind of scheme is a must
            to have.

            >
            > >Also, slugs were a problem, even in dry summer.
            >
            > Do you have any poultry on your farm? Chickens? Ducks? Geese? And
            > if so, do you let them near the raised beds?

            We have few chickens, and they were running free last spring. I don't know
            if they ate many slugs, but they did scratch old mulch off the beds.


            About pests. If we sow any brassicas direct, it is almost certain that young
            plants are eaten by flea beetles (Phyllotrtea spp.) as soon as temperature
            is +20 C for one or two days. They can find even single plants among grass
            or carrots or whatever. I guess it's one of the major pests. So far we have
            managed with them by using thin gauze?? cover on plants.

            Karri
          • tiakd 14477
            Karri, I have a similar problems with flea beetles where we live. We are surrounded by chemical farmers and lots of canola, which flea beetles love. In the 6
            Message 5 of 6 , Dec 4, 2002
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              Karri, I have a similar problems with flea beetles where we live. We are
              surrounded by chemical farmers and lots of canola, which flea beetles love.
              In the 6 years we have lived here, we haven't been able to grow turnips, and
              two years ago they started harrassing the rest of the brassicas - by mid
              July the plants are skeletons with just stalks and eaten up roots.
              Anyway, last year I decided to plant onions around my brassicas.
              This year, I planted a row of onions around and in between the
              cabbages. Not a single flea beetle problem, and though we always have severe
              caterpillar damage, the white moths just hovered and never landed on the
              cabbages, so we had lovely cabbages this year.
              Turnips are a crop nobody is able to grow here due to the severe flea
              beetle damage. We are surrounded by canola fields, which are guaranteed to
              be infested with flea beetles. After eating off canola, they migrate
              directly to our garden and feast off things like turnips, cabbage, lettuce,
              spinach etc. This year I sacrificed more onions to completely surround the
              turnip bed. They had gorgeous huge leaves and roots, whereas usually they
              are skeletons with small 2 inch roots that are also eaten full of holes.
              Around September some leaves started to be eaten, but very little, and we
              left them in the ground till a few frosts and were able to harvest several
              bushels of turnips. I don't know if this will help you at all, but we sure
              are happy with it. I don't know if it was a good year for little bug damage,
              or if the onions really were the help, but I plan on trying again next year
              and adding cauliflower and broccoli back to our garden - we quit growing
              because of bugs.
              I don't know if anybody is in a similar zone or area, but I'd love some tips
              on companion planting that work well for you.
              While I am on the subject, I hope nobody minds me adding some other
              tips and observations.
              I find many things recommended in books just don't work when we apply
              them.
              For example, peas and carrots never grow well for us - for that matter, peas
              never do well for us unless they are in rows on their own.
              Carrots and onions always do well for us. The bugs are repelled by the
              onions planted around the carrot bed, and the carrots seem to be sweeter and
              tastier.
              Corn with melons, squash, cucumber, or beans never do well, as they seem to
              need the sun that the corn protects them from. Maybe if I planted the corn
              further apart, the other things will get more sun. But one year I did try
              planting it further apart and it didn't pollinate very well. How far apart
              can they be planted and ensure good pollination? We have strong summer
              winds, so I didn't think that would be a problem.
              We grew squash, cucumbers and pumpkins on trellises this year, and though
              the pumpkins did well, the cucumbers did not want to climb even with help -
              yes, they were vining and not bush. Sure looked pretty in the fall to have
              bright orange pumpkins hanging on the fence surrounding the garden!
              Our lavender which is supposed to be an annual here, is 4 years old now and
              has even survived being transplanted twice due to moves. It is two large
              plants now and thrives just covered in straw mulch in the winter. Same with
              thyme, marjoram, oregano (2 year old plant which was 5 foot round and 3 feet
              high last year!), lemon balm and sage.
              For a few years now we have planted potatoes 2-3 inches in the ground and
              covered in grass cutting and straw mulch so only 6 inches of greenery ever
              showed. This was an experiment due to being tired of weeding, constant
              watering, and digging potatoes out of sun baked, rock hard soil. We have
              only watered once since we started planting this way, and the weeds are no
              longer a problem as they are under thick mulch. Harvest was easy and yield
              comparable to normal methods. The ground the potatoes are planted in, is so
              light and healthy after a few years, due to us not stepping in the plot till
              harvest and the straw breaking down. We lose some to mice, so that has made
              us hesitant to plant above the soil, but I will plant half under and half on
              top this year.
              After planting this way for a couple years, we began to wonder if the mulch
              was helping with bug problems, as we used to have severe potato bugs. Also,
              the weeds can be bad when using straw/hay mulch - only when you till the
              straw in every year though - so, in 2001, my Mom decided to forgo the straw
              mulch and plant potatoes the normal way. We had so many bugs we couldn't
              keep on top of them, even picking by hand. The yield wasn't so great, and we
              had to weed, water and hill constantly. This year we planted in mulch again
              and not one bug was found, though every neighbor said it was a bad year for
              bugs.
              I have tried square foot gardening or the Jeavons method, but my plants are
              always so much bigger, that if they are planted according to their
              recommendations, we get low yields due to overcrowding. Anybody else have
              this problem? I often wonder how they get their tomatoes to fit one plant
              per every square foot, as mine need several feet, even if I stake or cage
              them. This last year we finally had to cut some plants and branches out, so
              we'll plant according to what they need next year and not according to what
              others get away with. It does make me wonder how people do it though. Only
              onions and carrots work well when planted according to their spacing
              recommendations.
              Anyway, must go.
              Regards
              Heather



















              >About pests. If we sow any brassicas direct, it is almost certain that
              >young
              >plants are eaten by flea beetles (Phyllotrtea spp.) as soon as temperature
              >is +20 C for one or two days. They can find even single plants among grass
              >or carrots or whatever. I guess it's one of the major pests. So far we have
              >managed with them by using thin gauze?? cover on plants.
              >
              >Karri
              >
              >


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            • Gloria Baikauskas
              Heather.........I am a bit behind in reading my mail...........but I wanted to tell you that here in NorthCentral Texas, US, where I live the local organic
              Message 6 of 6 , Dec 7, 2002
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                Heather.........I am a bit behind in reading my mail...........but I wanted to tell you that here in NorthCentral Texas, US, where I live the local organic gardening guru has been talking a bit on his radio show that he has noticed that even plant that should not survive our winters are surviving in his yard. This includes things like Bay Laurel, and a lemon tree. He has been on an organic program about 10 years......not really positive about that.

                Another thing he has been mentioning is that he has noticed that since his yard has been totally organic now for a while he has few pests........and no fire ants, the scourge of Southern gardening anymore.

                My hunch is that with Natural Farming we will all see one day that we have fewer pest problems, and that things will be surviving that should be only annuals in our areas. It is probable that many plant species would perform differently if they had back the atmosphere they were meant to be growing in by the one who created them. I think it isn't just the health of the soil that we will all find is so important......it is also the total environment. That is why Fukuoka's ideas appeal to me so much. I think he is right that by trying to do a better job than Nature did interferred with what made the plants happy to grow and thrive.

                You are creating the environment that makes those potatoes tickled pink.....and the pests that prey on them to seek other.........less desirable for potato........areas to feast. I suspect that naturally occuring microscopic insects are most likely happy to be living in your mulched potatoes vicinity that are natural deterrents to the flea beetles. Congratulations on a job well done.

                Gloria


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