Our SWCD has been offering soil fertility testing for the past 12 years. We have tracked the results and planted various experimental plots as a way to verify the benefits of proper fertilization and most recently, the benefits of fall cover crop plantings. Realizing that not everyone, particularly in an urban setting, has a lot of land to devote to a vegetable garden, our staff built an 8’ x 4’ raised garden three years ago. This year we planted 4 tomato plants, 2 pepper plants, 4 cabbage plants, chives and most recently, Kale. I can personally report that this raised garden has fewer pest, weed and disease problems than my own in-ground garden at home. One maintenance feature I want to point out is that selective pruning of especially the tomato’s vegetation, will be required so that the other plants can receive enough light.
The entire staff is incredulous over the amount of produce that can be harvested from such a small space! From July 21 - August 15, we have harvested 177 Roma and Beefsteak variety tomatoes and 44 Banana Peppers along with copious amounts of Basil.
One of the advantages of having a raised garden bed is that it fits in tight spaces. As long as you have at least 12 hours of light - 8 of them must be direct light - you can grow full sun crops. The SWCD garden is located between two buildings, which create a kind of micro climate. Raised beds are less exposed to weed seed, have better air circulation which limits fungus and virus diseases, and are easier to water since it is a limited space. If the bed is built at least 2’ high there will be little or no rodent damage.
I have planted the raised bed with the cover crop mix, which our SWCD sells, for the past three years. This year, I was pleased to learn that the pH and fertility were right on target. I only added what amounted to 1.5 ounces of 10-10-10 fertilizer to cover the entire bed.
So, how did your garden grow this year? Let me know your harvest totals and if you did or did not have your soil fertility tested. I would also be interested in hearing if you planted cover crops in the fall prior to planting.