May 272014

raised bed your solution

The blog has been a bit quiet these past few days as the demands of life have taken over.  While there have been some smaller details taking up  my time (hunting down the source of stinky clothes and ultimately cleaning out the washer’s drain filter, finding or requesting paperwork for taxes, IEP meetings, etc.), the largest activity has to do with shopping, of sorts.

We have begun our home search in earnest this past week, attending a few open houses, going to see a few homes currently on the market, driving around the area to get a sense for various neighborhoods, and contacting a realtor for us to work with.  We are not in a rush to purchase a home, but view it as a good time to start as we do not have to find a place to move into right away.

My time has been spent viewing details and photos online, comparing numbers, and really taking a look at our desires and needs, prioritizing them as no home will likely fulfill them all.

I also have spent more than my fair share of time mentally laying out many yards, trying to work out gardening options – current raised beds vs. adding them, container gardens, amount of sunlight (there will be many more leaves on the trees come summer) and the optimum growing seasons here, as well as balancing it with leaving room for the kids to play and us to grill out.

With the soils here, I am almost certain that raised beds or container gardening are in my future again.  The question is, what kind?  Also, how can I utilize the vertical spaces as well as the horizontal?  (I will save my thoughts on fruit and berries for another post.)

Here are a few raised beds I have seen at various places.  No two look alike or are laid out the same, as each need and location are unique.

The first one below is an example of a square foot garden, located at the U of I Arboretum.  While not technically a ‘raised’ bed, the borders would act as such if you are needing to amend the soil contained therein.


Here are more examples of a raised garden beds, from the same garden.  The first doubles as a greenhouse in cooler weather with the addition of a cold frame.  This time, the bed is raised off the ground.  This could be for a variety of reasons (ease of reaching the plants, to keep it above damp ground, etc.  These particular plants are great early spring additions to your garden.


This circular garden is actually a child’s fairy garden.  It is smaller in size, which is great for shorter arms.  It is meant to invite creativity, not necessarily economical use of space.

child friendly gnome garden with border

Here are several beds from my previous house.  These are all in different parts of the yards, addressing different growing challenges (wet ground, poor soil, weed control, etc.)  Notice how the borders are rarely made of the same materials?  Often I used what I had or could find for free.  
raised bed collage

While raised beds are not often thought of as container gardens, they are in a way; only much larger.  Your typical container garden might look something like these:

raised-container-garden- with border

blueberry bush in container pot




concrete flower container with pic border


The two photos above are of containers found either on the University of Illinois campus or in their arboretum.  I figured I should give credit where credit is due; their gardeners have done fabulous work adding color to may peoples days.

If you are interested in seeing the solutions others have come up with, here are several links for you to explore:

Container Gardening – is just so happens this is a link to the U of I extension office.  I am not trying to promote them, pure coincidence I promise.

HGTV container gardening ideas and video

Urban Gardening with Vegetables

Container Gardening With Vegetables And Herbs – Mother Earth News

Raised Bed Gardening 101 – Planet Natural

7 Secrets For A High-yield Vegetable Garden, Even When You Are Tight On Space

Raised Beds – Soil Depth Requirments

Raised Bed Gardening Tips From Master Gardeners


Are there tips you have learned along the way?  Do you use a traditional method of gardening, raised beds/containers only, or a mix?

Mar 152014

Garden Update 2014

This past week has seen me doing very little in the way of gardening.  I was able to take a few minutes here and there to thin out the seedlings I have already started.

So what was I doing instead of gardening?

  • Catching up on over a week’s worth of laundry – something that is possible now that it isn’t 5 degrees outside
  • dental appointments
  • having required home visit for our foster care license
  • finished patching kids’ jeans
  • making the spare bedroom visitor friendly again.  It had become a catch-all room plus a DIY project in progress.
  • making our bedroom visitor and kid friendly (chose to place these visitors here due to the work we are doing in the spare bedroom.  It is very much not kid friendly right now.)
  • making meals for the freezer
  • finding an outfit to wear to court
  • updating my wardrobe (if I was going to toss out clothes I needed enough left to actually have something to wear, by choice I don’t have a lot of clothes – I decluttered 9 shirts)
  • setting up and going to MOPS
  • entertaining 2 different sets of overnight visitors
  • watching a friend’s kid (my kid loved the impromptu play-date and lunch out)
  • going to an all-day conference

Oh, yeah and ADOPTING OUR KIDS!!

I was hoping you all would understand why this just wasn’t the week to be doing a lot of gardening and why my posts have not been my normal schedule.  It has definitely been a full week, and the house looks so much better for it.

picked up bedroom

This upcoming week has a lot more free time, very few required places for me to be or things to accomplish.  I  plan on making the most of it while I can.

Gardening and Home Goals for the week of March 16, 2014:

Call school to inform them this will be the last week in preschool for my youngest.

List all the start dates for the seeds I have.

Start seeds that should already have been started.

Work on removing 2 lilac bush stumps.

Plant peach tree? – I may hold off on this one for another week.

Add mulch to areas around the yard, if the mulch pile is no longer frozen on top.

Declutter 49 items.

Cook and freeze pork roasts in refrigerator.

Create more omelette kits for freezer.

Plant 200 – 300 onion sets – if ground isn’t still frozen.

green onions in raised bed 2I am very ready for the 2014 gardening season.  However, if I don’t start now with my garden jobs, soon it will be an overly busy time and I’ll get behind.  The warmer weather will appear before we know it – though I’m not convinced we are through with snow storms or freezing temperatures.

How are your gardens or garden preparations coming along?

Jun 192013

2013 Garden Update


 Some late planted zucchini sprouts have appeared.  Now to see if they will last till I am able to put up some sort of rabbit deterrent.

zucchini seedlings by shed bed

The first red tomato appeared earlier this week.  This is off one of the tomato plants that was quite large when I planted it.  It is from one of the plants whose tomatoes and blooms I did not remove.  These plants looked in bad shape the first several weeks after planted, then seemed to settle in and make a good come back.
first red tomato of the season 2013

This week also brought about the first cucumber bloom.  I’m hoping these get pollinated this year; I would really like some cucumbers and not just great looking plants.

first cucumber blossom of the season 2013

The summer squash plant in the 5×5 Challenge bed seemed to have doubled in size overnight.  That is what summer rains will do for a garden. I have been slowly harvesting the green onions you see around the squash plant.  I have taken out four large bunches and still have many more to go.  Guess that is what happens when you plant a few hundred onions.  🙂  Update: I harvested another bunch just now to sell to a customer at our stand.  I usually trim the greens as they are very long this year and tip over any container I put them in.  The customer was interested in some with the greens still attached, so I walked out to the garden, harvested some and sold them to said customer.  I love keeping things small and personal.

summer squash plant in 5x5 challenge bed June 17 2013

The seeds in the patio planter are starting to appear.  The flower ones that is.  I have yet to see the basil seedlings make an appearance.  This is currently in a spot that gets afternoon sun.  I may move it so it gets more sun.  It can always be moved if it is getting too much.flower seedling in potting soil

The bean plants in my kitchen garden bed.  I’m curious to see how these grow as I have planted beans in the past … on my own that is, we had them in the garden growing up.

Harvest to date:  5 bunches onions (one bunch = as many as I can hold in one hand without them dropping out, I’ll count and estimate later), 2 strawberries (2 more ready to pick) and 1 tomato.  

Jun 142013

2013 Garden Update

Okay, so it is Friday already and I had planned to post this on Wednesday.  I’m not really sure what happened, but that is the way I’m rolling this week.

The rain these past few weeks is finally starting to show in the garden.  The tomato plants are either taking off or producing fruit, depending on the type and when I planted them.  The beans and summer squash have fully sprouted.  The zucchini I planted for the FOURTH time also came up … then disappeared so I think something ate it as this was in an unfenced spot.  I also replanted strawberries.  My herb bed was furnished with some starts someone had but didn’t need, as my seeds there were either really behind in coming up or didn’t come up at all.  (This doesn’t seem to be the year for seeds for me.)

My first harvest took place of two bundles of green onions.  These were grown with no chemicals, yet they didn’t sell on the produce stand.  I’m a bit surprised as several of our customers are picky about that sort of thing.  I cut part of the tops off the two bunches of onions I put on the stand and was able to chop those and freeze them to use later in soups and such.  I’ll be doing that with the rest of the onions as their tops are long.  The red onions seemed to have fair badly with all the rain and became mushy.  The yellow ones did much better.  They didn’t grow round on the end like I had hoped, but they are decent for green onions.  Anyone have tips on growing green onions?  Am I missing something in my soil that will help them grow better?

I also got the cucumbers planted, as well as the patio planter with a few more tomatoes and some herbs.  The tomatoes in the patio planter were the ‘rejects’ from the rest of the plants I had.  They were the smallest and the furthest behind growth wise.  As it is, I have tomato plants in several different stages of development in the different areas of my garden.  This should mean that I don’t have a large harvest all at once, which wasn’t planned but may turn out to be a good thing.

Here is the garden bed under my kitchen window.  I came back from camping a few weeks back and was surprised to see my bean had sprouted (in the upper left corner of the picture), as well as my yellow squash (most of the other plants).  The three tomato plants in the bottom left of the picture are white heirloom tomatoes that I got from someone.  I wasn’t sure how the wood mulch would do right next to them so I cut some milk jugs and used them to create sort of wells to plant inside of.  Of the three plants, two are doing great and one is just looking wimpy.  Not sure what the difference is.




This is the bed I’m using for the 5 x 5 Challenge.  The bare spot in the middle is where I harvested some onions.  I really need to finish harvesting the onions on the right side of the bed, to allow more room for the other plants to grow.  I added a few sugar snap peas to a bare spot along the trellis.  They have come up, as have the other beans.  The tomato plants are growing and the squash are doing okay.  Some of the flower seeds I added on a whim are also growing, though I don’t remember what kind they are.


The first planting of strawberries was a disaster.  I’m thinking something got in there and ate them before I was able to put a fence up.  Finally I gave up and went to a local store and bought plants.  Imagine my surprise when I got to the cash register and they were half price … I went and bought six more.  My hope, plan, is for their runners to grow and fill in this whole area.  They are doing great so far and we have little strawberries already growing with  more blooms on the plants.  These are ever-bearing so they should produce some this year.  I also planted a row of sugar snap peas along the left side of the beds as this side is right up against the fence.  Half the beans sprouted and are a foot tall.  The other half are just starting to show.


The herb bed is another area that I finally gave into the fact that wishing doesn’t make it so.  The cilantro and basil seeds just weren’t sprouting.  When someone called and asked if I wanted some herb transplants, including basil, I said “YES!”  I now have sage, orange mint, parsley, oregano, two kinds of basil, and thyme, in addition to the two cilantro seedlings that decided to appear.  My hope is to make this my herb bed and have some of the plants be perennial.  The sage and mint should come back year after year.  Actually, I should have an issue with keeping them in control.  However, my “should’s” this year haven’t turned out that way so I’m not counting my chicks just yet.


We got the rest of the mulch spread around the blackberry plants.  This area looks so much better and the mulch should help keep the soil moist in addition to enriching it.


I was also able to put up four hanging planters with cucumbers.  The first year I did cucumber plantings this way turned out fabulous.  The second year, not so much.  I think it had to do with me remembering to water.  Last year the plants looked fabulous but there were no insects to pollinate them, so the blooms didn’t produce cucumbers.  I’m hoping I didn’t shoot myself in the foot yesterday when I sprayed the grass for mosquitoes (our kids react very badly to insect bites, otherwise I wouldn’t have done that).  These were my second batch of seedlings, as the first just didn’t come up.  Again, not my year for seedlings.  We’ll see how they go.  My goal was to have cukes for our weekly salads, but so far that hasn’t happened.



This post is part of the 5 x 5 Garden Challenge.  The main goal of this challenge, according to Chiot’s Run blog, is to learn and encourage gardeners, especially new gardeners.  Please join us in the challenge and see how much you can do in a small space.

Round 5x5 logo
Apr 272013

I love looking at what other people are doing and seeing if it is something I can use.  Sometimes it is just beautiful and awe  inspiring.  Here are a few images of late that I have come across that made me think, “I want my garden to look like that”.  Or, “Hmm.  I could do that but would need to tweek it a bit here to work for me.”  This post plays two parts – 1) It reminds me of all the great ideas I have seen and where they are.  2) It shows you some of the different things I am looking at and where they might be found.


Cedar Fenced Raised Bed Garden Kits

raised vegetable garden

Best Garden Beds – Raised Vegetable Garden

This is from a thread on GardenWeb.  I could post the whole thread here, if I was allowed to.  There were so many inspiring ideas for arches and trellises.  Take a look through the whole thing if you have time.  It shows progress of this garden, and others, over at least three different growing season.

This layout is close to what I was thinking of doing …

 Companion Planting

… but I think this fence looks neater and would be more manageable.  I really don’t need anything tall to keep out rabbits and squirrels.

Now here is someone with an idea who made it become reality.  Smart thinking and great problem solving – raised beds with movable mini-greenhouses.

Talk about using what you  have.  I know of more than one barn/shed/basement with old shutters in them.  I can’t find the link to the plans (only to the general page) to make this garden bed.  So, please, if you own these plans or know where to find them, let me know and I’ll add the link.


Hugelkultur garden bed after 2 years. Photo Credit:

Hugelkultur is something I have only recently heard about. Have you?  (If not, check out Hartke is Online for a video and links to learn more.) I get it, I really do.  It makes sense.  It took someone with a problem who was looking for a solution and acted upon an idea.  Yes, it probably took several trial and errors.  However, if you know that the theory is true, then you just have to find the right way to apply it.

Just goes to prove that most of us think about what is already accepted as “the norm”.  Who said that fencing has to open outward?  Gardens to Gro shows another way in one of the raised bed kits.

None of these are affiliate links.  Please do not feel that I am trying to pressure you into buying something.  My intent is only to show you the different ways you can do a raised bed and how you might set them up.

See anything that may you say “oh, now that is a great idea”?

Feb 272013

I have often posted ebooks that can be read on your computer or on a Kindle.  It hasn’t been intentional that I have left out those of you with NOOKs.  I just haven’t found any for free.  Today I realized that you may still be interested in books that are available for you NOOK.

All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space

All New Square Foot Gardening

The Square Foot Gardening Answer Book: New Information from the Creator of Square Foot Gardening - the Revolutionary Method Used by 2 Million Thrilled Followers

The Square Foot Gardening Answer Book

Grow Your Own Flowers

Grow Your Own Flowers

Stand Up and Garden: The no-digging, no-tilling, no-stooping approach to growing vegetables and herbs

Stand Up and Garden: The no-digging, no-tilling, no-stooping approach to growing vegetables and herbs


If you are thinking of buying a NOOK here are a few deals currently available:

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble


This post contains affiliate links.