Garden School for Life

One of the many things that keep me engaged in gardening is the endless opportunity for learning.

No matter how many springs you have sown seeds or started transplants, there are always new lessons to be learned. A lot of these lessons come from brand new gardeners who approach gardening with fresh eyes and no preconceived ideas of how it should or should not be done. Wonderful things can result.

A great example of this was Mel Bartholomew who invented the square foot gardening method. He took up gardening after retiring from a life’s work as an engineer. He wondered why city gardeners grew vegetables in narrow rows with wide paths instead of in wide raised beds and narrow paths to maximize space and production and voila! Square foot gardening was born.

With so many people taking a new interest in gardening, I can’t wait to see what will come out of it next. While gleaning advice from seasoned gardeners is invaluable, never be afraid to ask questions, push boundaries and experiment. You never know what you might invent!

Speaking of experienced gardeners, Charles Dowding is one of my go-to garden gurus. He gently questions the dogma of companion planting and rotating crops and advocates for no dig gardening. He theorizes that if you take care of amending the top of the soil, just as nature does, everything else will take of it itself.

He also transplants beets, which blows my mind. I watched this vlog and was impressed enough to try sowing a few into seed trays this year for the first time. I am stuck enough in my ways to hold back and sow the other half the same way I always have…by soaking the seed for 24 hours and then direct sowing into the beds and thinning to a couple inches apart when they pop up. We will see which method works best for me. It is these sorts of experiments that have kept me fascinated with the whole garden process for decades.

Right now I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of a load of garden soil so I can fill my new beds and top up the old ones. It takes time for the winter piles to thaw out. Gardening is also a teacher of patience.

While I’ve been waiting, I painted the outside of the raised beds. Painting the inside would keep the wood from rotting as fast, but it also might leach unwanted chemicals into the soil, so I just leave the insides naked. There are eco friendly paint or stain choices you could use, but what with the pandemic and all, I simply used what I already had.

And what I already had was a gallon of exterior gloss black paint!

I’ve seen black raised beds trending on pinterest and they can look kind of pretty, especially when contrasted with all the green growing things inside them. I also have a lot of black containers that will match. Still, black seems a bit of a somber choice, especially at a time where perhaps cheerful colours might be more welcome. Like hot pink or sunshine yellow or, well, anything other than black. But black is what I had and black is what it is!

I’m thinking black will likely absorb more heat from the sun and in our cold climate that should be a good thing. A better experiment would have been to paint at least one raised bed white to see if it makes any difference. There is an older bed to the left painted a light brown that might offer a clue, if I resist painting it black to match the rest. However, anyone who has ever suffered through the protocols of a school science experiment could see that the size, location, depth etc would be too variable to be conclusive.

We’ll see.

I say that a lot when it comes to gardening. That, and “next year” and “I wonder when the soil will arrive.”

Wishing you all a hopeful spring. Stay safe.

8 thoughts on “Garden School for Life

  1. Wow, you’ll be able to feed half the town!
    1. How do you reach the middle to weed? and
    2. Are there any other seeds I should soak?

    • Hopefully there will be enough to at least share with the neighbours anyway! The beds are four feet wide (and eight feet long) so I can get in on either side and reach in two feet. That’s the standard usually. Some people use their own actual reach to figure out their personal bed width! Longer arms equals wider beds 😀 I also soak both sweet peas and regular pea seed. The only drawback to presoaking is the risk of letting them dry out once you plant them. You have to make sure that doesn’t happen once you’ve soaked them and triggered the “lots of moisture to grow” mechanism!

  2. Love the look of the black paint on your raised beds. Can hardly wait to see everything growing..And will be interesting to hear whether you think the black attracted more heat to the beds.

  3. I’ve done beets both ways for years. Start the “Early Wonder” inside and transplant out to give me a quick crop, and succession seed other varieties all season directly in the ground as soon as other crops come off. And I like the black!

    • Thanks Carolee! That makes so much sense. I started cylindra beets which are also the ones I like for storing and making pickles etc and will be direct sowing soon. Next year I will try transplanting some early beets just for eating over the summer. Anyway, good to know it has worked for you. I never would have thought transplanting any root vegetable would be a good idea, but beets do kind of shoulder their way up out of the ground unlike some other root vegetables…maybe that’s why it works. (And the black is starting to grow on me. I think I like it too 😊)

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