If your tender potted plants have been outdoors all summer, watering them with the hose often results in overflow and lost of soil. Now is a great time to add Black Gold Earthworm Castings as a top dressing to improve bioactivity in the pot and cover newly exposed roots. Be sure to leave enough space between soil and pot rim to be able to fill it with a generous amount of water.
Raised bed gardening is productive. Imagine this: a vegetable garden that produces a huge amount of food in a small space, takes a minimum amount of water, requires very little maintenance, and brings the plants to you, rather than you having to bed down all the way to the ground.
Sound impossible? Not at all if you garden in raised beds.
Raised beds are like giant, bottomless planter boxes filled with your favorite soil mixture. The best beds are four feet wide – about right for an adult to reach the middle. If you garden with children, 3 ½ feet better suits their shorter arms.
Bed length makes no difference, though the longer a bed, the more efficient use of space.
When my now teenage children were small, they each had their own four by four raised bed separated by a three-foot wide walkway. Three feet accommodates most wheelbarrows (and wheelchairs). Through childhood, they grew whatever they wanted in those boxes. One year, my son planted everything purple – eggplants, asters, purple sugar cane, purple leaf lettuce.
The plants didn’t matter, as long as they were purple.
Eventually, their interest in the garden waned, so we replaced the two little beds with one big bed, the length of the two beds plus the walkway. My new bed was eleven feet long and a more efficient use of the space.
Bed height is important. I’ve seen four inches tall beds, but I prefer them 18 to 24 inches tall with a 2” x 4” wood cap to sit on and set my tools on as I work. If you garden from a wheelchair, you might want something even taller.
While my beds are made of long-lasting redwood, in the school garden I manage, our beds are composite lumber made from recycled soda bottles and ground wooden palettes. They look just like wood but they will last absolutely forever. And we really liked the idea of using a recycled material.
Raised beds can be made of other materials as well; stone, rock, bricks, blocks, logs, broken concrete. If your budget is small, make temporary beds from 25-foot long straw-filled mesh wattle. Irrigation and landscape supply stores sell them for less than $30 each.
Coil the wattle into a circle or, if the circle is too large, coil it into a two-tiered circle. Fill with soil and start planting. The wattle will last for about a year, depending on your climate.
If you garden in gopher-ville or battle other root-loving critters, line the bottom of your beds with galvanized hardware cloth. The tiny mesh protects delicate root crowns from gnawing teeth, but doesn’t prevent fine roots from growing deep into the soil.
Have your irrigation in place before you set raised beds in the ground. Use drip irrigation to target water directly onto plants. Drip is far thriftier than overhead spray. It also keeps water off plant leaves where it can cause fungal diseases like powdery mildew.
Finally, fill beds with a soil mixture that is at least 30% organic matter. Skip the potting soil, it is great for pots but not for raised beds.
Add soil to within about four inches of the lip, then top with a two-inch thick layer of Black Gold Earth Worm Castings and a healthy sprinkle of Black Gold Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer. Use a hand trowel or small spade to turn the amendments into the soil.
The term “worm castings” seems to confuse everyone but the plants. Earthworms have been hard at work for centuries rejuvenating soils and helping to convert various types of organic matter into one of nature’s best soil conditioners. Black Gold® has had worm castings as the cornerstone of its product line long before worm castings became the vogue in gardening. Our Earthworm Castings are OMRI Listed, making them a cut above the rest for both traditional and organic gardening.
Black Gold® Earthworm Castings contain a fertilizer charge. In fact, they are so nutrient-charged that we actually have to register them as a fertilizer in some states. Minerals and nutrients from earthworm castings are in a water-soluble form, making them readily available to plants.
According to a recent survey 44 percent of Americans plan to grow a vegetable garden this year. That is a 12 percent increase compared with last year. Many of the new vegetable gardeners will be located in urban and suburban settings where garden soils need to be created or highly amended for top productivity. Here is an overview of how to prepare your vegetable garden soils with Black Gold products.
Starting Your Vegetable Garden
The most important part of gardening is perfectly preparing your soil for bountiful crops. It is often said that 90 percent of what happens to a plant happens below the soil surface, and this is not far from the truth. Well-prepared garden soil will quickly pay itself in produce with just a little time, labor and materials. Before preparing garden soil, be sure the soil is at the right consistency; it must be moist enough to dig with a shovel but not too wet or dry. If you are digging a new bed, begin by defining the bed line. This can be done with stakes and string-lines, or bed lines can be sprayed out with specialty landscape chalk marking spray. Once you have defined your garden bed line, remove all the surface weeds (purposefully pulling the whole weed, including the roots), rocks and debris.
Now it is time to add rich organic matter to your vegetable garden. Lots of our products will do the trick nicely. The most popular product for most gardeners is Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, which contains Canadian sphagnum peat moss and aged compost, aged or composted bark. Black Gold Garden Soil is another great product that will naturally boost your soil’s organic content. We also recommend adding our secret ingredient: Black Gold Earthworm Castings; a 16 qt bag will cover 15-20 square feet of garden soil. Each of these garden amendments have slightly different benefits and can be used in combination for superior results. The amount of amendment you need can be determined using our amendment calculator. When incorporating organic matter into your garden, it is not the time to be frugal. The more the better. All Black Gold garden amendments can be spread out on the surface of the garden soil and then dug into the native soil to a shovel depth of 6″
Vegetables also require quality fertilizer for best results. We suggest gardeners wait to fertilize until planting time. This is because different types of vegetables may require different fertilizer types, and some fertilizers contain both quick- and slow-release nutrients. If you fertilize and wait for a week or so to plant your garden, you will loose the complete benefits of the quick-release nutrients. Always try to choose a tomato and vegetable fertilizer that’s approved for organic gardening.
We wish you bountiful harvests in your new vegetable garden, and encourage readers to send us posts of their Black Gold garden successes!