I experimented this summer with heritage plants in my raised garden bed using the square foot method. My results were quite interesting. Most of the heritage plants sprouted and produced fruits – strange looking fruits, but fruits nonetheless. In general, the heritage fruits were smaller, strangely shaped and less tasty than food grown from hybrid seeds or purchased in the store. The advantage to heritage fruits is that their seeds will reliably germinate. Hybrid seeds don’t have this capability.
Failure of Leafy Greens in my Raised Garden Bed
Leafy green vegetables failed completely in my raised garden bed. It was probably due to the hot Texas Summers. I replanted several times to no avail – I just couldn’t get the seeds to germinate and sprout.
The heritage watermelon seeds in my raised garden bed quickly produced large and spreading vines. It seemed to take a very long time to get them to produce any fruits. Since I’m using square foot gardening, I trained the vines upward – not sure if this had an impact or not. Nevertheless, when the watermelons did bear fruit, they were small and had funny shapes – and they tended to rot on one end.
Funky Little Heritage Corn
My heritage corn also had some size and quality issues in my raised bed garden. I planted 4 different varieties and every one of them produced small or misshapen ears. The raised bed garden had plenty of water and sunshine so I’m not sure if this was due to the heritage seeds or something else. My experiment next summer will be to plant a hybrid raised bed garden garden along side a heritage garden so that I can compare.
Small Heritage Melons
My heritage melons in my raised bed garden also were quite small. However, they were very tasty and we enjoyed eating them. However, there weren’t as many as I had hoped for. My general sense is that if you’re going to use heritage seeds you’re probably going to be eating like a pioneer – which means not very much. Or, maybe I’m just doing it wrong.
Summary of Funny Stuff in my Raised Garden Bed
My heritage seeds that I planted in my raised bed garden did perform but not very well. The fruits were slow to produce, small or misshapen and quite scarce. Next year, I’m going to plant an additional raised bed garden using the square foot method and have one with heritage seeds and one with hybrid seeds to see if there really is a difference or if I’m just a bad farmer.
It’s been a bountiful summer with my raised garden bed and square foot gardening technique. I converted an old raised bed garden into the square foot gardening method by cleaning the weeds and replacing the soil mixture. I also installed drip irrigation from my rain water collection system. I also used survival kit seeds with the exception of my tomato plants. The raised garden bed has performed well in come cases and poorly in others – mostly my fault I suspect.
Beginning a Raised Garden Bed
My original raised garden bed had not been used in approximately 5 years. I first confirmed that my rainwater collection system would adequately power my drip irrigation system. The raised bed garden has 32 square feet and that could have been a serious load on the 1000 gallon rain water collection system but the slight uphill position of the rainwater collection tank was more than sufficient to provide hose bib level water pressure down to the raised bed garden.
Square Foot Raised Garden Bed
The raised garden bed looked especially nice right after I replaced the soil and planted the tomatoes. The drip irrigation system was simple with a single loop and 32 emitters. I had extra hog wire to form cages for the tomatoes and other vining plants.
Healthy Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
A month or so in and you can easily see how the raised garden bed thrived. The plants on the inside did better than the plants on the outside. The inside plants were mostly vining plants – tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, melons and the plants on the outside were leafy plants like spinach, chard, lettuce, etc. I’m not a terribly attentive gardener and the weeds have grown to appreciate the new raised bed garden as well. The inner row plants did very well but the outer row plants did not perform well at all. A little research told me that my leafy plants don’t do well in the hot Texas summers so I will retry them in a Fall garden.
Weekly Harvest from Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
I used survival kit seeds with the exception of my tomatoes and the production of vegetables has been moderate. It is clear after a single season, that the benefits of hybrid vegetables are enormous. My heritage seeds produce less fruit of a lesser quality. They are still good and edible but definitely NOT what I’ve come to expect after 50 years of living on grocery food food. The production level of the inner rows of cucumbers, corn and tomatoes has been sufficient to feed me salads every day each week throughout the summer. The corn production was very poor but I only had 4 plants of 4 varieties. I will plan better next summer for an expanded raised garden bed.
Summary of Raised Garden Bed Summer Version 1
My raised garden bed using heritage seeds has been moderately successful. It was relatively easy to build and start. My rainwater collection system is adequate to power the drip irrigation and I can collect a nice basket of vegetables each week. Some of the leafy plants did not do well in the Texas Summer – they are Fall garden plants. In the end, the small raised garden bed was sufficient but just barely and better planning and an additional 32 square feet next summer will probably bring it into full production for a family of four.
I’m moving from my deck container garden to a raised garden beds using the square foot gardening technique. I’ve had raised bed gardens in the past but used garden soil from a local organic gardener. I haven’t used these raised bed gardens in almost 5 years so I’m going to replace the top six inches with the specified square foot gardening soil mixture. The square foot gardening book was quite specific about the soil mixture and depth so I’m going to follow that approach to implementing my raised garden beds exactly.
Cleaning the Old Raised Garden Beds
I removed the years of weeds and top six inches of garden soil from my raised garden beds and saved the soil in a pile on the side. This is different and yet similar to the approach I used in my containers for my deck garden. This raised bed garden still has another six inches of soil and then six inches of river rocks and a drain pipe to help with drainage so that the soil does not get too moist. My raised bed gardens also have a water hose run to them and I will install my rain drip irrigation system when I’m finished.
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A New Soil Mixture for the Raised Garden Beds
The soil mixture specified in square foot gardening was very specific – especially with respect to the compost variety for us in the raised garden beds. This is very different from my traditional approach using garden soil for my garden containers. I had to go to several stores to find all of the materials and the large amount of vermiculite was the toughest and most expensive to acquire. I also sacrificed an inexpensive tarp, as instructed in square foot gardening, for a place to perform my mixing of the 3 soil components instead of mixing it directly in the raised bed garden.
Thoroughly Mixing the New Soil for the Raised Bed Garden
The compact packaging of the soil components expanded dramatically when I emptied them to prepare the soil mixture for the raised garden beds. Using the tarp helped a lot to preserve and use all of the square foot garden soil mixture in the raised bed garden. The mixture was surprisingly light as it consists of only peat moss, compost and vermiculite. It appeared very much like exactly what is in the little pots when you purchase plants from a nursery. It was a calm day and with a little water sprayed on the mixture, it was easy enough to mix thoroughly.
Revitalized Raised Garden Beds Ready to Plant
I filled the top six inches of my raised garden beds with the square foot soil mixture. I then added small divider rows to clearly mark out each square foot in my four foot by eight foot raised bed garden. I also went ahead and put in some support structures so that the taller plants in the middle of the raised bed vegetable garden will have something immediately to begin growing upwards on. Now we’re ready to plant seeds and young plants in the raised bed gardens.
Summary of Raised Garden Beds and Square Foot Gardening
Raised garden beds are ideal for implementing square foot garden techniques. I cleared the top six inches of old garden soil first. Then, I carefully mixed the specified square foot garden soil mixture on a tarp outside of the raised bed garden to insure that I got a thorough mixture. I refilled the raised bed vegetable garden with the new soil mixture, put in square foot marking grids and growth support structures for the tall and vine plants. Next, we’ll plant the seeds and young plants in the raised garden beds.