Layout of new garden
My question concerns the layout of a new vegetable garden. There is a large, relatively flat area with full sun in which we want to start preparing wide beds for next year’s garden. Later we will enclose the side of the wide beds with wood to define and raise them a bit for our ease as we age. In one area, there was a slight hill where we ran this year’s beds according to the contour, to prevent erosion and runoff.
When planning a NEW garden, is it better to have the wide rows running South to North or East to West? We were thinking about making the beds about 3’x 8-10′, with the smallest 3’x 3′ for my short arms. How much space do you leave between the beds so you can move around? Should I put compost (vegetation or manure) on the garden this fall and dig it in, or just put the compost on top? We do not plan on digging these gardens again; for planting we will use a dibble stick to plant the seeds, or dig the holes for the larger plants. Mulch will be added for weed control and compost, laid on the top, when the beds are empty. Are there some plants or crops (besides squash and corn) that you would not put in a defined garden bed?
Sue & Ken
Cannon Falls, Minnesota
To tell the truth, it matters little which way raised beds are situated. When you plan on having row crops, it’s usually best to situate the rows running North and South for more sun penetration. When you make a new garden, weeds and grass the year after establishing it are often a problem. Consider this when you say you aren’t going to dig your beds again in the spring. You may need to, before planting. Established, weed-free beds don’t require this. I would dig in rotted manure this summer, then lay a sheet of black plastic over the beds after they’ve been well watered. The heat from the sun, coupled with the moisture, will help the manure further heat and compost and the heat will (hopefully) kill any weed seeds present in the soil. Leave the plastic in place until a couple weeks before you plan on planting, then remove it.
Melons and cucumbers vine, so if you plan on including them in your beds, plan on trellising them upward to save space. Otherwise, I’ve grown nearly all other crops in raised beds with much success. Good gardening! — Jackie
Thanks for answering my salsa question on adding black beans and corn. I will try your suggestion of making your corn relish recipe and adding the black beans to it. Now, are those black beans cooked when I add them? Do you have to sterilize your jars if you run them through your dishwasher and process at least 10 minutes? Also, do you have a zucchini relish recipe or can I just use a regular cucumber relish recipe and use zucchini instead?
St. Paris, Ohio
The black beans are cooked. It’s always a good idea to sterilize your jars for foods that are only water bathed long enough to seal the jars — just in case. Yes, you can just use a regular cucumber relish recipe and use zucchini instead. I would make a small batch first to make sure you like it. I’ve had zucchini pickles and relish that I couldn’t tell from cucumber. Do use young, firm zucchini without larger seeds. — Jackie