Sunday, May 16, 2010

Raised Row Gardening - Update

I want to thank everyone for the comments and email concerning the garden.  It seems to be a good topic for discussion.  I wanted to post a bit of an update and more information about the way we are gardening.  The raised rows that we are using average about 12-14 inches wide.  They are approximately 8-10 inches higher than the walk path between them.  The path between is about 12 inches wide to give us plenty of space to walk through with a wheel barrow.  We are covering the walk paths and sides of the raised rows clear up to the plants with 2-3 inches of mulch.
I have 2 rows of tomato plants.  One is a medium sized tomato variety called Marglobe.  It is said to be a good choice for canning and is very popular in our area.  The second row is the Roma variety of tomato.  We love these as a good all-purpose tomato in that it is not really juicy when dicing it for a salad.  They make a good choice for making sauces, ketchup, or bbq sauce for canning also.  We have 11 Roma and 13 Marglobe plants.  The 12th Roma plant is Abbie's and is planted in a container until we find a place to have her little garden.  We were blessed to find in one of our 6-plant pony packs of Marglobe, there were 2 tomato plants in one of the little sections.  This extra one gave us the odd number of 13 plants.  I planted the tomato plants about 12 inches apart in a single line down each raised row.  The spacing will provide each plant with plenty of light and room to grow.  Soon, I will be raiding the supply of tree trimmings from previous storms to gather sticks of sufficient size to stake up the tomato plants.
My row of radish and carrots were planted in a "scattering" method.  Not very uniform in spacing, but with the tiny seeds this method works well for me.  The plants start growing fairly close together in some areas and will need to be thinned out.  With the radishes, I am able to thin the plants, clean them and use them in a salad just as you would a full sized one.  They are flavorful, just have not formed the bulb.  Carrots are a bit slower growing.  I only thin if truly needed in the beginning.  When doing this, I very carefully pull the tiny plants and using a pencil or stick to make a hole, I transplant the carrot in another spot where there is room for it to grow.  This helps me to not waste a good plant.  Later on, as the carrots become larger, I thin them out when the carrots reach the "baby carrot" size and are tender.  These are a great addition to salads.  Abbie loves to dip baby carrots in peanut butter as a afternoon snack.  The main point is that I do not believe in tossing away any of the plants that I thin out.  I try to find ways to use them or transplant them back into the garden.
The rows of bush type beans and peas are planted about 3-4 rows across the raised row.  I space the seeds about 2 inches apart, unless I am being helped by my 4 year old daughter who believes that seeds need to be closer to their neighbors!  LOL   The rows of plants are close enough together (about 3 inches apart) that they provide good shade and support to each other.  I know that this is planting much closer than recommended, but I have always had great results with it.  The harvest yields from planting this close together has never been stunted by spacing the plants this close.
Root crops such as beets are planted with the seeds spaced just far enough apart to allow each plant to grow to it's full size.  If you like your beets to be harvested when they are 2 inches diameter, plant them about 5 inches from each other.  This allows about 1 inch of space in between them once full grown.  I often will plant the seeds 2 inches apart.  When the beets are about 1" diameter, you pick every other beet.  These can be pickled and canned whole.  The remaining beets, I like to pick when they are about 2 inches diameter for canning sliced beets.  By then the beets are getting very crowded looking, but still doing well.  Typically, you can replant beets again as soon as the larger ones are harvested.  This will give you two full harvests of beets in one growing season.
I refer to things like squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, and gourds as "mound plants."  This is due to the fact that I plant them in rows containing raised mounds or hills in which the seeds are planted.  I make the hills about 10" diameter and plant 3-5 seeds per hill, depending on the size of the full grown plant.  Large plants such as zucchini contain 3 seeds per hill, while smaller plants such as cucumbers will have up to 5 seeds.  I have found that I am able to grow this way with great results each time.  Harvest yields are very good and few weeds are able to grow around the plants.  With the addition of mulch, there is literally no weeding to be done.  Plants that require a great amount of space, such as pumpkins, are planted with no more than 3 seeds per hill and the hills are spaced up to 4 feet apart to allow plenty of room for the vines.  If you keep a close watch on the vining plants, you can train the vines to go where you want them.  Just gently lift and move them to where you want them to go.
Hope this helps.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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A New Blessing (Challenge)

Have you ever noticed how many of our greatest blessings from the Lord come through challenges that we face?  In my lifetime, I have noticed this happening time and again.  Personal and Spiritual growth happens most profoundly in our lives when we face an obstacle or challenge that we must overcome.  One scripture that helps me is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10  "But he said to me, 'My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong."
This week, I have been given a new opportunity for growth.  For about a year, I have had trouble with my hands, forearms and elbows from time to time.  I would get a burning pain that reminded me of a Charlie horse in my leg.  No matter what position I had my arm in, even when laying in bed at night, the pain would be there.  Last weekend, I over worked myself planting in a portion of the garden, turning soil with a shovel, and spreading a thick layer of mulch through the portion of garden that had been planted.  By evening, I could barely lift my arms without a sharp pain.  Over the next few days I had very little relief.  The pain in my arm increased greatly on Wednesday when I did laundry on the washboard.
On Thursday, I went to a doctor.  She checked my arms and hands over, having me try putting them in a couple of positions that they didn't like going into.  Next blood tests were ordered.  She said it could be either carpal tunnel or rheumatoid arthritis or a combination of both.  Yes, I was beginning to see a new blessing called a growth opportunity beginning to appear on the horizon.  After the blood was drawn for the tests, I was sent home with 2 prescriptions having been called in to the pharmacy.
This morning, I received the results of the lab work.  There was no sign of arthritis inflammation in my body.  Praise the Lord!!!  The verdict:  I have carpal tunnel in both wrists.  Now, you are going to think I am crazy, but all I can say is "Thank the Lord for the carpal tunnel!"  Carpal tunnel can be managed and even cured through surgery if necessary.  Rheumatoid arthritis is a lifelong battle that can worsen and even cripple a person later in life.  If it came down to a choice of which would be better, carpal tunnel is it.  Yes, both are painful.  Yes, both require changes to your lifestyle or routine.  That is just the way it goes.
The blessing for me is that as long as I wear a brace on my wrists when doing activities that can stress the joints or when in pain to help support and relieve the joints, the changes I need to make are minimal and easily managed.  There is always the option later on if it gets worse that I may have to get surgery, but that is okay.  I am not at that point yet.
I feel so richly blessed today.  What could have been a much tougher condition has been made a much lighter one.  Would I rather have neither?  In my human attitude and mind I would have to say, "Yes!"  But what an opportunity I would have missed.  A chance to renew my appreciation for my health and what the Lord has given me.  A chance to take stock and really look at the way I do things and find a better way.  Most importantly - a chance to once again show gratitude to the Lord for His grace and blessings in my life.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,
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