Sunday, December 14, 2008

Plastic Covers for raised beds

I used 4 mil polyetheline plastic to make covers for my raised beds to delay the frost and freeze damage to my fall garden. I am planning to also use them and try and plant some of the early veggies and little earlier than normal this winter/spring. I did not think to take pics of the covers in place on the beds and I have already taken them apart and stored them for the winter. I did get some drawings of how they are made and how they are placed on the raised bed and held down.

I cut 8 foot pieces of 1" black flexible PVC pipe and placed them in the 1 1/2" PVC foundations in the beds to make the hoops for the plastic sheeting to rest on. I attached 1x2's along the top of the hoops with tie wraps to give the plastic sheet something to rest on and not sag between the hoops. The string is tied to each end of the bed and stretched and looped around each hoop further down for the same purpose.

These worked pretty well, but I had to remove them during the days that were warmer with lots of sun. The temperature inside at one point was 92 degrees and that was with the ourside temp reading 37 degrees. Putting the covers on each night before frost and taking them off in the morning before it warmed up was somewhat of a pain, but I did get about a month longer with not freeze damage.

Friday, December 12, 2008


I grew 3 varieties of leaf lettuce this past spring; Black Seeded Simpson, Salad Bowl and Red Sails.
They all grew very well and we picked lots of lettuce. Around the middle of June, it started to grow taller and very soon sent up seed heads and that was the end of the spring lettuce.

I decided to try growing it again for the fall and planted the same 3 varieties about the 1st week of September. I figured that I had enough time to pick two or three times before freezing weather. The 1st frost on average is around the 1st of November in this part of Tennessee.
Things worked out as planned and we started picking lettuce near the middle of October. We picked a lot of nice lettuce along with the Squirrel. (already pictured in the 2nd Post on Dec 8th)
The first frost came I put up plastic covers over the bed and no damage to the lettuce. 2nd frost about a week later, same story.
Then came a prediction for temperatures in the low 20’s, put the cover on again and lettuce looked a little wilted next morning but no damage.
Then came a prediction of 18° F and I forgot to put the covers over the beds. I told my wife that we probably would’t be eating anymore lettuce from the garden this year. Next morning lettuce was very wilted, but by afternoon it was back up and crisp looking. We picked, ate and it was fine.

We are still picking and eating the lettuce. The picture just above this was taken this afternoon 12-12-08. I get surprised by things like this all the time in the garden. Maybe I should know better, but since most of my gardening was in Florida (very little frost or freezing weather) I thought frost and freezing killed everything.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Anybody grow their own blackberries or do you pick the wild ones? I don’t have any places that I know to pick wild blackberries, so I planted some of my own last spring. When I lived in South Florida, I grew a variety called “Brazos” which did very well, very large berries, but also fairly large seeds as well. The worst part though was the thorns. Every time I would pick blackberries I would come away looking like I had tangled with a cat and the cat had won.

So, when I decided to grow my own blackberries here in Tennessee, I chose a thornless variety called “Arapahoe”. I ordered 10 plants from Ison’s nursery in GA and thought I would have time to prepare a bed to plant them in before they arrived. But, they were shipped almost immediately after I placed the order and the order arrived about 3 days after I called them. Unfortunately I did not have the bed prepared so I just had to dig some holes in the lawn and plant them anyway since the instructions said to plant as soon after arrival as possible.

This the way they looked right after planting (and this one looked best of all, most were single stems, no branches). I planted all ten bare root plants about 2-3 feet apart and hoped for the best. The buckets are there to cover them during the late freeze we had in April.

I did get the grass dug out, added compost and constructed a frame to enclose everything and define the bed. I added some 1” PVC pipe to anchor the frame and to construct an enclosure to cover with bird netting if necessary or add some sort of support to hold the vines off the ground. (They are supposed to be erect type plants not trailing).

After about a month or so the plants started growing and started looking like they might make it after all.

By July they had all sent up primo canes from the roots and I definitely knew I might get some blackberries about June of 2009.

The latest picture was taken after we had 3 or 4 frosts and freezes. You can see how much growth was made in August, September and October.

From what I read, the primocanes that came up this past summer will now be called floricanes and will produce the fruit next year and then must be cut back to the ground. New primocanes will then come up in June/July and produce the fruit for 2010. And on and on (I hope). I am looking forward to picking blackberries and not having to battle the thorns.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 8, 2008

PVC Foundations for Raised Beds

Since I just started this blog and not much is happening in the garden at the moment, the only thing I have to write about is what I have already done since March of 2008. I wish I could say that the raised beds pictured in my 1st post were my own idea, but I am not that original. I got the ideas from a book by Jeff Ball called the “60 Minute Garden” written in the 1980’s.

His unique idea was the 1 1/2" pvc pipe he used to both anchor the frames to the ground and provide a way to add trellises, flexible pvc pipe for protective tunnels and even electric fencing if needed.

I built the trellises with 2x2’s for the uprights and 1x2’s for the cross bars. And the trellis netting was from Walmart.

The hoops for the tunnels are 1” flexible PVC pipe from Lowe’s (100’ roll).

I haven’t put an electric fence up yet, but if this continues I might. I didn’t know that squirrels ate lettuce!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

First Blog for Skip's Edible Garden

Well if I am going to start this blog, I might as well jump right in, even though it seems like an odd time to start a gardening blog in the fall/winter time. As an introduction, I live on the outskirts of Chattanooga, TN in the city of Ooltewah and garden or at least try to garden in the red clay. Since red clay is very difficult to work if the conditions are not just right, I have built raised beds and added a mix of topsoil, sand, shredded pine bark and mushroom compost. I started gardening here, after 25 years in south Florida, in 2002 and at first tried to cultivate the red clay by adding my own compost.

I had limited success and then I read Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening and decided to give his method a try.

I built a 4 foot square raised bed as Mel described in his book and planted beans, southern peas and tomatoes. The tomatoes were a success, but the beans and southern peas did not produce very well.

This past spring I built the raised beds pictured below and planted green beans, butter beans, southern peas, cucumbers, okra, peppers (bell and jalapeno) and lettuce. Much better success with the raised beds.

I know I have lots of work to do on how to write and layout a blog, but I hope to be able to post more shortly.