Tag Archives: soil

summer garden raised bed

Building Good Soil in a Raised Garden Bed

pine wood raised bed
Raised Garden Bed

I was thrilled to see the raised garden bed my son had made. He wanted something to do, so he researched the “how to’s”, went and bought the wood and put the thing together. With his brother’s help, they carried it to the backyard and finished tightening the screws.

Step one on the road to Florida vegetable gardening was complete.
Now I just needed some dirt! But buying dirt doesn’t mean you will have the good soil needed to grown super veggies.

Most gardeners know that soil makes or breaks the growth of the plantings. Planting directly in the ground means there is at least something there to begin with, but starting with an empty box means building the good soil from scratch.

The Basics For Building Good Soil

Over the years this is what I use to create good, worm-loving dirt that gives a good yield of crops.  I’m no expert, so feel free to leave a comment with your recommendations.

1. Loam / soil / organic dirt
2. Compost – store bought and / or homemade
3. Organic Fertilizer
4. Bone Meal (for crop root development)

The location of this raised bed presented a problem when it came to filling it. My son has a truck and was happy to go pick up a load of loam / dirt, but getting it to the wooden box was not going to be easy.

First we filled the bottom of the box with leaves and grass collected in the lawn mower bag. Then I put my black fabric bags inside the bottomless box.  I also left a few pieces of cardboard in the bottom to help keep the weeds / grass from growing.

growing carrots and lettuce
Bags with carrots and lettuce

For now, I planted vegetables separately in each of the bags, and I ended up buying some new bags, so I could grow more.

Two bags had potatoes – the red ones gave me lots of little red potatoes, with tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and peas in the others.  When the plants had gone by and were no longer producing, I dumped them into the bed, plants and all.

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My Garden March 2nd

Between using the dirt in the black pots, and adding compost (store bought and home made), I can eventually fill the box with relatively good soil.

Creating good garden dirt is an ongoing process.   Banana peels, egg shells, and chopped vegetable scraps can be added directly to the dirt in the box.  Soil amendments must be continuously used to replenish the soil.

Hopefully, that will bring earthworms.  Soil can’t be called good, unless there is an abundance of worms!

It’s been 6 months since I began to fill my raised bed, and haven’t done much this summer except let the tomatoes, basil, eggplants, and peppers grow wild. The heat keeps me inside, but I do pick a small tomato or pepper every now and then.

The wood has faded to a weathered appearance, and slowly I will be raising the soil level as I empty more of my fabric bags.

summer garden raised bed
The Summer Garden Grows Wild
female cardinal
Female Cardinal, photo credit: Skeeze @ Pixabay

Cardinals come to the garden looking for bugs to eat, and they drink and bathe in my makeshift bird bath sitting on the corner. (I can’t get a good photo, so I used this one from Pixabay.)

Little lizards run along the edges and I see the occasional ladybug and butterfly on the plants.  Parsley worms have been found on the parsley.

raised garden bed building the soil
Once the weather cools off enough to work outside, I will dump all my fabric bags out into the box. I will add more grass clippings, along with organic fertilizer, bone meal, and cornmeal (supposedly it brings worms). In other words, I will work on building up the dirt to get it ready for winter planting.

I’ve found that the big wooden box is a good place to store my unused bags and pots for now.

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container garden

Plant Shrubs in Winter, Readying the Garden Beds

weed fabric
The black fabric beneath the mulch has to go!

Today I did something that I have waited a long time to do.  I began work on my flower garden beds.  I am finally in my new home!   The big move began way back in January, and has taken the whole year.    There is still more to move from storage, and all the boxes need to be unpacked, but having a chance to work in MY yard again is a wonderful feeling.

We have merged two households, and I went from a three story house (including the basement) to a single story, no basement and small attic. So finding space for everyone’s stuff is challenging. There is a GoodWill nearby which I will be visiting often in the months to come.

Last night we bought garden dirt – 4 bags – and this morning I added it to two gardens. These are gardens which already have plants in them and I plan to add flowering shrubs to brighten the landscape.  The raised vegetable gardens are coming soon (fingers crossed).

All three planting beds have black fabric in the bottom, which I hate, and have removed from two beds. I don’t mind pulling weeds, and if a garden is done correctly, the weeds shouldn’t be a huge problem. So first thing I did was pull up the plastic fabric that is used for weed control.

garden bed prep
Front Garden

The garden bed near the front door has one overgrown shrub – which I am pretty sure I used to know the name of – and it needs to be cut way back. If it wasn’t already so large, I would probably take it out completely.  The bushy perennial blocks the breeze from entering my front windows, not to mention it mostly blocks the view out the front!

Since I am still busy with the house, my focus will be on the gardens already in place. Amending the soil and adding nutrients was my focus this morning. I pulled the old mulch out of the way to put the bagged dirt down, then mixed in some blood meal.

azalea shrub
This Azalea needs some help.

I did the same thing to the little area containing a raggedy looking azalea bush. I may cut this thing back and see if it will fill in more.
My plan is to fill in these gardens as I find plants for them. I can’t dig through the black fabric, so it had to go. Since this yard is new to me, I have to watch it for sunny and shady spots and buy plants accordingly. The azalea needs light shade and usually does well under the trees. It also likes acidic soil, which also happens to create blue flowering hydrangeas! I may be able to add some blue-flowering hydrangeas to this garden area, which is an exciting prospect.
While reading my gardening book, I discovered this about Florida planting: *Plant SHRUBS in winter AND *Plant TREES and PALMS in summer. Now (almost November) is the time to begin planning my perennial gardens. After that, it’s on to building the raised vegetable garden beds.

Making Hydrangea Flowers Turn Blue: Lowering the pH

Blue hydrangea shrub
Blue Flowering Hydrangea Shrub

Certain plants need a low pH, or acidic soil to grow and thrive. The hydrangea will do well in any pH – acidic or alkaline – but the soil type will effect the flower color. If you don’t care what color your flowers are, then you will accept the fact that your alkaline soil will give you pink blooms, but many people want hydrangeas for their bright blue color. Continue reading Making Hydrangea Flowers Turn Blue: Lowering the pH

Bone Meal For The Spring Flower Garden

tulips and daffodils
Bone meal helps grow strong roots

It sounds a bit gross to use crushed bones when fertilizing, but the fine, powdery substance works wonders for your plants. Bone meal is a great source of phosphorus which helps establish good roots, and without good roots, plants don’t grow as well.

Bulbs, like the ones in my photo here, will appreciate some bone meal mixed into the planting soil.  Your tulips and daffodils will produce more blooms, as will any flowers planted in spring.

Bone meal is the perfect addition to an organic garden. I add it to the bare garden soil in spring before it’s time to plant.  It helps make the soil better for everything you plan to grow, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Use it as a soil amendment around perennials too. I sprinkle it around the hydrangea shrub and other perennials in the yard once the snow is gone. Rake it into the soil and be careful around the shallow roots. Bone meal replaces depleted phosphorus and will get the plants off to a good start for summer growth.

I buy mine in 4.5 lb. bags and directions say to use 1 teaspoon mixed into the dirt for bulbs. For shrubs, such as the hydrangea, apply 1 to 2 pounds (2.25 cups of bone meal equals 1 pound). Directions are on the bag, or box and it can even be used in pots.

Blood meal is a different product and can be used to supply the nitrogen your garden needs. Nitrogen keeps plants looking green. Use it if the leaves on your plants begin to turn yellow.

Be careful when using fertilizer, even organic fertilizer like bone meal and blood meal, because it is still possible to use too much and damage the plants.

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Annuals and Perennials will grow better with bone meal.

Above you can see the lush growth of my nasturtiums (annuals), and hydrangea and coneflower (echinacea) which are perennials.

(All photos in this post are my own, and are not free to use.)