"Population must increase rapidly, more rapidly than in former times, and ere long the most
valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.
No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression in any of its forms."
President Abraham Lincoln
Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society - September 30, 1859
Here is an excellent link of places to buy vermiculite, sorted
by location: Where
to Buy Vermiculite
This is a very good on-line calculator to help one determine how much soil is needed to fill a raised bed. Just input the dimensions of your raised bed and it calculates the amount of soil amendments needed (expressed in cubic feet) to fill the bed: Cubic Yard Calculators (FYI: 1 Cubic Yard = 27 Cubic feet)
One of the questions gardeners always seem to have is when is the right time to start their plants. This is mostly determined by their last frost free date in the spring or their first frost date in the fall. It is important to know this as it determines when you should plant or start seeds of your favorite vegetables. Most seed packets will list the best time to either start seeds indoors or when to plant them out into the garden based on these dates. Getting accurate frost free dates from the Internet is somewhat problematic. I did a quick search and found nearly as much inaccurate as accurate information. Here are two excellent sources of good frost free dates for the U.S. The simplest one to use is from the Victory Seed Company, found here: Frost Date Selector Page – Victory Seed Company you first select your state, then your nearest city. This should work fine for most gardeners. There is also another good source from the National Climate Data Center (NOAA) for those who want a little more in-depth information. The PDF can be viewed and downloaded from here: Frost/Freeze Data for the U.S.
Using this source one can find the date and probability levels of the last 36, 32, and 28 degrees for a particular city based on climatological data from 1971-2000. To be very conservative, I would recommend that the 36 degree threshold be used (frost can still form at the surface even with temperatures above 32 degrees) along with the 50 % probability level. As an added margin of safety I would add 7 days to this date. As an example in Indiana at the “INDIANAPOLIS INTL AP” location the date of the last 36 degree day with a 50 % probability is April 29th. Adding 7 days to this gives you May 6th. In my experience, this date seems about right to me for in Central Indiana. To be extra safe, one can also use the 10% probability date without adding any days. For fall gardening I would use the first frost date (also using the 36 degree threshold with the 50% probability date), but I would not add any days to this date because most frost tolerant fall grown plants are almost fully mature by then and can withstand most frosts and light freezes.
Here are a few of my recommended "Can't Miss" vegetable varieties:
Cabbage: Golden Acre
Cauliflower: Snow Crown (better in Fall)
Green Bean, Bush: Derby
Lettuce: Sierra (hard to find), Green Towers, Green Ice (better in spring), Salad Bowl (better in spring), Nevada, Buttercrunch (better in spring/early summer)
Onion: Candy (recommend buying transplants and getting them in the ground in very early spring)
Shelling Pea: Mr. Big (spring only)
Sweet Pepper: Sweet Banana
Hot Pepper: Super Chili, Hungarian Wax (Hot Banana)
Potato: Yukon Gold
No!!! Do not use any type of pressure treated wood or creosote railroad ties for your vegetable garden raised beds. They will leach out chemicals into the soil. Raised beds can be constructed using ordinary pine or rot resistant wood such as cedar. Ordinary pine is a good inexpensive wood to use, but will not last as long as other rot resistant kinds. Raised beds can also be constructed with bricks, concrete blocks, or composite plastic lumber. Prefabricated raised bed kits are also available for purchase from many garden supply companies. My personal preference is to use inexpensive pine boards, which will rot and last no more than 4 to 5 years.
There is no "easy" way to do this. Perennial
in raised beds should be dug/pulled up from the roots. I found the best
time to do this is in the early spring just before planting time. I mostly
use a hand trowel for this job. If you do a good enough job of removing
the grass in the spring, you should not have a big problem with grass the rest
of the growing season. Other weeds in the beds should be removed by hand
as they come up. Five or ten minutes a day pulling weeds will a go a long
way to a generally weed free garden. Mulching your beds after planting
will also help keep weeds in check.
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