This is the sequel to our first big garden update back in March, when we spent St. Patrick's Day planting snow peas. It was going to be posted once I finished building and filling the raised beds, but some other posts took precedence, and then we needed more recent photos to stay current. As I’m writing this, though, the gardens are even happier now, and we are picking snow peas every few days and watching the rest of our veggies grow like crazy. Too much is happening out there on a daily basis to catch it all, but I wanted to talk a bit about the work I put in earlier this spring.
When we moved in last summer, there were 3 small raised beds left by the previous owners. They were plastic, which worked fine, but I wanted to construct fresh beds to expand the growing areas available to us. I began planning the project in the fall - considering how many beds I could build, the dimensions of each one, how much lumber was needed, etc. After the bustle of the winter holidays died down, I purchased the wood I needed and got started. I decided to go with untreated spruce, as I didn’t want treated wood leeching any chemicals into the soil, and cedar is fantastically out of budget for the size of the project (and my bank account). I added a coat of boiled linseed oil to the boards to add some longevity, wiped them down and waited for the ground to warm up. The prepped lumber spent a chilly couple of months taking up space in our 3-season porch. Getting it out into the garden felt cathartic. The garage was equally crowded with bags of peat moss, vermiculite and soil mix, so filling the beds and being able to get in and out of our cars comfortably once more was icing on the cake.
Meghan ordered some mason bee larva from Crown Bees for our second bee house, as the first house was set out for native bees. We worried that not enough bees made it through hibernation to pollinate and reproduce, but by the start of May, there was activity at the bee house all day, every day. It was great to watch, and the mason bees were as good-natured as we’d heard, so it was exciting for both of us. Our apple and peach trees are heavy with growing fruit now, thanks to our bees - who filled up 26 of the roughly 40 holes(!) We have to leave the new larva to grow until fall, when we will extract cocooned adults and keep them in hibernation (via refrigerator) until it’s time to do it all again next spring.
The snow pea patch received some attention from the bees as well, kick-starting what has so far been a great season for them. I put down a row of pole beans behind the peas, similarly to how we grew them last year. After some early beetle damage (presumably killed off by liberal use of neem oil), the beans are about ready to start climbing.
We spread seeds saved from last year’s tomatoes in the raised beds nearby, as well as turnips, kale and basil. I bought some additional kale and broccoli seedlings to have early greenery, and they have been doing their thing with no problems all season. I’d say it’s about time for some homegrown kale chips.
The beds on the other side of the driveway were planted with onions and shallots (both bulb and seed), calypso beans, broccoli rabe, bell peppers, bush cucumbers, fennel and carrots. I saved seeds from acorn squash, and both orange and white jack-o-lanterns in the fall, and gave those seeds a chance in the open space near the road; I raked up all of the old, dry mulch and threw it in the ravine, replacing it with hills of fresh soil. Of the dozen hills I made, all but one has more plants growing in it than I know what to do with! I’m seriously looking forward to homegrown pumpkins this Halloween.
The rest of the front yard is dominated by a sort of wild-looking flower garden. There are two massive peonies, which have been so full of blooms that they’re drooping, and rows upon rows of allium, gladiola and liatris. Meghan worked her butt off to bring all of the dead-looking rose bushes back to life; we added a climber and a floribunda to the collection last month too, so we have lots of color to enjoy, and there is food for hummingbirds and honeybees. It’ll need to be wrangled a bit more as it’s restructured, but it has a beauty to it regardless.
In all, I built three 4’x8’ beds and another 4’x6’, leaving one small 3’x4’ plastic bed intact. The project was a bit more involved than I originally expected, but I enjoy working with my hands (obviously), so it was a positive experience. I’m hoping to get at 5-7 years out of these beds, which is a pretty solid timeframe to work within.
You can check the S+S Instagram for more progress photos from the past few months as I built and planted this year’s garden. I hope yours are growing well too!