Okay, I know one little bunch of radishes doesn’t look like much of a harvest, but it is the very first produce from my new potager, so I am excited. These “French Breakfast” radishes were planted on August 21st…just 23 days ago from this writing. Some of them are a bit small, but there are going to be lots of them, and I need to start thinning. You see, I mix a few radish seeds in with nearly every row I seed because they come up so quickly. Once I can see the row, I can mulch. And the radish seedlings help break up any hard surface so the seeds accompanying them can push through more easily.
But, I should back up a bit, and fill in what work took place since the “Early Beginnings” post. Just as soon as the potager surface was level, and the water line was in, I laid out the pattern for the raised beds and put 25 yr. landscape cloth down on all the paths, pinning it securely with landscape pins. The cloth came in 4′ x 100′ rolls, so I had to cut most of them in half. The two main paths are 4′ but all the others are 2′. I used a box cutter knife and it didn’t take as long as I expected, but it was a boring job. I kept the plastic packaging on the roll and cut it in half thru the center rather than unrolling them to cut. I measured and installed the cloth so that the edges of the raised beds would all sit on the cloth, and as soon as I finished that, I moved in the 3’x 6′ beds, because I could move those by myself. This photo shows the front rows of beds in place. See the black landscape cloth over the paths on the far right? The paths on the left are already covered with mulch.
I wanted to get soil to fill the boxes right away, but unfortunately Jason was having some equipment problems, so there was a delay. I’d made the decision to get soil to fill my beds from Ewer’s Top Soil, near Fairmount, IN. “Why?” you might ask, and that’s a good question. Well, bagged soil is way too expensive for the number of beds I have to fill. I’ve bought loads of soil from various places over the years, and they were always contaminated with millions of weed seeds. I do not exaggerate, millions. But, a friend has been getting soil from Ewer’s for the last couple of years and she was happy with it. So, when the couple who bought my farm wanted to expand the Cook’s Garden with a two raised beds, I suggested Ewer’s, because they not only have top soil, but what Jason calls his “Garden Soil Mix,” which is a blend of top soil mixed with black dirt. They filled their two new boxes, and over the next few weeks I watched carefully to see just how many weeds emerged. There were a few…a little foxtail and lambs quarter, but very few compared to what I’d seen before. I was sold.
While I waited for soil, I kept busy spreading mulch, even where I hadn’t even yet moved in the boxes. One morning, I had a helper and we moved the 6’x 6′ boxes in. In this photo the boxes are in, but you can see that I still wasn’t done mulching. Eventually all the paths were
mulched….requiring 5 loads in total. Finally, Jason called and I was able to get a load of soil. Yes, I am shoveling it into a wheelbarrow, then trundling it to each bed. Each load of soil is 21 wheelbarrow loads. A wheelbarrow load is 12 heaping shovelfuls, because that’s what I can move without straining my back or losing control. One load fills not quite 2 -6′ x 6′ boxes, or 4- 3’x6′ boxes. So far, I have shoveled and moved 5 loads, and that’s about 1/3 of the boxes. The most I can do in a day is 2 loads. Remember, I am old!
So, being the curious person that I am, I had to take the scales out to weigh an average shoveful. It was 13 pounds. Thirteen pounds times 12 shovelfuls is 156 pounds per wheelbarrow, times 21 wheelbarrows per load is 3276 pounds, times 5 loads is 19,656 pounds. Divide that by 2000, and I’ve already moved 9.828 tons! So, only 19.656 tons to go….hopefully.
On August 21st, after filling the first four boxes, I planted fall crops: spinach, dwarf kale, lettuce, turnips, kohlrabi, mini-carrots, arugula, mesclun, and purple beans. “Royal Burgundy” is my favorite bean, and since it can tolerate colder soils, I’m hoping they will not stop growing when the nights begin to turn cool. They mature in approximately 54 days. Even if they don’t produce a crop, at least they will be putting nitrogen into the soil, and that’s a good thing. Every row gets radish seeds mixed in except the beans, because they germinate quickly and are strong enough to break through the soil on their own. With the warm weather we’ve had, the seeds germinated quickly.
As you can see, using raised beds allows me to plant densely. In the prior photo, you’ll see four white row labels. This box contains 3 rows. The center row is beans, which need more space. The outer rows are actually beets on the right and mini-carrots on the left, but what you see growing there are the radish seeds that are their companions, because the beets and carrots do not germinate quickly. See? I told you I am going to have lots of radishes. Maybe I should count them!
Note: I did not receive any compensation or discount from Ewer’s Top Soil for this post. I believe in promoting a good family business whenever I find one.