New raised bed - all comments and suggestions welcome

art_1(10 CA)April 30, 2011

This is my first time planting so many different things at once. The bed is 15' x 3' x 1'. I plan to attach a 5' trellis to the back and sides soon. I appreciate any comments or advice regarding care, technique, whether to pinch the smallest of the doublets and triplets etc.

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Dan Staley

You'll find out that that spacing for toms and zuke will not be the same next year. And cabbage is a fall crop, esp in that zone. Not sure how those melons and cukes will have enough space either. Its all good and that's how all of us learn.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 11:57PM
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I can second Dan on this. Thats about how close I planted last year, and while it looks great now, you will be amazed what a jungle it is in a month or two. Zucchini can take a 4x4 ft space each. Recommended spacing for tomatoes is at least 3 ft apart.

In zone 9, I would think it is already to late for most lettuce, spinach and cabbage.They prefer weather under 75 degrees.

Last year I had 3 tomato plants in about the space that you have 5, and mine were more crowded than they should have been.

If they havent been in there long, you might want to consider digging up the spinach and lettuce, spacing the tomatoes out further, and then sticking the spinach and lettuce back in amongst the tomatoes. They will be over and done with before the tomatoes get huge, and a little shade will be fine for them in your climate.

Obviously, I dont really know anything about gardening in zone 9. You may get different advice form California gardeners. Good luck and enjoy!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Do you know your sunset zone (which part of CA are you in?) It's almost definitely too late for the spinach and cabbage. It makes me kind of mad at whatever store sold you those seedlings, actually. I'm still planting lettuce -- in the shade, very close together, with plans to start cutting it and eating it at the size yours is, before it goes to seed when it matures.

The peppers can handle 12 inch spacing. The tomatoes will be much happier if you give them at least 24 inches, and they'll need some kind of support. That sungold that's in the middle away from where you plan to put the trellis could use a stake, I suppose, but pruning and tying it up regularly as it grows will turn into a huge chore because it grows so fast in the summer. It can get more than 8 feet tall. It will be easier to handle if you give them enough space to squeeze in tomato cages (the biggest cage you can get. They'll still outgrow it, but that's okay.)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:57AM
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chudak(10 San Diego)

Agree with the above comments about spacing and plan selection. My winter lettuce crop already bolted and has been pulled out as have my Bordeaux spinach.

Last year I planted 4 tomato plants in a 4x4 bed and they did fine. This year I'm putting them a little closer to together so we'll see how that goes (may have to do some pruning). However, your zucs will get huge and will quickly cover up all your strawberries and everything nearby.

Last year I had one zuc, one crookneck, one acorn and one spaghetti squash sharing a 4x4 bed and they not only outgrew the bed, the winter squash were wandering all over the yard around the bed as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Squash

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 10:53AM
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Dan Staley

The other thing is the position and aspect of the bed. We of course don't know where you are, but those beans against the fence will struggle for enough light until June and then again in August (if you replant). The lettuce would be better off in the shade if you can actually get it to grow in Z9 this time of year. That tallow or whatever that plant is will prevent light from getting to the strawberries as well, not sure if they will have enough light in the future.

Lastly, I'd put two stakes against the front board as you'll likely get bowing from the weight.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 12:07PM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

Not sure what your climate is, however, I'm Calif. coastal (meaning fog and summer gloom from June to perhaps mid-August), as a result, I have planted tomatoes since last fall (cherry types), with hopes that they just might "catch" some heat before June - we are now having some sunshine, and a few of the toms are looking good. They may - however - just set until August anyway, but they are early types, so thought I'd try.

As for lettuce, this year, I have some Bibb types that I intend to start to be growing during the "gloom" period of June, July - as is our usual funky beach weather.

So that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

About a comment - my only thought would be the shade from the fence. Most warm veggies want lots of sunshine, I can't tell from the pic, perhaps it is on the north side anyway, in which case, a trellis on it would help keep some of those climbers happy.

Just my 2 c's.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 12:14PM
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art_1(10 CA)

The plan is to have everything along the back climb straight up rather than sprawl. I am in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 20 miles from the coast. Temperatures rarely approach 90 degrees F during the summer, and might drop below 32 degrees F for a week during the winter. The bed is 6 feet out from the fence and is currently getting full sun from ~7:30 AM until ~5:15 PM. I just planted these yesterday and I can move them if it will make for less work/a better crop. Perhaps I will move the middle two tomato plants to the 3' x 2' open space. Thank you for the replies.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 12:44PM
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Hi Art,
You have received a lot of wonderful ideas, you will do fine, and as was said, this is how we all learn. One thing I might offer though, Is there any way You can put the tomatoes by themselves, this is a pic of my SunGold Tomato plant, I topped it off three times and it could not be contained, it is over 6' wide and 10' tall at times (scary on a ladder...for sure)....

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 3:50PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Just let her go and learn for next year. I screw things up constantly. I just mark it down as experience.

Those strawberries will throw out runners and try invading the rest of your bed/your yard/etc...You can pot them up in small pots and multiply your plants should you want to do that.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 5:21PM
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art_1(10 CA)

For the strawberries, I was going to clip all of the runners and flowers this year (or at least for a couple of months). Will the berries or yields be that much smaller if I let them produce this year? I will try to give the tomatoes more space.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 8:35PM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

Asking questions on this forum is a great way to get started. I only wish I did the first time I tried things... and failed.

I just sowed Bok Choy so I'm about a month later than you are with your cabbages. I guess the worst can happen is we'll both be eating young baby brassicas and try to plant earlier next time.

The first year I planted Brandywine/Sweet100/Sungold, I did not expect them to grow to 12 ft. Since you've only planted these recently, would you entertain the idea of moving Sweet100 and Sungold towards the back against your trellis? Ace and Betterboy will not span as much as the vining or cherry type. These can probably go to the 2nd row space wherever available. The move would not be necessary if you want the cherry type to sprawl on the ground outside the bed. I've never had toms spawling on the ground so I can't comment on that.

Whatever you move, try not to move the beans and cucumbers too much or at all. I did that once and learnt the hard way.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 12:31AM
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jonhughes your SunGold is scaring me. My SunGold's are already climbing over the top of my 7' 5" trellis. I was thinking of topping them but now that I have seen yours I think not. I don't have room for them to grow that wide.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 12:59AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

One more comment - if you are getting temps in the 70-80 range, as I am - you may want to spread some straw around your new seedlings - or cover them with something during the heat of the day. Soil temps are warming up now, and seedlings have a way to go before their roots reach cooler soils.

I also use a cardboard "tent" and sometimes nursery seedling trays (with holes in the bottom), as a temporary coverlet, until the little tads can fend for themselves.

Just my 2 c's.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 1:33PM
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aeleva(USDA-9 CA)

I'm jealous of your planting area. I live in a townhouse with little yard to speak of. Even with only 5-6 hours of direct sun per day, my Sweet 100s grew to be 12 feet tall last year, and quite wide. I had to keep tying them up.

And your lettuce may be fine. Mine is doing great (it hasn't been too hot yet in the south bay). Maybe it just needs a little shade if it really does get that many hours of direct sun.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 2:02PM
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When I lived in San Leandro, my biggest problem was snails. They destroyed everything. I hope you're ready.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 2:50PM
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art_1(10 CA)

I just bought a bale of straw and a weeper hose today. Can you recommend any prevention/protection measures for snails and ants?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 12:50AM
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I'm a fan of Sluggo for snails, it's just iron phosphate, is very safe for most critters and acts as a mild fertilizer as it decomposes.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 2:58AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

For snails - early morning pickings can eliminate them. Turn over boards, leaves, etc., for a diligent search - it is possible to completely eliminate them that way.

For ants - keep sweets and grease out of the compost pile if you intend to use it in your bin. I allow birds into my beds, after the seedlings are bigger - they do a good job of eliminating pests - however, NOT in the strawberry patch. Also strawberries need their own patch - I feel.

One other idea that I missed. I grow a lot of garlic and onions along the front of my bins. They are short and won't shade anything behind them. Just harvested about 50 or so nice red garlics that were planted last October - our "spring" here. No need to waste that nice space.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 11:37AM
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I will comment on the actual size of your bed. Everyone else has hit on what you've done with the plants. My mistake was to build the incorrect size bed. I have two 12x12 raised beds and I have to walk on the soil to get to everything. Yours is pretty much the perfect size xx' long by 3-4' wide is perfect in my opinion. Wide enough to plant a few plants next to each other (bush beans if you wanted), but not so wide that you'd ever have to walk on the soil.

You will have fun as things start to grow that's for sure. Once the tomato plants get bigger, make sure you lift up the leaves to get to the ones on the inside. I don't have anywhere close to the growing season that you do and I spaced my tomatoes so that only 3 plants are in a 3' x 12' area.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 5:51PM
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Looks like you are going to encounter spacing issues later in the season. I would work on thinning out some of the larger growing plants like Tomatoes and melons.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 6:01PM
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art_1(10 CA)

I moved two of the tomato plants (Ace and Better Boy) to the open space in the middle of the bed. I'm thinking of adding carrots, onions, garlic, herbs, and possibly some companion plants.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 11:39PM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

art, where did you get your straw? I've been wanting to get them but always wonder where do people buy straw in california? Good move on the tomato.

Are you going to add all those to your existing bed? Or to build a new bed for them? I had short variety of carrots in a 1 ft tall raised bed. They hit the clay below and did not do well. Herbs like Basil will probably work.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 1:06AM
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art_1(10 CA)

I bought the straw from El Sobrante Feed & Pet Supply.

Here is a link that might be useful: El Sobrante Feed & Pet Supply

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 11:29AM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

The El Sobrante feed store is very far from me. There's a local feed store in the South Bay, I may try my luck there. In this crowded area, it doesn't look like feed stores have any straws. But they may be able to point me somewhere local to get it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 3:52PM
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art_1(10 CA)

I am pretty happy with the way everything is growing so far. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 11:00AM
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It's looking really good!
I was wondering about the trellis netting over the top of the bed? I think it makes sense to me but wanted to know what your findings on that were????
Fun, isn't it???


    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:33PM
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art_1(10 CA)

I decided to use the netting to guide and support the tomatoes. Yes, definitely fun!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 12:57PM
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art_1(10 CA)

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 8:17PM
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art_1(10 CA)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 3:54PM
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art_1(10 CA)

Here's what I'm using (Steve Solomon's Complete Organic Fertilizer):

4 parts alfalfa pellets
1 part kelp meal
2/3 part dolomite lime
1/2 part rock phosphate
1/2 part bat guano
1/3 part gypsum

I scratched 3 1/2 quarts of this mixture into the soil around the time of planting, and spread and watered in another 3 1/2 quarts after about 2 months. My planting bed occupies approximately 50 square feet.

Here is a link that might be useful: A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden: Homemade Organic Fertilizer - Steve Solomon

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 4:16PM
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