- Gardening year: 2012
- Location: North Alabama
- USDA Zone: 7b
- Planting By Color: Red
Hello, my name is Diane and I have been learning a great deal from everyone on this site. I live on Lake Guntersville, in northern Alabama and I would love any input on my SFG plan. We built the raised beds last year and ultimately got off to a slow start on sowing due to the build and the fact that my indoor planting was in a sunroom that did not get UV light! So this year we are going full guns and planting nothing but heirlooms with grow lights.
The details: we live on 3 acres in the South with a family of 4. So, all our plants must withstand the hottest, humid weather and must be liked by all. We also live on a hill looking over a large lake so when the weather turns bad, we get massive winds up the slope from the lake. To assist our garden survivability, we built a picket fence for wind reduction and keep the dogs out of the garden. I also am trying to grow ‘up’ when I can, hence the trellises. They also provide shade for the lettuce/spinach during the heat of summer. My husband built me a wonderful raised bed garden with seating along all the edges of the beds. Each bed has chicken wire bottoms and are lined with commercial grade landscape material since we used scrap wood to build and also stained the wood. I still need to finish the pathways in an affordable manner and install drip irrigation, but last year we had our first crop.
I try to stay organic, but sometimes I have to pull out the big guns (BT for example) for the bigger pests that refuse to die. But I want to try to focus on companion planting and year-round growing if possible and will add more physical bed covers this year to protect our crops. We loved the beans and tomatoes most from our garden last year. But then again, so did the chipmunks. I wondered why I had such beautiful soy bean plants that never had enough pods to harvest. Well, upon inspection, all the ‘empty’ pods were covering the soil. Little critters were sitting under the shade of the plants eating away. Needless to say, my husband played ‘plink’ with them a bit. I was horrified when I got home and my son came running in saying he got his first kill that day with his BB-gun. After, I also realized that the Chipmunks weren’t the only mammals eating my beans and tomatoes. My son and husband would go pick playing the “one for the basket, two for me” game. About the only time I could catch my son away from his video games during the summer was when he was sitting with his friends in the garden chowing down on soy beans. I wondered why they always kept coming over so often. So, a bumper crop enjoyed by others.
We compost outside and also have two worm factories in our basement. Then worms have provided us with some excellent tea and planting mix. Those little guys really can populate quickly. I want to try to move them outside this year to enahnce our pallet compost bins. I also learned about a way to add them to the raised beds and provide a feeding box in each corner to give them something to much on in the bed. Still researching this. Of course, they can’t go anywhere due to the bed lining, so I will need to make sure they can survive in the heat of a raised bed.
The lettuce took off and never bolted because it was under a cattle fencing angled trellis with melons growing and shading it from the intense Alabama summer sun. I am moving the okra to the main yard…WAY too big and actually got tired of eating okra from four plants. I will let them serve as a yard annual this year. The luffa took off and we actually have sponges. This year I want to actually fry some up to eat! But the ultimate success were tomatoes and peppers. I had to purchase actual plants due to the misstep in seed sowing. I would water my tomatoes with miracle grow and powdered milk mixture once per week. My trellises were loaded and kept climbing up to the lower deck. Peppers will be limited to single plants this year. WOW, we actually got tired of eating peppers. So did our friends! My pole beans also covered the deck railing!
I will take more photos this year of the plant growth. Last year it was hot, humid and health took a toll. We did suffer a bit of damage from the tornadoes that whipped through Alabama and had tornadoes pass on both sides of us within 1-mile away. Once we took care of damage, we were able to focus on completing the beds.
Below are the pictures of the other garden areas. The herb garden will actually be called the Biergarten. I have been saving beer bottles for the path and will be using the bottle caps for making the stepping stones and hypertufa planters. This will be the ‘big’ project this year. We also happened upon 350 eye screws for $5. So we will be adding them at the 12″ marks in the beds to tie wire that will divide my beds! Great find!
I would love any input from others who grow in the South. Would love to see some other ideas as well for bed covers and paths. We definately need to get the Kitchen Garden path completed. Money is tighter this year, so we are thinking outside the box. Can’t wait to hear your responses!
2012_Garden Plan.xls go here to download the Excel version and see all the charts.