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Raise it up

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Raised bed gardens offer alternative to traditional gardening techniques

By Deanna Godman

Anna Lee Stokley made the switch from traditional gardening to raised beds three years ago – and so far, this year has produced a bumper crop.

“This year has been the best,” Stokley said. “It is still kind of a work in progress.”
Stokley has not yet determined the best method for weed control between her raised bed. She grows onions, broccoli, cabbage, sugar snap beans, green beans and corn. One of her raised beds is an herb garden. Stokely, who is also known as The Bread Lady, uses the sage from her garden in her sage-rosemary sourdough bread that she sells at the farmers market.
Stokley switched over to raised beds because she thought it would be easier to keep the weeds out. She read the book “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew and decided to give it a try.
“It sounded different and doable,” said Stokley, “but I decided I didn’t like it.”
She felt that the square foot arrangement, in which raised beds are marked off in square feet and planted accordingly, was too limiting. She likes to plant her raised beds in rows instead.
Stokley used a modified version of the soil mix outlined in Bartholomew’s book. The book suggests using one-third compost, one-third peat moss and one-third vermiculite. Stokley was unable to find big bags of vermiculite so she used less of it. This year she mixed in some Miracle Grow garden soil. She also adds her own compost to help keep the soil fertile.
She started her beds at 6 inches deep because it was recommended in the book, but now she has them deeper.
Stokley’s husband built a fence around her raised beds to keep her chickens out. She is hoping that the fence will also keep the raccoons away from her corn. Her raised bed garden is not as big as her traditional garden was, but she is getting the same amount of food or more in less space.
Stokley has 10 raised beds. Two of them are longer and run along the fence. The rest of them are 4x4 so that the middle can be reached from any angle, she said.
Stokley said she has had better yields – especially this year – from her raised beds than she did her traditional garden.
She has also experimented with companion planting. She planted her dill near the cabbage and broccoli and has not had the problems with pests that she usually has.
“It was not cost effective the first couple of years, but now it is,” said Stokley. “The yields are so much better this year. It’s just doing phenomenally well.”
“I enjoy the raised beds garden and enjoy companion planting,” said Stokley. “I think the combination of the two works well for me.”
For more resources on raised beds, see Deanna’s blog at http://blog.funmama.net.