Enjoying the Fruits of our Labor
We’re very sad to say that it’s the end of summer. As autumn kicks into full swing, it exchanges the warm, sunny days of summer with cool temperatures, falling leaves and the end of a season. Your garden, however, is at its peak in produce. Our Home For Life raised garden is overflowing with vegetables and herbs we planted in the Spring.
One of our objectives this growing season was to prove that beets could be grown in a raised garden. Not only did they grow, but they thrived. Our beets would have been bigger if we spaced them out better.
The plot we used was already quite full. What area they did have, it did not allow them to expand properly. If you decide to plant beets in your garden next year, make sure to sow seed clusters one inch deep and one inch apart. Successful seedlings should then be thinned to three inches apart when they’ve grown three inches tall. Rows need to be 12 to 18 inches apart. By doing this, you will give the beets the space they need to fully grow.
Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
We also planted sweet potatoes in bags this year. The sweet potatoes grew well in the organic soil. One thing to note: Make sure the vines have turned yellow. This is how you know your sweet potatoes are ready for harvesting.
To harvest, gently dig into the soil with your hands (we highly recommend) or use a digging fork to loosen soil around the primary crown. Give yourself a large enough circle around the crown to pull it up without damaging any of the tubers. Then, begin pulling off your potatoes with your hands. Take your unwashed potatoes to a warm, well-ventilated area to cure for 10 days. Doing so will allow them to become sweet. Freshly picked sweet potatoes do not taste sweet, so they need time to ripen.
Lunchbox Peppers and Tomatoes, Oh My!
Our lunchbox peppers and heirloom tomatoes burst onto the scene a few weeks ago but continue to produce. The tomato plants have grown so large that we needed to stake them in order for the rest of the hidden tomatoes to ripen. The lunchbox peppers are thriving with little red peppers popping up every couple of days.
Experimenting with Garlic
Our next experiment is growing hardneck garlic over the winter. We learned about this type of garlic through the Daily Herald. The local paper did a story on Garlic Breath Farm, a family farm here in Illinois, who focuses their time on growing certified organic hardneck garlic. Because of the garlic’s benefits, we want to test if this specific type of garlic will grow in a raised garden.
Our theory holds that it will because garlic is already planted above the frost line. Raised gardens freeze because the air is allowed to circulate around even the deepest part of the soil in the box. Whereas in the earth, there is a layer under the frost line, about 40 inches deep, that is not susceptible to freezing. Garlic is planted above this layer which will freeze when temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Plant Garlic
Garlic is planted in the early- to mid-fall before the first hard freeze. We recommend starting out planting cloves as they only take eight months to grow into a bulb versus bulbils which take two years. We’ll plant cloves in our raised garden in hopes of harvesting bulbs in the summer.
Plant bulbs two to three inches deep and six inches apart. Place the widest end of the clove down with the tip up. Our raised garden is in the perfect spot – it receives a full day of direct sunlight in the Spring and Summer, a necessity for our garlic. Just like our potatoes, we’ll know if the bulbs are ready when the leaves on each plant begin to brown.
Looking Forward to the Next Season
As our current growing season turns to harvesting and we look to a new planting season during the fall, we’ll enjoy the fruits of our labor from the Spring and Summer. Our latest experiment will keep us excited about gardening until the ground thaws next spring. You can follow our journey on Facebook and LinkedIn.