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My new favorite color is green, and it’s popping out all over! We made it through another winter, none the worse for wear. The old bones have finally warmed up and New Dog and I are out walking again. Praise be.
Now to the question. The doom and gloom folks are still predicting that our grocery bills will double in the coming year and it won’t be long before we will be forced to raise all of our own food. Along with that cheerful prophecy, they believe that the unscrupulous in society will take what they want at gun point in order to survive. Kind of like the walking dead, only they’ll be snatching potatoes to munch on instead of arms and legs.
Can you picture it? You’re out weeding your lettuce bed, look up to wipe your sweating brow, and there stands a man pointing his twelve-gauge at you, demanding a head of bibb.
Whatever the case, perhaps this is the year you should consider raising your own vegetables anyway, and for those of us a tad past our twenties, raised beds would be the best solution. The advantages are obvious: you can stop moaning about your achy, breaky back because you can build your beds as high or as low as you want. There’s more area for the sun to shine on, so your beds warm up faster. After you’ve filled your beds, they’re done – no rocks and no weeds to remove. Four-legged and two-legged critters are not as prone to go tiptoeing through your turnips when the beds are raised. Lastly, raised beds are just neat – neat in appearance and a neat, practical project.
On the other hand, raised beds can be a bit pricey to build. Consider using recycled materials such as railroad ties if you can find them or cinder blocks left from a building project. Of course, there’s always metal edging for low beds or even rocks, driftwood, or fallen trees from the woods. And, while you’re in the planning stage, be sure to think far, far ahead when deciding where to put the beds. Relocation can be a big pain, and after all, we’re trying to eliminate all the pain here.
So, to begin. Lay out your bed plan and build the boxes. Place a layer of cardboard or newspaper on the ground and wet it well with the hose. The water will make it all stick together and eventually the grass underneath will die. Next comes a layer of hay or straw, providing food for the new plants as it breaks down. The next layer should be manure if you can get it and then another layer of straw which will act as mulch for the young plants. Poke holes in the straw, fill with potting soil and plant your seedlings.
Methods for layering differ. If you prefer, you may mix the manure and good soil together in that layer, then add straw on top. Or, you may just fill the whole thing with good, enriched soil and plant in that. Whichever method you choose, think ahead to what you want to do the next year and the next and try to cut down on your maintenance chores.
I was talking with a friend the other day who has six raised beds, approximately 4 x 6 feet, in which she plants all sorts of vegetables and flowers, using a slightly altered square-foot plan, and she said she has all the produce she and her family can use.
Now all that’s left to do is learn how to raise and slaughter and preserve meat. Bring on the big guns, I guess. No telling what folks will do for a steak.