As much as I love my raised beds, there are some crops that simply don't lend themselves to the beds. That's why I feel the need for some gardening area that is in the more traditional field garden configuration.
Squash, pumpkins and other crops that send out long vines or tendrils before setting fruit certainly seem easier to manage and happier if not crammed into the confinement of a raised bed. If allowed to grow and roam as they should, they also tend to take up a lot of gardening real estate, and that's the main reason I wanted a separate plot of ground plowed up and designated as the Pumpkin Patch.
Of course, now that I have this special area for squash, eating pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and such I've realized that it would be wise to rotate other crops onto the space every other year. But that shouldn't be hard to do as I could, for instance, plant it all out to potatoes one year or beans or peas. Then the squash and pumpkins could take up that vacated amount of space in the field garden proper.
We feed large amounts of sunflower seeds to the wild birds all winter long so I'd really like to grow enough sunflowers to supplement the supply we have to purchase. (Our growing season is so short I have a really hard time getting most of the seeds to mature, but I'm still working on that.) Besides wanting to be able to grow our own feed for the birds, what is cheerier than a long line of sunflowers in the summer garden? They lend themselves to planting in the traditional field garden quite well.
You've heard me whine often enough about not being able to grow full-sized tomatoes in our climate. But I keep trying. Bull-headed? Stubborn? Just plain stoopid? Whatever the reason, they usually end up planted int he field garden. I have tried them in raised beds under cold frames which gives them a good start, but they quickly get too tall for the cold frames and then in the fall when the fruits just start to ripen, they are definitely too tall for the protection the cold frames would offer. Besides that, to plant enough full-sized tomatoes so that I might (some day, some how, some way) have enough to can, I would have to use approximately half of my raised beds to hold them. So, they are better suited to being a field garden crop.
Pickling cucumbers, peas, beans and potatoes take up most of the space in the field garden.
I know that I need approximately sixty feet of pickling cucumbers to give me enough pickles for a year's supply and to share with others who enjoy making a few pickles. I always trellis my pickling cucs because it keeps them much cleaner, they are easier to pick, and take up much less space.
The above picture shows peas on the right (falling off their trellis and trying to co-mingle with), potatoes on the left. Some cabbages are in the foreground interspersed with marigolds.
I trellis my peas also as I have trouble getting a moldy/mildew on them if I allow them to trail on the ground. As with the pickling cucs, picking peas is much easier when they are on a trellis. Sixty feet of peas are also required for enough harvest to take us through the fall, winter and spring.
I grow both pole and bush beans but the bush beans make up the majority of our frozen supply. I typically grow one sixteen foot row of green beans and one sixteen foot row of yellow wax beans. So that's only a total of thirty-two feet required for beans. I must admit the only reason I grow pole beans is because I plant Scarlet Runners around a tee-pee trellis which is gorgeous when blooming.
Each year I plant eighty feet of potatoes, usually half whites and half reds. I probably don't need the full eighty feet but now and then we have a year when the potato yield is poor so I like to hedge my bets against that. There are very few years when I don't have enough potatoes left in the spring to use as sets for planting the new crop.
Although I have grown dill, cabbages and broccoli in raised beds, I feel they do better in the field garden.
I grow dill for use in making my dill pickles. (Well, duh.)
I can't keep the whole, harvested cabbages for very long in storage so I grow only enough for fresh eating and making sauerkraut.
Broccoli is my nemesis in the garden. No matter what I try, I cannot seem to keep worms out of it. I threw a hissy-fit last year and didn't even plant it. But it does grow well in our climate reaching the proportions of small trees so for that reason I plant it in the field garden.
So ends a run-down of what I plant in raised beds and what I plant in the traditional field garden plots. This is just what seems to work best for me. I've experimented planting all my different veggies in both locations but have come to these preferences I've outlined.
If I were forced to give up one or the other (I warn you I'd fight back!), I'd have to stick with my raised beds. (I'd be very sad not to have the field garden space though.) This is all a personal preference choice and you can be a very successful gardener sticking with what you have to work with or what works for you.
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