Gardening in raised beds

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As a first-term member of the state legislature in District 75, representing Sabattus and Greene, Stacy Dostie is busy helping to grow the future of Maine. And, as a young professional and mother of two boys active in scouting, Dostie also finds time to grow plants at her Sabattus home where she’s lived for 15 years.

“I’ve always had perennial flower gardens and I’ve always wanted to have my own vegetable garden,” said Dostie, who took a few minutes from her legislative work in Augusta to answer some questions about her gardening. “I spoke with Ed and Pat Jillson of Jillson’s Farm in Sabattus and they recommended that I do a raised garden.”

To create the garden, Dostie was able to find instructions online and discovered that it was really easy to do. “I went to the local lumber yard to get the wood and my son, Aaron, 14, and I put the boards together in about an hour. The lumber only cost about 40 dollars,” said Dostie.

Dostie’s raised bed measures 12’ X 6’, which she found to be quite manageable. The National Gardening Association Web site recommends using rot-resistant wood such as cedar, or bricks, rocks, or cement blocks to create a bed that is at least one foot deep, no more than three to four feet wide, and as long as you like. If the beds are wider than three to four feet, it’s hard to reach the center to weed, water and fertilize.

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Filling the raised bed with soil and compost took Dostie and Aaron a couple of hours to complete before the garden was ready for planting. Her youngest son, Kyle, 10, helped in planting the seedlings which included lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers.

Raised bed gardeners enjoy the ease in which they can weed and fertilize their plots while the garden doesn’t suffer from being compacted and stepped on as in traditional plots. The raised design also allows for quicker drainage and the soil warms up faster in the springtime for earlier plantings.

Succession planting works very well in raised beds. For example, once an early crop of lettuce is finished, pull out those plants and plant another crop such as beans. If a plant gets diseased or infested with insects, pull it out immediately and replace it with a different plant so the problem doesn’t spread.

Dostie was especially pleased with the results of her garden. “It was great to go to the garden and grab fresh lettuce for a salad,” she said, “(and) weeding was very easy. I only had to weed the garden once or twice throughout the growing season.”

But not everything went according to plan in Dostie’s first effort.

“My tomatoes died from the mildew that was going around, but the rest of the vegetables did great,” she explained. “I planted a few too many plants (close together). This year, I plan to space the plants out more to give them more space to grow.

“If someone wants to make their own raised bed garden, I would advise them to plan their growing strategy so that they do not overcrowd the garden,” Dostie emphasized. “To get good results, I would say, just don’t forget to water the garden!”

Editor’s note: Some info for this article came from www.garden.org

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