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Saturday, July 30, 2011

'Purple Cherokee" Heirloom Tomato Salad

The 'Purple Cherokee' is by far one of the best heirloom tomatoes you can grow. Sweet with no acidity. Meaty and did I say sweet.

Here is a basic tomato, onion and cucumber salad. The 'Purple Cherokee' is so good you don't want to smother it in other stuff. This recipe is just salt, olive oil, garlic powder, and pepper. You don't want acidify the salad with vinegar.

'Purple Cherokee' Prepared for Tomato Salad: Gary Pilarchik

The 'Purple Cherokee' is reddish purple on the mid and bottom section of the tomato and it has green shoulders. It is sweet. I can't stress that enough.

I love this picture.

'Purple Cherokee' Chunked: Gary Pilarchik

"Purple Cherokee" Color Variation: Gary Pilarchik
'Purple Cherokee' Armenian Cucumber: Gary Pilarchik

'Purple Cherokee' Tomato Salad: Gary Pilarchik

A medium onion was added. It was season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil. It is the best way to prepare a salad with a tomato that has a great taste. The 'Purple Cherokee' is the center piece of this salad.

"Purple Cherokee' Tomato Salad Served: Gary Pilarchik

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Melons: Minnesota, Black, Tiger Oh My!

My 'Minnesota Melons', 'Black Melons', and 'Tiger Melons' all matured. The 'Minnesota Melon' is exactly like a small cantaloupe in all respects and tastes great. The 'Black Melon' is like the red sweet watermelon you know. It is a tad less sweet but delicious. The 'Tiger Melon' is white fleshed with just a hint of cantaloupe flavor. It is kind of lacking in taste but worth growing for the novelty.

'Minnesota' 'Tiger' 'Black' Melons

The 'Tiger' is white fleshed. The 'Black' is red. And the the 'Minnesota' is orange.

Small Garden Melons: Gary Pilarchik

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Recipe: How to Make a Simple Tomato Spaghetti Sauce (Pictures)

Well I have 100's yes 100's of tomatoes coming in (actually in). The blight hasn't arrived like it typically does. I have to give two thumbs up to sulfur spraying - it worked! If you look on my plants you can find little areas of leaf spot and possibly blight. Remember the goal was disease management. It am finding I managed disease this year. I lost 2 or 3 plants to leaf spot out of over 35 tomato plants. What does that mean? Hundreds of tomatoes to consume. That is a good thing!

Here is a very basic and quick recipe to make tomato sauce out of any tomato.  In this recipe you can include the seeds or de-seed the tomatoes. Seeds may add bitterness. I find the smaller seeds of sweeter tomatoes go unnoticed. I also leave the skins on. The puree process seems to take care of them just fine.

Tomatoes For Tomato Sauce: Gary Pilarchik

Above are many varieties of tomatoes. I have 'Polish Linguisa' which I will de-seed for the sauce. I also have other varieties 'Purple Plum',  'Baxter Bush Cherry', 'Rutgers', and 'Abraham'. They will be used whole and I will leave the seeds in. In a perfect sauce you would use paste and roma type tomatoes and remove the seeds. This is a quick sauce to manage 100's of tomatoes. If you want... remove all the seeds.

You will notice 2 hot banana peppers. I pureed those too for heat.

Cut Up the Tomatoes for the Blender: Gary Pilarchik
The tomatoes get liquified in the blender. The setting might be puree or liquify on your blender. Blend the tomatoes for a good minute. 

My blender has measurements on the side and I made about 12-14 cups of tomatoes. This recipe is timed for this amount of tomatoes. But don't worry, you will know when the sauce is ready by how it looks.

Liquified Tomatoes or Sauce: Gary Pilarchik
Notice the color doesn't look like tomato sauce. The familiar red color comes as the puree cooks down. The puree looks pink and it is filled with air. It will be foamy. That is okay.

Tomato Puree into the Pot: Gary Pilarchik

Just put the puree into a large pot and heat it. It will be foamy and have a color you are not used to for sauce. Below are my 'Polish Linguisa' tomato. They are paste tomatoes and easy to de-seed. I am trying to use all the tomatoes in my garden. You will notice how thick the walls of this tomato are and how easy it is to de-seed. If you like making sauces and don't want to chance bitterness from the seeds... this is a great variety.

De-seeding the 'Polish Linguisa': Gary Pilarchik
The Tomato Seeds and Gel Removed: Gary Pilarchik

The roma/paste type tomatoes are this easy to de-seed. What you end up with is some thick walled tomatoes for outstanding sauce. It is the meat of the tomato you want for sauce.

De-seeded Roma/Paste Tomatoes for Their Meat: Gary Pilarchik
The rest of the tomatoes are put through the blender and into the pot. As it begins to boil it will look foamy and freaky. That is the air coming out of the puree. I put in garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Don't fully season it at this point. Just put it a bit of what you like. You will add seasoning to taste toward the end of cooking.

Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper: Gary Pilarchik

Tomato Sauce? or...: Gary Pilarchik

You are going to boil down/reduce 12-14 cups of tomato puree. This will take 60 to 90 minutes depending on the boil. Tomato sauce can be boiled hard. The benefits of lycopene improves when cooked. Tomatoes are one of the rare vegetables that improve, in parts, nutritionally with cooking. Set the stove to medium highish and reduce it down.

Tomato Sauce 45 Minutes in: Gary Pilarchik

Here is a trick and one of the reason you shouldn't fully salt your tomato sauce in the beginning. Tomato sauce can be acidic. This varies on the tomato variety and on the taste of the chef. Baking soda can add a salty taste if over used.

I use a quarter teaspoon of baking soda in the sauce to neutralize acidity. It works. Just make sure you use a quarter of teaspoons to start. After that is added. taste it. If you like it... stop. If not, repeat the process one more time. You don't want to use a lot because it could off taste your sauce.

Baking Soda in Tomato Sauce?:Gary Pilarchik

The sauce will foam up again. Tomatoes are acidic/acid and baking soda is a base. They react with each other and neutralize each other. A little chemistry in the kitchen.

Tomato Acid and Baking Soda Reacting: Gary Pilarchik

Remember a quarter teaspoon was for 12-14 cups of puree. Adjust accordingly.

Tomato Sauce Arrives: Gary Pilarchik

After about an hour it is starting to look like tomato sauce. I added salt and pepper to my taste. Add it slowly and taste it. You can always add but you can't remove... so add slowly.

Tomato Sauce about 75 Minutes In: Gary Pilarchik
I added mushrooms. I also added dried oregano. The dried oregano will absorb flavor and add flavor. You want to add dried herbs in the last 15 minutes of cooking. The flavor can be cooked away or they can become bitter if cooked for a long time.

Below is my quick tomato sauce on pasta.

The Final Product - Home Tomato Sauce: Gary Pilarchik
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Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Plant and Tend to a Tomato

This is an old Google Knol article I wrote.

Selecting the Tomato Transplant:



There are two types of tomato plants. Determinate and indeterminate types. Determinate means it grows to a determined size, sets fruit, and dies off. Indeterminate means it continues to grow. It will grow and grow until frost or disease kills it. You want to select an indeterminate type of tomato plant. The type of planting, I describe in this Knol, is not needed for a determinate tomato plant. The tomato label with the plant will state whether or not the tomato is determinate or indeterminate.



It is worth taking your time in carefully selecting a tomato transplant. The simple rule of thumb is that the tomato plant should be 100% green in the stem and on top of the leaves. If the plant is a deep uniformed green color then it is healthy. If the plant has yellow or purple through out the tops of the leaves or stem, do not buy it. If the plant has brown spots or discolorations of any sort, find another plant. If the plant isn't 100% green then the plant is typically distressed. I mention the tops of the leaves because tomatoes sometimes have a purple tint on the undersides of the leaves when young and healthy. This is okay as long as the tops of the leaves are completely green. Below is an example of a very healthy freshly transplanted tomato.

Courtesy of gardenaction.co.uk 


You want to look for healthy plants that are 8 to 12 inches tall. The plants should be in a single container not in the cello 4 or 6 packs. Remember you are going to grow magnificent awarding winning tomatoes. You don't want plants packed in tiny cells. If you get plants that are taller than 12 inches, very often they have yellow flowers. Do not purchase plants with yellow flowers. These plants are already turning growth energy toward fruits. You want that process to occur in your garden. Buying plants with yellow flowers does not mean you get fruit sooner. Once a plant is in a garden the growth is phenomenal. Small transplants catch up to big transplants.


Getting Additional Supplies:


Garden Soil

Purchase a 1 cubic foot bag of moisture control garden soil for every 2 plants you are planting. Do not buy top soil. Make sure you are buying garden soil and make sure it is a moisture control formulation. Every garden center carries this product. It is a good idea to buy extra bags of garden soil while your are there.



Purchase a box of tomato fertilizer from your garden center. Ask the employee to help you. The boxes are typically kept in the house plant section of the garden center. They are about the size of a large box of instant mash potatoes. You do not need a 40 pound bag of fertilizer. You will use to the fertilizer to prepare the planting hole for the tomato transplant.
Also buy a small box of water soluble fertilizer. You will not use this until July.



Purchase 2 - 6 foot wooden stakes for each tomato plant. The width of the stakes should be at least 1 inch x 1 inch. You also need to purchase a role of twine or jute to tie your plants. You don not need to buy tomato cages. Stakes will take care of the job.


Digging and Preparing the Hole:


Dig the Hole

I am assuming you have a garden. If you don't, you will need to dig and turn-over at least a 2 foot by 2 foot plot. I am also assuming you know a tomato needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

In your garden, dig a circular hole that is 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide and 18 inches deep. Put the dirt to the side.
In the bottom of the hole sprinkle 3 rounded tablespoons of fertilizer evenly over the bottom of the hole. You don't need be exact. Use your shovel to mix the fertilizer about another 4-6 inches deeper into the hole. That is, break up the bottom of the hole another 4-6 inches and mix the fertilizer into the loosened dirt. Do NOT remove the dirt.


Fill 1/2 the Hole

Fill half the hole with the garden soil you purchased. You will be filling in about 9 inches of the hole. Sprinkle 2 rounded tablespoons of fertilizer evenly over the hole. Using your hand evenly mix the fertilizer into the 9 inches of new garden soil. Do not mix it into the bottom level where you put the other tablespoons of fertilizer. Drop in about 2-3 shovels worth of the original dirt you put to the side and mix it evenly with the purchased garden soil. Yep, just blend it together.

You have now provided your tomato with ample growing room for its deeper roots. The purchased garden soil will ensure the soil has the right PH for growing tomatoes. There is no need for soil testing. The moisture control formulation with help prevent blossom end-rot then can occur from uneven watering.


Fill the Rest of the Hole

I know it might sound strange but do almost the same thing and fill the rest of the hole. This time only put in 1 shovel worth of the original dirt into the hole. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoons of fertilizer and mix well by hand to about 9 inches deep. You now have the perfect planting area for your transplant. You will not need to fertilize again until mid-summer. The reason you fill the hole in steps is to ensure a well mixed aerated evenly fertilized hole. You have created the perfect space for you tomato plant's roots to spread out and grow.


Planting the Tomato Transplant:

You are going to plant 2/3 of your tomato below ground. A tomato transplant is a single vine. Roots will grow anywhere along the stem when planted below the ground. You might have noticed you prepared the hole for the roots. You are now planting 2/3 of the plant below ground to ensure ample root growth to support the entire tomato plant. This will lead to a beautiful strong plant above the ground.

If your tomato transplant is 12 inches tall then you will plant the first 8 inches below the ground. Simply, pinch of any leaves on the first 8 inches of the stem. Dig a hole with you hand. Remember the soil is very loose and put the plant 8 inches into the ground.  Fill the hole you made by hand and admire your work.  Place several shovels worth of original dirt around your tomato and spread the remainder of dug earth out around the rest of your garden.


Staking Your Tomato Plant:

When your tomato plant is about 2 feet tall you will need to put the tomato stakes in the ground. There is no rush. You want to stake the plant before it begins to fall over and touch the ground. You will be training your plant to grow upwards instead of falling and sprawling all over the ground. Staking you tomato plant will help prevent disease and make it easier to harvest fruit.

Place the stakes about 6 inches from the stem on direct opposite sides of the plant. Simply put, put one on the left side and one on the right side of the plant. You will have to hammer the stakes about 2 feet into the ground to secure them. Don't worry about damaging the roots of the plant. The tomato will be fine. You are using 2 stakes because your tomato plant will become both huge with growth and heavy with tomatoes.

The easiest way to support your tomato is to tie the plants using jute, a natural brown fiber string. Jute is readily available at any garden center. Use the picture below to get an idea of how to tie the plant to a stake. Early on you will on be using one stake as shown in the picture. Over time you will need both stakes to tie off both the stem of the tomato and the branches. You are planning ahead. I suggest tying the stem off about every 8 to 10 inches.

Make sure you do NOT tightly tie any part of the stem or branch to the stake. It will choke the plant and/or damage the branch or stem. If you make a circle with you thumb and index finger you can use that as a guideline for how much space to have for the stem or branch to move when you tie it down. You will have to tie your tomato plant weekly. It not only will continue to grow over the summer but the weight of the tomatoes will cause the plant to shift. The picture gives you the general idea.

Pruning Your Tomato Plant:


Joint Suckers/New Vines

You will have to prune or pinch your tomato. The picture below shows you another example of making sure there is space for the stem when you tie it to the stake. It also shows you where a sucker grows in the joint of the branch and stem. If you put you index finger and thumb out in the shape of an L and drop your other three fingers down to your palm, you've just created a stem and leaf. Right in the curve of you index finger and thumb is where the new growth comes out in the tomato. You don't want that growth. It will become and additional vine. Just pinch the sucker off.

Tomatoes are vines. You only want a single vine growing up the stake. The “branch” that is forming between the joints in the picture, as I said, will become another vine. Yes, it will grow tomatoes. You are pinching it off with your fingers because you are tending you tomato as one vine. One vine is all you need to have a huge plant and a bountiful harvest.

I recommend you pinch-off the new growth in the joints of the tomato plant until at least mid to late July. I typically let my tomatoes grow more wild toward the end of July. I simply tie the new vines and branches to the stakes. That is, I stop pinching off the new growth in the joints of the top 1/3 of the my tomato plants. I still prune the bottom 2/3 of the plant to prevent new vines from coming up lower to the ground.

Bottom Branches/Thinning

As your tomato grows it is important to make sure air circulates beneath and through the plant. Tomatoes are susceptible to blights. You can read my upcoming Knols on tomato disease for more information. Air circulation helps prevent disease as does removing lower branches that can easily be splashed with soil when it rains or when you water your garden.

A lot of the diseases don’t start until summer kicks in. As your tomato grows in June, it is time to start removing the bottom branches. I can’t give you an exact ratio of removal to growth. Use your eye. You want the plant to have a lot of growth to collect the sun but you have to start clipping the bottom branches of the plant. I recommend by the end of June you have at least 1 foot of space beneath your plant. You can prune the plant in stages as you see fit. I sometime go to 18 inches on taller plants. Simply cut the unwanted branch to within ¼ inch of the stem. 

You can also thin your tomato plant’s upper and lower growth in August. I do recommend letting the plant grow as mention toward the end of July. That doesn’t mean you don’t eye-ball them in August and remove congestion. It is painful to cut off large branches but you do so to let air circulate through the plant. Remember you were tending to the plant. It will produce new vines and branches all along the stem. Even places you already pruned. If you can’t see through your plant to the other side or its hard to get to the fruit, then you need to prune it a bit.


Pinching Off the Growing Tip

Some people pinch of the growing tip of the main vine and side vines if you choose to have more then one. Typically this is done several weeks before your first frost. The idea is to turn the plants energy towards the remaining tomatoes. I choose not to do this. By the time mid September comes, I am tomato’d out. I just let my plants die off peacefully.


A Friendly Warning

Do not accidentally pinch off the growing tip of your tomato. At the end of the season it is fine. But sometimes pruning can be confusing. The growth above the words “Remove”, in the picture (up top), is your general growing tip area. A good rule of thumb is to leave the upper 6 inches of the tomato alone. Prune from the base of the stem upward.


Mulching Your Tomato Plant:

Tomatoes love the heat and need even moisture all year long. Uneven watering can cause blossom end rot and fruit cracking. The easiest way to prevent this is to mulch and water you plant following a regular routine. Use grass clippings. I find nothing better in the way of mulch. My neighbors know to bring me their grass clippings.

Simply put a fresh layer of 2-3 inches of grass clippings around your tomatoes. Spread the clippings out 2 feet from the stem of your tomato. When the sun dries the grass clipping up thoroughly, add another 2-3 inches. This might take 2 or 3 days depending on the weather and all that. You can do this all summer long. I cover my entire garden in grass clippings. Just make sure you do layers of 2-3 inches and let the grass dry out before piling on new layers. This is a great way to manage moisture in your garden and provide organic matter for the garden.


Watering Your Tomato Plant:

Avoid watering the leaves of your plant. Avoid splashing wet soil on your plant. You can’t stop the rain but you can change your watering habits. This is to prevent the spread of diseases. Water your tomatoes gently at the base of the stem. I just use a hose without a nozzle and let the water flow. Water the plant well 2-3 times a week if there is no rain. With mulching and a watering routine, the moisture level will be fine. Really hot days will require you to water your garden every other day.


Mid-Summer Water Soluble Fertilizing: 

The time you spent preparing the hole for your tomato included ample fertilizer. I recommend a water soluble feeding every 2 weeks starting toward the end of July and ending when August is over. I use Miracle Grow. I follow the directions for 2 gallons and sprinkle it over the entire plant. This is the only time I wet the leaves. It is best to do in the morning of a sunny day. I give each plant a full 2 gallons of soluble fertilizer. I sprinkle one gallon over the top of the plant and pour the other gallon onto the ground around the base of the plant.

Good luck!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Go Modern for Contemporary Home and Garden Furniture

Go Modern offers an outstanding collection of contemporary furniture and designer furniture. I found something I have never seen before while looking for garden furniture and it is called flueless fires. They come in both wall and stand alone designs. They burn without the need for venting. You get the ambience of fire in any room along with warmth. They are fueled by a liquid/gel that does not put off odor or chemicals when burned. There are 100’s of designs from small candles, to full burning center pieces, to wall hanging fires and they all burn clean in your house.

Alos garden sofa is contemporary sofa for your garden and patio area. I do spend time looking on line for unique items. This sofa struck my eye for its simplicity and elegance. It is artisan made and hand woven with decades of experience. Not only is it beautiful but it is built to resist sunlight, mold, and water. It is designed to be ecologically friendly and chemical free. While all that is important, the bottom line is it is just a beautiful couch to have on your garden patio.

If you are looking for unique contemporary furniture Go Modern will easily satisfy your contemporary hunger. They have furniture for every room in your house as well as outside your house. They even have customized wardrobes to organize your bedroom closets. There are easily a thousand items to view. Their flueless fires were truly something I have never seen before. Go Modern will show you things you have never seen before. Take a look.

How to Create a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

This is from 2009 and it is the first article I wrote for Google Knols. It is time to start planning next years garden. Perhaps raised beds?

It can be be viewed directly at this link: How to Create a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

How to Create a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C

For up to date gardening tips and ideas visit my blog the  The Rusted Vegetable Garden

What Do Raised Bed Vegetable Gardens Look Like?

Pictures are truly worth a thousand words and this is my opportunity to show off some of my vegetable garden.
March 2009.  My cool weather crop plantings. Check out my Knol on that topic.
The same beds in May 2009
These are some basic raised bed garden designs. Nothing fancy, just framed beds. The first three boxes starting from the back of the picture are 4 ft. x 8 ft. The fourth box is 2 ft. x 8 ft. and the box to the left is 4 ft. by 4 ft. The wood used to frame the boxes is from Home Depot. It is pressured treated with copper NOT arsenic. The boards were all  8 feet long and I had them cut at Home Depot to the size I wanted.

What Are The Benefits of Using a Raised Bed?

  1. Higher vegetable yields: You will get 2x's the vegetable production out of a raised bed than a standard flat earth bed. You can plant vegetables closer together because of better soil conditions.
  2. Better soil: You can add garden soil, organic matter and all the other good stuff to your raised bed. Soil compaction is greatly reduced because you never step in the bed. Soil compaction inhibits plant growth, oxygen uptake and water circulation.
  3. Better drainage: Your raised bed will drain quickly and be less prone to staying soggy and promoting disease and rot.
  4. Better air circulation and more sunshine: Raised beds tend to get better circulation and more sun depending how you set them up. Air circulation helps cut down on plant diseases.
  5. Better water conservation: You only water where the vegetables are growing. You can also install slow drip soaker hoses in the bottom of your raised bed garden.
  6. Easier pest and weed control: It is easier to fence in your raised bed garden if there are animal problems. Weeding is easier and because you can plant more plants in a raised bed garden, they tend to shade out weeds.
  7. Earlier start and later finish: You can start gardening earlier because raised bed gardens warm more quickly in the season when compared to a flat earth garden. You can garden later into the season because raised bed gardens stay warmer as Fall arrives.
  8. Easier to tend and manage: You can raise a bed up to two feet. This requires less bending. Once the soil is prepared little work is needed to maintain it. Since you don't step in it, the soil stays loose and workable all year round. It is also easier to reach in and tend to your plants and pick your garden produce.

  9. Saves time and money and they look great.  Your cost over time diminishes. It costs money to build the raised beds initially but you save money over time by only concentrating resources to where the vegetables are actually going to be grown. You save yourself time by only working the area that will actually grow vegetables. They look good and really help create an organized garden. Less mud too. You can mulch between raised beds for a clean working area and you will never have to step onto muddy garden soil.

    March 2009. Notice my soil has a lot of clay in it. Over time I'll amend the soil. Plants still grow

What Kind of Wood Do I Use?

I use pressure treated wood. It will last seven to ten years or longer. You can use wood that isn't pressure treated but it will decay and need to be replaced in about three years. The biggest controversy, years back, was whether or not pressure treated wood had harmful health risks. This argument was a legitimate argument when pressure treated would contained arsenic. Most pressure treated wood now uses copper and NOT arsenic. Check with you local lumber yard and ask what chemicals are used to pressure treat the wood they sell. You can do a web search on the health risks of pressure treated wood.

What Size Boards Do I Get?

The length of the board I recommend is an 8 foot board. This length is perfect for a planting row and if you cut the board in half you get two 4 foot boards. That creates a perfect dimension of 4 ft. x 8 ft.  The boards I use are 6 inches wide. I recommended a minimum of 6 inches for your sides. You can go up to 24 inches for the sides of your raised bed garden. According to research 6 inches provides enough height to improve soil warmth and gain drainage benefits.  I do have beds were I stacked two frames on top of each other to create 12 inch sides. I use this for my cold frame. If it is more difficult for you to bend or reach, higher sides is the way to go. You can always add another level when needed. Board widths vary from 6 inches to 12 inches. If you want the sides to be higher you will need to stack frames.

Why is 4 ft. x 8 ft. the Perfect Dimension?

If you stick out your arms you have about a 2-3 foot reach. If you were to walk around your raised bed garden you could reach in from all sides and tend to the garden without every stepping into the box. That is one benefit of raised bed gardening. The garden soil stays loose all year around because you never step on the soil  that supports the vegetables. Compacted dirt harms vegetable roots and prevents your plants from growing. You don't want to build a frame where you have to step onto the soil to reach the middle of the framed area. That defeats the purpose of a raised bed.

Building the Raised Bed Garden Frame

I want to keep this simple. Often to much goes into perfecting the construction. It doesn't need to be perfect. To build the frame you need wood, 3-4 inch deck screws and a drill. Do not use nails. They tend to get pulled out of place if the board warps.

  1. Decide on the frame sizes.
  2. Purchase the wood. Let's assume you decide on two 4 ft. x 8 ft. frames. You will need to purchase six 8 foot boards. They should cost you $5 to $7 a board depending on where you live.
  3. Get the wood cut at the store. I suggest going to Home Depot or a place that will cut the wood. You should ask to have two 8 foot boards cut in half. That will give you four 4 foot pieces of lumber. You now have all the sides for two raised bed garden frames. 
  4. Purchase a box of 3-4 inch deck screws. I suggest 4 inch screws. You will need 24 screws to build both frames.
  5. Drill 3 pilot holes (see pic below) on each side of the 4 foot pieces of lumber. The drill bit should be smaller than the width of the screws you are using. You do this to prevent the boards from splitting when you put in the screws. You will need 24 holes for 24 screws.
  6. Change bits on the drill and screw the frame together. Build the frame on the ground without the screws first and then just walk around to the holes and secure the frame.
  7. You now have a secure raised bed garden frame.

Preparing the Site for the Raised Bed Garden

I want to keep this simple too. Your garden will grow no matter how you prepare the soil and over time you can perfect it. You will need a level. It helps in making sure the frame is (well) level. If you don't have one, you can use your eye.

  1. Drop the frame where the garden is going to be. I will assume you know to select a sunny location. You can use spray paint, dirt or even flour to trace out the frame. Once you trace out the frame, move the frame to an out of the way place.
  2. Dig the grass out. I wouldn't spend much time banging clumps. You will be buying soil. Just dig down enough to get the roots and remove all the grass. I bag my yard waste and set it curb side.
  3. Now that you have a grass free space, put the frame back on the garden plot. Use the level and a hand shovel to make sure the frame sits level on your garden plot. You may have to move dirt around to raise or lower parts of the frame. It doesn't need to be perfect. Your site is prepared.

What Do I  Need to Buy to Prepare the Garden Soil?

I am going to give you the supplies for one 4 ft. x 8 ft raised bed garden. The sides for this example are 6 inches. If you make 12 inches sided frame you will need to double the bags of garden soil. Just double the bags of garden soil, nothing else. This is enough to get your started and on your way. You can add grass clippings and other organic matter over time. You don't need perfect soil to start.

  1. 8 bags of garden soil in the one cubic foot range. More is better. Make sure you buy garden soil and not top soil.
  2. One 8 foot cubic bail of sphagnum peat moss.
  3. 1 bag of the cheapest 10-10-10 (or close to that) bag of fertilizer. This is enough fertilizer for many raised bed gardens.
  4. 1 bag of pulverized lime. This is enough lime for many raised bed gardens.

Preparing the Garden Soil

Keep in mind your soil will get better over time and vegetables will grow in most soil. Perfection is not the goal. With these amendments to your plot, you will have no trouble growing vegetables.

  1. Open the bag of sphagnum peat moss in the middle of your framed bed. Do not rake it yet. Sprinkle in four cups of pulverized lime over the pile of peat moss. Take precautions not breathe in the dust. Mix the peat moss and lime together and rake it evenly over the plot. Peat moss can be acidic. Lime is alkaline. Mixing them together helps balance the PH. You don't need to test your soil.
  2. Sprinkle three or four cups (8 ounces per cup) of fertilizer over the raked peat moss. The fertilizer will get turned into the earth. 
  3. Turn the peat moss and fertilizer into the existing soil. You are not adding the bags of garden soil at this time. You are creating loose earth below the frame of you garden plot. This is the benefit to raised bed gardening. You will have loose soil to at least a depth of 18 inches depending on how high the sides are to your raised bed. Make sure your break up any large clumps. The peat moss provides organic matter that will hold moisture.
  4. Open four bags of garden soil and rake it evenly across the surface of your raised bed. You want to turn the earth again making sure your not standing in the garden. You should do this from outside the frame. Turn the bags of garden soil into the earth. Extra effort to dig deep and turn extra earth is worth it at this point. You have now created good quality soil at deep root growing depth. You have mixed the the standard earth in your area with peat moss and garden soil. It's been boosted with fertilizer
  5. Open the remaining four bags of garden soil and rake it evenly across the surface of your raised bed. Sprinkle one or two more cup of fertilizer evenly across the entire surface of the garden. Mix the bags of garden soil in with the existing earth to about 10 inches. You don't need to go as deep. You are making a well amended 10 inch level of soil for seed planting.
  6. Rake the garden even and break up clumps. Don't worry if your soil doesn't come to the top of the wood. Over time you will add grass clipping and other things. Do it at your leisure or when organic matter is available. It's ready to be planted.

March 2009. The center garden plot is also a raised bed.
It is mounded. Raised beds don't have to be contained.


This Knol focuses primarily on building the raised bed garden. You can plant in it as soon as you build it. A raised bed allows you to start planting earlier in the year and it allows you to continue planting later into the year. The idea is the raised bed warms quicker and stays warmer longer. Warmth is good. You can also plant vegetables closer together because you don't walk in the garden and compact the soil. Loose soil allows plant roots to grow deeply into to earth. The deeper the roots can grow the closer the vegetable plants can be planted. Good luck and look for a future Knol on planting in raised bed gardens.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My New Blog: The Totally Tomato Garden

Visit The Totally Tomato Garden

This is my 2nd blog. It won't be fully matured so to speak until the end of August. I am having great fun with this blog but it has so much information, it is hard for people to find older stuff even with links.

So I am creating a focused gardening blog for just TOMATOES.

Check it out if you are interested. All posts will always come to the Rusted Vegetable Garden first and by transplanted to the Totally Tomatoes at some future point.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Spaghetti Squash and Tiger Melon Vines

They survived the heat wave. I had to water them almost daily and soak the ground. They have also had their share of liquid fertilzer. The squash is producing more fruit and although the melon is growing out of control, not many fruit. No female flowers?  I think that is the problem.

Spaghetti Squash: Gary Pilarchik

Tiger Melons: Gary Pilarchik

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