The other day, I saw a report on a national new program about a guy in Pasadena, CA that has turned his entire yard into an edible project. The front yard is landscaped into little odd shaped designs and filled with edible flowers and herbs. The back yard is entirely covered with raised growing beds with gravel walkways between them. There were a couple of chickens and a goat pictured in the feature as well. Apparently, he is growing everything his climate will allow. There were a couple of fruit trees in the front yard, and the space is filled with all manner of green leafies and flowering stuff.
I have gotten a pretty good idea of what I would like in the way of a garden. The raised beds would be perfect for me since it is hard for me to get up and down. I read an article once about how much easier it is to garden in the raised beds because the weeds have a harder time getting into them. I have one raised bed that I grow pole beans in that has done just fantastic for the last couple of years. We made it out of the leftover bricks from the flower bed(we bought way too many bricks) and filled it with purchased compost. So I now have a 6ft circle that is about 9 or 10 inches deep. Since these are pole beans I got creative. I saw in a seed catalog a handy little devise designed just for pole beans. It was a pole with several wires or strings or something hanging from the top and attached to a 6 foot or so metal ring. Put it down, plant your beans around the ring and they will grow up the wires. They wanted like $40 for it. So I cheated. I planted a wooden flag pole in the middle of my 6 ft bed. It had an eye ring in the top that we had tied the flag to, so I ran 8 pieces of waxed 12 cord through the eye. That gave me 16 strings. I then tied a galvanized nail to the end of each string and stuck it in the ground at the edges of my bed. I then planted 2 beans to each string.
My husband and my father were both telling me that it wouldn't work, that the strings wouldn't stay in the ground. But I persisted. And I was right. They didn't take gravity into account when they were poo-pooing my idea. I knew that as the beans began to climb, the weight of the pull from the beans would keep the strings tight and since there were beans on the opposite side of the bed pulling on each string, they would be pulling against each other. It was brilliant if I do say so my self. And the best part is that I can plant 32 bean plants in approximately 6 feet of space, much much less than in a conventional garden. And because it is circular, I can easily get all the way around it to harvest. My only problem is that my beans want to grow higher than the pole and I am not tall enough to get a taller pole and still be able to pick them. So it looks a little hairy at the top, but hey, I get loads of beans.
I would be willing to bet that this concept would work great for just about any vegetable. Anyone with at least 6 feet of space can put in a raised bed. Tomatoes, beans, peas, squash and I would guess, melons (you can tie the vines up to the strings with old panty hose or socks and support the fruit in a net) could be done the same way. Root vegetables like carrots, radishes, turnips, and potatoes would do great in raised bed. And if you use a compost or compost and sand mix, they would be very easy to harvest.
Our house has to be sell-able or I would put in the entire yard in garden beds. We spent a bunch of money buying sod for the back yard so I don't want to mess that up. If and when we get our place in the country, you can bet there will be garden beds all over the place. And an added bonus to the raised bed concept is that you can tailor the soil in each bed for what you are growing. Tomatoes and berries like acid soil, beans like it more neutral, root crops like a loose soil, where bushy veggies need a little more compact soil to support them.
I can already picture my onion and garlic beds, blueberry bushes, asparagus beds, strawberry beds, 3 or 4 different kinds of beans and peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, and corn.