By Joanne K., with contributions from Diane S., Dell E., Tommy M., and Alta A.,
Pitt County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers
Gardens are always changing, and the Arboretum gardens are no exception. Plants die, outgrow their space, fail to thrive, or a garden just needs to be rejuvenated. A case in point is our new vegetable garden, the latest work in progress!
When the irrigation system no longer functioned in the old vegetable garden adjacent to the Children's Garden, the vegetable garden team, in consultation with the Horticultural Extension Agent, decided to create a new one in an area west of the county auditorium.
The beds were filled with a mix of composted cow manure, aged pine bark fines, perlite, dolomitic lime, and sand, which was bought in bulk. This formulation provides excellent drainage for vegetable or flower gardening.
Fall lettuces are currently growing in the new beds, along with radishes, kale, beets, carrots, broccoli, and peas. All of the harvest will be donated.
Depending on the size of the beds, anything can be grown in them. In fact, there are even compact varieties of tomato and cucumber plants that do well in the smallest of spaces.
Future plans include an in-ground plot as well as an arbor and a space to showcase more portable planting ideas, such as grow bags. To show that vegetable gardens can be attractive, a border will be added around the garden with a seating area in the center. The team hopes to do educational workshops when construction is complete.
The team purchased their beds locally and online. Two elevated planters are plastic, and the low elliptical planter is metal. The square bed and the double-height u-shaped bed are made of cedar, the recommended wood for these products.
Small-space gardening has become very popular, and it is getting easier to find kits and pre-made beds, which are available from many big box stores and online retailers.
All but the recycled plastic bed in the garden required assembly. The team had a little help with the u-shaped planter. But other than that, it has been all-girl power!
Pitt County Soil and Water Conservation staff provided site preparation. They used their machinery to dig up the turf, level the ground, and install crush-and-run to make a nice walking/wheeling surface. For the home gardener, some sources recommend removing the turf from under the beds, but team members know people who have placed their beds right on top of existing grass with no problems.
For information on creating your own raised beds, go to the North Carolina Community Gardens Handbook at https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/collard-greens-and-common-ground-a-north-carolina-community-food-gardening-handbook/soil-plots-and-planters.