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The New Raised-bed Garden

By Tricia Millix

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A photo of Tricia MillixThe weather is beginning to take a turn for Spring! With that turn comes the feeling of New Life, New Beginnings and the start of pleasant warm days. I am not always so excited for Spring, only because of the mud that comes with it, but this year the mud seems to be at a minimum. We have been discussing our garden plans for quite some time now and I think we may have "the one."

We have decided on raised beds this year, we have not had the best of luck the past two years with our garden. We had a hard time getting anything to grow the first year we planted in our newest spot, our pool now occupies our old spot, and last year it was pretty much a swamp; every bit of water settled in our garden. I sometimes believed the water was never going to go away! Our tomatoes would rot from the stem right before they would be ripe enough to pick, and no matter how high we mounded our squash or cucumbers they would always be swimming unhappily in a pool of water.

Our hopes are high this year and we are anxiously awaiting our new beds to arrive. They will be Vermont White Cedar with a mortis, tenon and pin construction. Beautiful, just beautiful! I love the old look about them and the fact that they will last for quite some time. I am hoping that we will be able to get a plentiful harvest with four 4-foot by 6-foot beds. It doesn't seem like a lot of space, but when you consider just how much we can plant in those beds it is amazing. I can't wait to see our wooded rectangles filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, sugar peas, yellow squash, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, spinach, tons of salad greens, herbs and all the other vegetables I forgot to mention.

I personally think a vegetable garden is more beautiful than a flower garden. Besides, it's a good thing when you can eat just about everything you see in that garden. We will also be getting some much wanted rain barrels that we didn't have much use for last year seeing how our garden had all the water it could have ever possibly needed and then some.

This year seems to be shaping up to be a year we will finally figure it all out, at least the gardening side of it. Who knows, once we get the hang of this maybe we will venture to a larger traditional garden, like my parents garden, in the future. I can vividly remember the garden my father would plant, from seed, every year. It was an amazing sight. He had the most beautiful strawberry patch I have ever seen, what us kids didn't eat my mother would always make jam with. Rows and rows of glistening jars of red, what a treat spread on home baked bread toasted with butter, yum! There was never a year that our garden was not lined with sunflowers that I swear touched the clouds and when they were ready my parents would cut them down and hang the heads up to dry in the attic of our carriage shed, my mother would toast the seeds and that was a common snack mixed with the fruit she would dehydrate.

We always had the largest array of veggies from our gardens, even with nine children we always had plenty to give away to friends. I can remember spending all day on Saturday and Sunday canning with my mother and sisters. We always had great conversation and lots of laughs the whole time we were doing such an important task.

I will never forget the time my mother acquired flat after flat of cherries! Those were not so much fun to pit, halve and can - too much work that required too much concentration not to mention the stained hands that lasted what seemed like an eternity! They sure were good when we were done with them though.

Our cellar was always packed with shelves lined with every kind of vegetable, canned in every possible way, for any night of the week; we just had to walk downstairs and pick out the one we wanted. I think the only items we purchased from the grocery store were the "staple" items that couldn't be made at home, although I am sure if my father could have found a way and the time to make toilet paper he most certainly would have.

So with all the sweet memories of my childhood gardens I will do my parents proud this year with a smaller version of a piece of my past. I promise to plant those sunflowers to remind me of what I have the opportunity to offer my children, and when it comes time to reap the benefits of our hard work, I promise this year I will take out all my canning equipment and I will can everything possible, a task I have been intimidated by for most of my adult life but still one I dream of mastering.