This was our second year to plant a raised bed garden at our place in Conway. What I lacked last season in production was balanced out with a tremendous amount of education when it comes to “square foot gardening.”

Last season I ran into some issues w/ my tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons because of disease. This season I did a lot more research on plant varieties and consulted with some agronomists and county extension agents from the University of Arkansas. As w/ previous years I started all of my plants from seed indoors about a month or so before planting. This process went smoothly w/ the exception of my “sugar kiss melons” that were started from seeds that were at least two years old, they just didn’t have optimum germination and it was challenging to get them started.

Over the winter I planted a cover crop of african mustard that performed really well and gave me a good amount of organic material to turn under this season. This practice is something I picked up from several growers that I have worked with at Farmers Business Network. I also setup my own compost bin last fall and by the time that spring came I had way more than enough material to work with and was able to raise the depth of my beds considerably to allow for better plant root establishment.

I also added two smaller beds this season that are detached from my main garden. In one bed I have segregated my “sugar kiss melons” and in the other bed I have my “poinsett cucumbers”. I went with the poinsett variety because of their extensive disease package that is geared toward the mid-south.

I only grow fruits and vegetables that I enjoy eating, I know some will grow a variety of crops just for the heck of it and will trade or sell what they don’t use. Our primary crops this season include:

  • White Onions (texas sweet)
  • Curley Kale (best varieties for smoothies)
  • Chard (trying for the first time)
  • Spinach (had to terminate crop after a hailstorm)
  • Romaine Lettuce (planted late after hailstorm took out buttercrunch)
  • Tomatoes (arkansas traveler (1), better boy (4), bigger boy (4)
  • Cucumbers (poinsett (6), and a smaller pickling cucumber)
  • Squash (straightneck)
  • Sugar Kiss Melons (6) this is a hybrid that originated from Hami
  • Sweet Corn (peaches & cream)

In addition to the research and work that I’ve put in getting this garden crop established, I’ve also spent a lot of time installing drip irrigation system that is about 75% complete as of today. I plan to have it wrapped up by the end of this month. This method of irrigation is optimal in terms of plant health and it gives me peace of mind knowing everything is getting watered while I’m on the road working this summer. I will probably do a post on this irrigation system once everything is up and running.

As of today my tomato plants are approximately 7′ tall and are spaced 1 square foot per plant. I have stacked on the nutrients early to get the plants off to a good start and each plant has an average of 10 tomatoes loaded up that are about the size of your fist. We are anxiously awaiting “red” in the next week or so. Also, I harvested about 15 cucumbers yesterday that were about 6″ in length on average.

This project is one of my favorite things in the world to do and is very therapeutic. I recommend gardening to everyone. It’s like the worlds best anti-anxiety / anti-depression hobby…

If you have raised beds or do square foot gardening, drop me a note (and be sure to send a photo of your setup.