Mixing Soil. Like a Boss.

I wrote about my soil mixture that I use for my raised beds here a few years ago. It’s a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 manure or compost.

It’s essentially “Mel’s Mix” from the Square Foot Gardener Mel Bartholomew. Here in Edmonton you can find the large 3.8 cubic foot block of peat moss just about anywhere (Walmart, Canadian Tire, any Garden Centre). I buy my 118 litre bag of vermiculite at Apache Seeds and the manure wherever I can find good selection. Altogether it costs about $52 to make up a large batch of soil which I use to supplement my existing beds or make new ones.

Some of my raised beds don’t really need more volume, they just need the addition of compost or manure. Every fall I dig in leaves and grass cuttings which help to lighten the soil, then in the spring I like to add some composted material as well. This keeps the garden healthy and helps with moisture retention over the warm summer months.

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I use a tarp to mix my soil

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Peat moss, vermiculite and manure

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Topping up my raised bed

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Transplant Often, Transplant Deep

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Tomatoes love to be buried deep. If you want strong healthy tomato plants, plant them as deep as you can and transplant them more than once before they go into the garden.

I start my tomato seeds in March and by mid-April they are ready to “prick out“. I transfer my strongest seedlings, making sure they have at least one set of true leaves, to their first individual pot.

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The roots are transplanted right to the bottom of the pot. Ideally I want just the leaves to appear above the soil level. If their cotyledon leaves will be buried, I snip them off beforehand.

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Doing this assures the best chance for strong root formation and avoids the development of those long lanky plants with a weak stem. In a few weeks I’ll transplant them again into a deeper pot, repeating the process.

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Cheap and Easy Plant Markers

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I know there are all sorts of retail products you can purchase to identify your seedlings in pots or in the garden, but with the number of plants I grow from seed I don’t want to be spending my gardening budget on fancy markers. I’d rather spend my money on fancy plants 🙂

Using a permanent ink, I write the name of the plant on the plastic marker cut from a yogurt or similar container. They last all season, aren’t affected by rain or hot sun and I can often reuse the same markers the following year. What could be simpler?

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Building A Simple Raised Bed Planter :)

Every now and again I get called upon to help build something for a friend. I guess it’s because my girlfriends don’t have all the tools I do, or maybe it’s because I have more experience than most in my social circle.

This week a good friend showed me a picture of a Costco raised bed planter she thought she might buy. For $190 she could buy a set of two plastic snap-together beds that would give her 32 square feet of usable garden space. The 4’x4′ planters didn’t ideally suit her needs, as she didn’t really want to give up that much lawn space.

I convinced her that for 1/3 the cost she could have a lovely cedar planter, made to whatever dimensions she liked.

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I sent her to the lumber depot with a shopping list:
4x 2x6x10′ cedar boards (for sides)
1x 2x6x8′ cedar board (for ends) cut into 4 two foot lengths

I looked through my things and found:
2 1/2″ zinc wood screws
An old stair rail which I cut into six 2x2x11″ pieces

We met at her place and got started. I’ve built a number of these sort of beds, but I have to say that having someone to help is a real treat.

With her holding each 2×2 in place, I screwed two screws into each board, fastening them to the corner post.

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After the first layer was complete, we began the same process with the second level. I like to alternate the overlap of the boards so that the planter looks the same from all angles. It also provides more strength to the joints.

Since this raised bed is ten feet long, we added two more posts halfway along the length to pull the boards together and support them. Easy peasy.

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In a half hour we were done with the project; I doubt she could have put the plastic planters from Costco together any quicker. And the custom built cedar planter looks awesome.

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LawnLift Grass Paint: Update

The team at LawnLift.ca contacted me to let me know that they are all ready for spring with a new formulation for their lawn paint and a new selection of colors suitable for painting mulch as well as grass.

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They are offering my followers a 10% discount on their purchase by mentioning gardeninggrrl when you place your order. That’s awesome, thanks LawnLift!