Rich soil in raised beds sustains veggies in mild-winter areas
Raised beds filled with rich soil provide ideal growing conditions for cool-season-crops. In the wood-framed beds pictured here, a Seattle family of six harvests vegetables, herbs, fruits, and cut flowers year-round. Altogether, the family maintains four 4- by 8-foot beds and one 4- by 4- foot bed. They've found a number of ways to get the most crops and color out of their beds.
Grow crops vertically to save space. Along the back of a bed (left), edible pole peas will twine up a framework of 5-foot bamboo stakes inserted into the soil in a crisscross pattern. Sweet peas planted at the base of a wood obelisk will climb the sides, leaving plenty of room for strawberries to fill the rest of the bed.
• Plant cut-and-come-again vegetables that can be harvested a few leaves, sprigs, or stems at a time. Leaf lettuce, for example, will keep forming new leaves if you harvest mature leaves one at a time from the outside of the plant. Swiss chard can keep producing leaves for a couple of years. Grow curly parsley as a garnish and Italian flat-leaf parsley for cooking or salads. Japanese bunching onions yield a steady supply of stems you can use like scallions.
• Choose long-bearing or multipurpose vegetable varieties when possible. Everbearing strawberries yield fruit from spring through fall. If you plant bulbing onions at 2-inch intervals, you can thin them in the green stage for scallions, then pick mature bulbs next summer.
• Interplant herbs with vegetables. Set oregano, thyme, and prostrate rosemary along the edges of raised beds and let them spill over the sides. Tuck a few pansies into the beds; use their edible flowers to garnish salads.