Tips & Tricks for Use in Your Pi-Garden Round Raised Bed Garden

Checking Your Climate ZoneNOTE: The information on the backs of seed packets are very generalized - they just don't have room to deal with all the detail. So when deciding what to plant in your garden, and when, it is better to look up climate zone information either on the internet or in gardening books. BUT be aware that climate zones do not give the full picture as they are based on minimum temperatures and often do not consider maximum temperatures, so if you live in areas with high summer heat heat some plants may not do well. You may have to plan crop timing to avoid the summer temperatures, or select plants that can survive the heat.

 

This is a useful site http://www.garden.org/zipzone/ to find your hardiness zone by zip. And it has this illustrative quote, "For example, the weather and plants in low elevation, coastal Seattle are much different than in high elevation, inland Tucson, Arizona, even though they're in the same zone USDA zone 8." So you need to select plants known to grow well in your very local area. One good way to do this is to consult your local nursery, not the big box garden centers which distribute plants over many microclimate zones, but the ones that actually grow the plants you are thinking of planting. From personal experience, what does well in San Diego does not necessarily do well in Temecula 70 miles away. Talk to your gardening neighbors and your local gardening clubs or community gardeners to find out what does well, maybe even share plant stock and seeds, over time plants do acclimate so seed sharing is another good way to get those varieties which work well.

 

Ultimately it is best (and fun) to try different crops and different varieties of each crop until you find the ones that really do well rather than struggle with those not so suited to your local conditions. If you really want those hard-to-grow plants then you may need to consider the many plant protection techniques to get them through the difficult parts of the season. Of course not every year is the same so some plants may do well in a good year; to be a gardener it is best to be an optimist!

 

Growing Potatoes in Your Pi-GardenThe photos below show a potato crop grown in the Pi Garden. This is a mixture of Yukon Gold and Fingerlings but try out some purples and reds or whatever you fancy. They need to be ORGANIC potatoes, as these will not have been treated to inhibit sprouting.

 

Start by “chitting” your potatoes in early spring i.e. place small seed potatoes in a cool, frost-free, but light area in your house, garage or other suitable area in something like an empty egg box. Position so the eyes are on top and let the potatoes sprout from 1/2 to 1 inch long. Place a 2 to 3 inch layer of planter mix in the bottom of your garden and position chitted potatoes about 6 inches apart. Cover with planter mix until just the sprouts are showing. Keep the soil mix moist but not wet. When the sprouts have grown 2 or 3 inches add more mix until the sprouts are almost covered again. Repeat this procedure until the mix reaches the top of the garden. In this way you will create long stems from which the potatoes grow.

 

When to harvest potatoes: you can feel around in the planter mix to pull some up when the potatoes are a usable size then leave the plant to produce more; or you can wait until they flower. But in our hot desert climate the heat killed off the top growth before they flowered, so we harvested when that happened. Our crop here was 20 lbs of good potatoes from 3/4 lb of organic potato starters, with many more tiny ones forming in the soil before the 100 degree heat killed off the plant top. Next year we will start a month earlier….. we didn’t get these into the Pi-Garden until April and the heat hit in early July.

potatoes growing potatoes dieing off potato crop

Lush growth of potatoes, potato tops dieing off when 100 degree temps hit, potato crop, 20 pounds from 3/4 pound of seed potato.

 

Extending Your Tomato Crop with Tomato Cuttings: This is a little known gardening tip and really works; once you have tried this you will wonder why you did not do it years ago. To propagate more of your favorite varieties, or extend the growing season, just take some top growth or side shoots, cut off a bottom leaf or two and plant directly in the pi-garden or into pots for later transplanting.  Water well and keep watered. Be aware that they will wither and fall over and look ugly for a few days, but most WILL recover and have a big root system in about 10 days. We have about 90% success with our cuttings. Check out the photos below for visual instructions. If you garden in a hot climate then partial shade over the cuttings will help them from drying out until they form good strong roots.

 

Saving seed from your friends' great tomato plants may not always work out because of cross-pollination but this vegetative technique will guarantee that your plants will be identical to those from which you took the cuttings; always ask first of course if they are not your own plants!

 

Another gardening tip - tomatoes love to be planted deep. For most other transplants we try to keep the soil level at about the same level as the container or ground they came from, but tomatoes love to be planted deep as more abundant roots will form from the lower stem. So if you have straggly seedlings don't worry, plant in a hole about twice as deep as the pot it was in or trim off some lower leaves on strong plants and do the same. The 12" depth of the pi-garden raised bed garden (twice that of other gardens) allows you to plant more deeply, and new roots will quickly establish themselves from the buried stem and give you a robust root system.  Tomatoes are related to potatoes and the same thing happens with their buried stems which in their case turn into potatoes. (And your raised bed garden works great for potatoes too....)

Tomato Tip Photos

Select a Tomato Cutting

Select a cutting - a side shoot from one of your favorite varieties.

Tomato Cutting

Your cutting ready to be trimmed.

 

Cutting trimmed

Trim off side leaves to leave one clean stem and some leaf growth above

Pot Cutting

Put in a suitable pot, or you can plant them directly into the garden

Tomato Cutting 1st Day

Day One - all potted up and looking great

Flagging tomato

Day Two and they are flagging, just keep them watered and shaded

Healthy cuttings

By Day Four they are looking healthy and happy again

Ready to plant

By Day 10 or Eleven they are ready to plant out

Rootball showing healthy roots

The rootball at Day 11, ready to be planted.