Raised Bed Garden. It was last year that we endured Slug City even on our raised wooden decks. It rained and rained all Spring and the first part of Summer. I was outside almost daily picking up to 50 slugs off my potted herb and flowering plants. Slug bait, unless it’s organic, isn’t my favorite control since I also have fish ponds located downhill from the deck area.

This year's potted herb garden on the upper deck in its infancy

This year’s potted herb garden on the upper deck in its infancy

Last year, I set out a pot saucer filled with water and some rubbing alcohol for a quick slug death chamber. I’d pick off each slug and dunk it into the saucer. Vaseline was smeared in a continuous circle around each pot. Supposedly, the slugs would not cross the Vaseline and continue slithering up the pots to their plant buffets. Totally inaccurate, as my slugs happily zoomed right over the Vaseline smears.

Earlier this year, I was looking at various raised beds. I’ve been wanting to turn a messy area inside our driveway circle into a vegetable and herb garden. Right now, it’s planted with two wild dogwood trees, a volunteer wild dogwood tree that finally bloomed this year (yay!!), a crabapple tree that only seems to attract bagworms, four butterfly bushes in lavender and white hues, one Otto Luyken laurel bush, several volunteer barberry bushes, some juniper bushes, wild blackberry bushes, a lot of pachysandra groundcover and numerous volunteer tree saplings.

This is the first bloom for a 3-year-old volunteer wild dogwood

This is the first bloom for a 3-year-old volunteer wild dogwood

Since we have a lot of deer browsing around, I’ll need to fence the area with some sort of plastic mesh or maybe chicken wire. Until I can get that area cleared and move the pachysandra, this project is on hold. I’ll likely keep the Otto Lukyen laurel bush, the junipers, and the wild dogwoods where they are since they are living on the edges of the circle. We’ve lost most of our wild dogwoods to anthracnose so I’d like to keep them around. The butterfly bushes can be moved elsewhere. The rest of it can go.

Until that time, I was complaining to my husband about the slug issue, and wanting to buy a raised bed planter for my herbs and baby lettuces this year. The raised bed garden that I was looking at was several hundred dollars. My husband is a pretty good carpenter in his spare time. He surprised me with a raised bed garden that he built to put on our back deck! It’s made of hardwood and even has wheels for movability.

The raised bed planter that my husband built for me

The raised bed planter that my husband built for me

Although my husband is not a gardener per se, he realized that the raised bed needs adequate drainage. He didn’t build a bottom for the raised bed, yet instead added some Trex boards that are movable and provide plenty of drainage.

Movable Trex slats allow for great drainage

Movable Trex slats allow for great drainage

I lined the raised bed with landscape fabric and secured the fabric with metal staples from a hand-held staple gun. I trimmed the edges of the fabric that were too long. It doesn’t look stellar, but I wanted to keep the liner longer in case I needed to repair it. I’ll probably clean up the edges a bit next year.

Lined and then taped down the liner before trimming

Lined and then taped down the liner before trimming

Once the weather warmed up in Spring, I added about 10 bags of organic potting soil and spread some organic seed starting medium on the top.

Organic potting soil

Organic potting soil

Planter filled with soil

Planter filled with soil

When there was no danger of frost, I planted several kinds of basil seeds. Also, cilantro, Italian parsley, and various baby lettuce seeds went into the raised bed. I wanted trailing plants on the edges to soften the planter’s hard edges. Nasturtiums have edible leaves and flowers and would go great in homegrown salads so I planted two of them. Next year I’ll plant a few other trailing plants because I like the look.

Salad greens and basil seeds with a nasturtium plant

Salad greens and basil seeds with a nasturtium plant

Nasturtium and Cilantro and Parsley seeds

Nasturtium and Cilantro and Parsley seeds

Seeds and nasturtium are planted

Seeds and nasturtium are planted

Herb seeds are planted

Herb seeds are planted

So what grew nicely in the raised bed planter? My baby lettuces came up and matured nicely. I was able to make quite a few salads with the greens until the cabbage loopers started to lay their eggs. Then I used BT powder to get rid of their caterpillars. For whatever reason, those caterpillars LOVE arugula. Also my Italian parsley did great.

Baby arugula sprouts peek through the soil

Baby arugula sprouts peek through the soil

Seeds starting to come up

Seeds starting to come up

Seeds starting to come up

Seeds starting to come up

A Bowl of Salad Greens

A Bowl of Salad Greens

The basil is overtaking the raised planter bed

The basil is overtaking the raised planter bed

What didn’t do well? My cilantro grew up very nicely. Just as I was about to start harvesting it, a bacterial wilt took down all of the cilantro. I haven’t had great luck growing cilantro in pots either. My purple basil grew up to about two inches and stopped! Not sure what happened to stunt it like that. I’ve had that happen before with basil in pots that grows about two inches and stops. Probably some sort of bacterial issue in the soil. The Genovese basil next to it is about two feet tall now. Go figure.

My stunted purple basil next to Genovese basil that is going gangbusters

My stunted purple basil next to Genovese basil that is going gangbusters

And most importantly…did the slugs stay out of the raised bed planter? YES!! I didn’t find one slug on any of my plants in the raised bed planter even in our earlier rainy weather this Spring. I’m very pleased with the look of the planter and its performance this summer so far.

This is the VegTrug raised garden bed planter that I wanted to buy before my husband built one for me. It’s from Gardener’s Supply which is a great gardening supply business:

VegTrug also comes with covers to keep pests out and allow rain in:

Additionally, you can purchase a liner if you don’t want to make your own from landscaping fabric:

If you don’t have a lot of space, the VegTrug is available in a compact size with a cover in Robin’s Egg Blue:

This is a pretty fancy VegTrug made of cedar and cast aluminum:

Get the supplies you need to succeed with your raised bed garden:

Landscape fabric:

Stapler:

Staples:

Have you tried raised bed gardening? Leave a comment and let us know!

Gardener's Supply Company

Spring had been very slow to arrive here in Virginia this year and now today is the Summer Solstice. We were all waiting patiently for the weather to remain constant instead of the temperature fluctuations all Spring. And finally, at least by the calendar, Summer is here! Hoping for some more consistent weather.

This spirea has chartreuse leaves in the early Spring and then lovely hot pink flowers

This spirea has chartreuse leaves in the early Spring and then lovely hot pink flowers

We had a few 80 degree days in March which popped open many buds prematurely. Then, the night temperatures dropped down to the mid-20s on two nights in April. Some of my more tender perennials and bushes had freeze-burned leaves but happily recovered. Even some of the mature trees on the property lost some of their very early leaves and have sparse branches here and there. My front Bloodgood maple lost a number of early leaves yet the leaves have since resprouted. You can see the “new” growth is a bright red as compared to the deeper red on the slightly older leaves.

Bright red leaves replace the frost-damaged early leaf buds on my Bloodgood maple

Bright red leaves replace the frost-damaged early leaf buds on my Bloodgood maple

My more “finicky” hydrangeas such as Nikko Blue had brown leaves that were freeze-burned and won’t likely bloom this year. They’re sending up leaves from the lower portion of the plants. The hardy oakleaf hydrangeas are just fine though and are now in full spectacular bloom. If I had to select a plant that has survived very well in my landscape — it’s the oakleaf hydrangea.

Massive oakleaf hydrangea blossoms make a gorgeous cut flower arrangement

Massive oakleaf hydrangea blossoms make a gorgeous cut flower arrangement

Gorgeous oakleaf hydrangeas putting on a spectacular show this year

Gorgeous oakleaf hydrangeas putting on a spectacular show this year

Once the weather warmed up, the larger mature trees leafed out very quickly within three or four days. It’s a dense forest now and hard to see through the leaves. Shade can be a good thing — I love my shady backyard. I have some hostas that are yet unidentifed that popped up a few years ago. They have huge dark green leaves. I tend to favor the variegated hostas or the solid blue-gray hostas. I’m pretty sure I didn’t purchase these very hardy performers. Perhaps they are a hybrid from other hosta plants.

These two hosta plants popped up in my landscape a few years ago

These two hosta plants popped up in my landscape a few years ago

This hosta has huge cupped leaves

This hosta has huge cupped leaves

My Lady in Red hydrangea is living up to her name. She’s become very prolific in her offspring which are peppered throughout the boulders around the ponds and even growing INSIDE one of the ponds. She’s so large now, that I have to prune her back as soon as she flowers even if I sacrifice some flowers for next season.

A view from the deck to the backyard ponds -- Lady in Red hydrangea is blocking the view of the top pond

A view from the deck to the backyard ponds — Lady in Red hydrangea is blocking the view of the top pond

My peonies were a bit sparse this year. Last year, I had loads of blooms. This year, the blooms that I didn’t cut for my table arrangements just turned brown rather quickly. I’m hearing similar comments from others in the area. I think the late cold snap really took its toll on the unopened buds.

My peonies all bloomed and turned brown fairly quickly this year

My peonies all bloomed and turned brown fairly quickly this year

My bleeding hearts came up very quickly this year — almost a foot tall overnight! They were very prolific in their flowering which is exciting.

Early bleeding hearts this year

Early bleeding hearts this year

Last year, we had a terrible onslaught of slugs’ attacking my planted herb pots due to all the rain in the Spring. This year, to help combat that slug problem, my husband surprised me with a raised bed planter that he hand-built for my birthday. I am very pleased so far with the solid construction and its utility. And, I don’t have to bend over to take care of my plants! I’ve planted baby lettuces, assorted herbs, and trailing nasturtiums in my raised bed planter. More on the raised bed planter in an upcoming posting.

Nasturtium, baby lettuces and baby basil are planted in the potted herb garden and raised planter bed

Nasturtium, baby lettuces and baby basil are planted in the potted herb garden and raised planter bed

My two Cherokee Brave dogwoods were just gorgeous this year. Their lovely pink color definitely signals Spring.

Cherokee Brave Dogwood in its full glory this Spring

Cherokee Brave Dogwood in its full glory this Spring

Most of my early azaleas’ buds froze on the plants. Additionally, Bambi and his friends ate quite a number of buds on my oldest pink azaleas that they rarely touch! See the difference between last year’s spectacular flowers…and this year’s paltry display.

This year's sad display of pink azaleas due to Bambi's nibbles

This year’s sad display of pink azaleas due to Bambi’s nibbles

And last year's gorgeous blooms on the pink azaleas

And last year’s gorgeous blooms on the pink azaleas

The rest of my azaleas and my rhododendrons were gorgeous this year. That cold snap froze the lavender-colored flower buds on my deciduous azaleas which are usually first to bloom. Yet even so, my red azaleas were prolific this year. The white ones really stood out, especially at night.

This rhododendron was stricken with borers. I treated it and look how gorgeous it became!

This rhododendron was stricken with borers. I treated it and look how gorgeous it became!

A view of the back yard

A view of the back yard

White Azaleas were gorgeous this year

White Azaleas were gorgeous this year

This cinnabar azalea is grown for its foliage, not for its unique flowers -- I like the flowers, too!

This cinnabar azalea is grown for its foliage, not for its unique flowers — I like the flowers, too!

Cinnabar Azalea and Oakleaf Hydrangea

Cinnabar Azalea and Oakleaf Hydrangea

This clematis vine was so happy in its new location. Previously, its planter had been up against a brick wall. I moved it so it would get more sunlight and I was rewarded with tons of blooms!

This clematis vine went gangbusters this year!

This clematis vine went gangbusters this year!

Some of my favorite blooms this year are still my oakleaf hydrangeas.

My lovely oak leaf hydrangeas helped celebrate Flag Day -- just like soldiers at attention

My lovely oak leaf hydrangeas helped celebrate Flag Day — just like soldiers at attention

And of course, what’s a garden without some critters? I found a cute garter snake that watched me from afar and continues to pop up where I’m not looking.

Friendly garter snake in the leaves

Friendly garter snake in the leaves

And what happens when you find a totally BLACK woolly bear? What does THAT mean??

So what happens when you find a solid BLACK woolly bear?

So what happens when you find a solid BLACK woolly bear?

What’s happening in YOUR garden? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Hello and Happy New Year! 2015 was a very busy gardening year for me as evidenced by fewer 2015 garden postings here at A Gardener’s Delight. I’ll start with a recap of last year’s garden and then move on to what I’m planning for Gardening in 2016.

For the first time, I grew my own salad greens in pots. Check out my posting from my food site A Food Lover’s Delight: How to Grow Your Own Salad. Nothing’s tastier than picking fresh greens from your own garden. I chose pots because we have a lot of sun on our deck, but the planting beds are mostly shady in our fenced backyard. The pots were a great idea and kept most pests away. The salad greens were in window boxes on the top of the deck railings which kept them away from slugs. I grew the salad greens from seed: A spicy spring mix, a salad greens mixture, and also a couple kinds of arugula. I’ve noted that the “heirloom” varieties are far more finicky than the regular varieties. My heirloom arugula was stricken with cabbage moths and their caterpillars. I had to use an organic BT powder to get rid of the moths and caterpillars. Nothing bothered the spring mix. Maybe the pests were just busy eating the arugula.

Baby lettuces did wonderfully in pots on my deck railing this year (no slugs either!)

Baby lettuces did wonderfully in pots on my deck railing this year (no slugs either!)

My tomato plant yields were mixed last year. I planted three different varieties, each in its own large pot with a tomato cage. The heirloom tomato plant grew like crazy, reaching to the sun and stars, and yielded exactly ONE tomato. That one tomato, which took forever to grow, stayed green until late September and then developed blossom end rot. Unfortunately I had to discard it.

My one and only heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato this year developed blossom end rot

My one and only heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato this year developed blossom end rot

We had a lot of rain here in Virginia last Spring and Summer so over-soaked soil was a contributing factor as well as declining sunshine due to our stately surrounding oak trees. I also planted a Super Sweet 100 cherry tomato plant. I would definitely plant that one again. It was one small plant grew like crazy and yielded hundreds of cherry tomatoes. I purchased the first two tomato plants at my local Merrifield Garden Center. The third plant was grown locally and purchased at Whole Foods Market. It yielded maybe 40 tomatoes that were bigger than cherry tomatoes but smaller than regular tomatoes. Sort of the “teenager” of the tomato group.

My Super Sweet 100 cherry tomato plant went wild this year!  It was still blooming into mid-October.

My Super Sweet 100 cherry tomato plant went wild this year! It was still blooming into mid-October.

This is the teenager of the tomatoes that I grew last summer

This is the teenager of the tomatoes that I grew last summer

My potted herb garden grew nicely this year — mostly. I changed the soil in my very old thyme plants’ pot and it rewarded me by coming back very nicely. My chives come back reliably year after year. My rosemary plant has been happy for years and is now sitting inside the sunny kitchen window for the winter.

My old potted sage plant was stricken with slugs due to all the rain we received. I’m sad to say that the old sage plant died off. I planted a second sage plant and it was also attacked by slugs. One parsley plant which has hung on for several years was also stricken by slugs. Each morning, I spent at least 10 minutes picking slugs off the plants. I hate to use slug bait around my herbs so I was using saucers of beer. Not exactly worthwhile since the slugs would first feast on the herbs and then stop over for a beer chaser where they would drown in happiness. I also used a smear of Vaseline the whole way around the outside of each pot’s middle, but that didn’t seem to guard against the slugs either.

My potted herb and salad garden!

My potted herb and salad garden!

My basil did better this year. Last year, it was struck with the “basil blight.” This year, the blight didn’t happen. I love fresh basil and just before our first frost, I harvested all of my basil and arugula and made basil and arugula pesto for the freezer. Something else I’ve tried, which turns out great, is Spring Mix Pesto. Ever buy a giant container of spring mix at the grocery store, only to have it start to wilt quickly or decline due to too much moisture? Try my Spring Mix Pesto recipe and you’ll never throw out your spring mix again.

What to do with all that Spring Mix? Make Spring Mix Pesto!

What to do with all that Spring Mix? Make Spring Mix Pesto!

I tried two types of oregano this year — Italian and Greek. Both have their own distinct flavors and are great for drying for future use. Two types of mint overwintered from last year: spearmint and pineapple mint. Both grew splendidly this past summer. My tarragon didn’t survive.

My potted chives, oregano, mint, and parsley are all growing happily inside my screened porch for the winter. They get a few hours of sun and will hopefully overwinter nicely. I bring them inside because they are in terra cotta or ceramic pots and I don’t want the pots to crack in the weather. I left some potted chives outside on the deck along with lavender and another parsley plant. They are in plastic pots which don’t usually crack over the winter. Any herbs that I’ve cut and I can’t use are dried and stored in jars for future use.

My neighbor has a large property with an enviable vegetable and herb garden that is fenced to protect it from deer. She gets full sun which allows her to grow a lot more produce than I can. We traded herbs and veggies all summer. Her rosemary plants are huge and she’s growing a very old tarragon plant that has some of the best tarragon that I’ve ever tasted. I’m lucky that she shares with me.

Purple eggplants from my neighbor's garden

Purple eggplants from my neighbor’s garden

Lots of flowers in my garden this year. Our abundant rainfall caused problems with potted plants yet the ones in the ground produced loads of flowers. My peonies went gangbusters and the hydrangeas did not disappoint either. And my old annual impatiens, the ones not affected by the impatiens blight, lived long and happy lives and are still going in my basement for the winter! Here are a few photos of the gorgeous flowering plants in my garden last spring and summer.

Oakleaf hydrangea in full bloom

Oakleaf hydrangea in full bloom

My peonies were beautiful this year

My peonies were beautiful this year

Shirobana Spirea was a show all its own

Shirobana Spirea was a show all its own

Pretty pink impatiens that have survived impatiens blight and come back year after year

Pretty pink impatiens that have survived impatiens blight and come back year after year

Some cute critters graced my garden this year. Quite a number of praying mantises stood guard in my pachysandra beds. Butterflies fluttered around my butterfly bushes. A couple of descendants from my Old Blue Eyes dragonfly a few years ago became friendly and even liked to land on my finger. They have such cute personalities! My friends began to call me “The Dragonfly Whisperer.” And we had fewer adult frogs this year at the ponds. Not sure why that happened as we had loads of tadpoles last Spring and Summer.

Brown Praying Mantis was after a horsefly

Brown Praying Mantis was after a horsefly

Green Praying Mantis waiting for prey

Green Praying Mantis waiting for prey

Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly on Butterfly Bush

Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly on Butterfly Bush

A descendant of Old Blue Eyes

A descendant of Old Blue Eyes

A frog in my whiskey barrel pond

A frog in my whiskey barrel pond

Autumn brought some gorgeous color this year. It was a beautiful season with some lovely warm days. Autumn in Virginia is always a favorite season for me. Here are a few photos of fall color in my garden:

Gorgeous Japanese maples surrounding the patio at my back yard ponds

Gorgeous Japanese maples surrounding the patio at my back yard ponds

Autumn colors in my Japanese maple leaves

Autumn colors in my Japanese maple leaves

Gorgeous Japanese maples in full Fall color

Gorgeous Japanese maples in full Fall color

Late Fall and early Winter were fairly mild. We had a few weeks of 70 degree temperatures throughout November and December 2015. Eventually it cooled down, but was in the 70s again on Christmas Day. On my Christmas wish list this past year was The New Southern Living Garden Book: The Ultimate Guide to Gardening to add to my 150+ gardening book collection. Santa didn’t bring it to me for Christmas, so I bought it for myself. I look forward to browsing through the pages. So far, the book appears to have a lot of new plants in the plant dictionary as well as some new ideas on garden design.

While Gardening in 2016, I will definitely plant salad greens in pots again. I’ll try the Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, too. And of course, my potted herb garden is a mainstay on my deck. I’d like to clear out some of the little saplings that pop up in my pachysandra beds. Our oaks produced thousands of acorns this year which highly pleased the squirrels and deer alike. I’m hoping that all of those acorns don’t sprout because that will mean pulling them up out of my planting beds.

In doing my garden planning for this year, I’d love to have a fenced garden area like my neighbor’s. We do have an area that would suffice except it’s currently planted with some native dogwoods (which I would leave in place) and some pachysandra ground cover (which I could move). If you are starting your garden planning for this year, please check out my garden planning posting: It’s Time to Start This Year’s Garden Planning!

Get your own copy of The New Southern Living Garden Book: The Ultimate Guide to Gardening on Amazon.com:

What are your gardening plans for 2016? Leave a comment and let us know what you’ll be doing in your garden.