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#raised beds

Not always the pretty, flower filled pics you see everywhere online. Here at our cottage in Leitrim, it rains. A lot. Nearly every day. That’s why Ireland’s so green and lush..all the rain!

But what it means for my wee acre of land is that the soil is sodden clay. Really HEAVY sodden clay.

The front of the garden has been beautifully landscaped by the previous owners..


But the back is a field that hasn’t been worked, sadly, for at least a couple of decades….


As a result, it’s overgrown with brambles, bog grass and bracken. I’ll cut back the brambles and bracken but am not laying a hand on the trees or hedging around it…they stay, because they harbour wildlife and birds. The septic tank is placed in one corner of the field. Of the rest of it, only a wee bit in the middle is currently useable. That’s where I’m placing my four raised beds. I’m using those because when I tried digging the soil, I almost gave myself a stroke. Not joking…the soil is so waterlogged it’s pointless digging it as I don’t have enough manure or bulking (like straw bedding etc, ) to help make it lighter, more friable. Once I’ve had the hens I’m getting for a few years, aye, then the waste they produce can go into the soil and it’ll help a great deal.

But for now, if I want to grow vegetables..and I do…it’s raised beds. Two are built and in place already, two more will be put there next week. And I have a tiny polytunnel, near the trees for shelter from the increasing storms Ireland’s getting, for things like tomatoes, salad veg etc.

The irony is, clay soil is often GOOD soil, packed full of nutrients and minerals just right for crops. But if I can’t dig it I can’t use it. In the years to come, I’ll save to hire a man with a tractor or rotovator to til the soil for me, digging in bulking agents. Til then, raised beds it is.

But the front, well…I can manage to dig into the lawn areas to plant things, and since the front is beautifully landscaped with topiary and huge Leylandii to one side, firs, spruces and our gorgeous Cedar tree outside the sittingroom window and other bushes and shrubs, I planted, yesterday, a few Hydrangeas and Violas alongside the path from the gate to the door. I hope they survive the coming storm. They’re still small so they shouldn’t suffer too much from the winds and no snow if forecast for this area, so hopefully that also means no frost damage.

I also planted a Buddleia, to attract butterflies in summertime.

I’ve no real complaints about the house or be honest, we’re just so happy to have a roof over our heads, and our family intact, given what we’ve been through.

I wish I was younger though. It isn’t until now, that I’m not, that I realise how damn fit and strong I used to be. And, I miss that…

But aye, there *are* ways around issues like this. If you can’t, for whatever reason, dig where you are, try raised beds or if there’s no room, container gardening or even vertical gardening if you’ve walls. Sunshine, air, water and food are all plants need to thrive. And the benefits of growing in beds and containers is, of course, less weeds to contend with.

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HLU: “Seed Companies”

Today’s Horticulture Learning Unit is about seed companies.

Below is a list of reputable companies and shops I use when looking for fruit and vegetable, heirloom flower, and herb seeds. Some of the listed also have garden supplies, tools, beneficial insects, and live plant starts.

I always use a few companies that grow in climates similar to mine. I find using seed companies located in the Pacific Northwest and Maritime Northwest to be more successful in my garden. Purchasing seeds that are accustomed to your climate can help in getting a jump start/extending your growing season. I tend to lean away from seed companies that are located in areas which have tropical or desert climates since the Maritime Northwest is on the opposite end of the scale. However, that does not mean that there aren’t some fantastic seed sellers in those areas.

**Pacific Northwest Specific (WA, OR, CA)

Seed Companies

  • Seed Savers Exchange
  • Territorial Seed Company**
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Johnnys Selected Seeds
  • Park Seed
  • Filaree Garlic Farm**
  • Heirloom Onions
  • Urban Farmer
  • Siskiyou Seeds**
  • High Mowing Organic Seeds
  • Victory Seed Company**
  • Seeds Trust/High Altitude Seeds
  • Sustainable Seed Company
  • Seattle Seed Company**
  • Heritage Harvest Seed
  • Seeds of Change**
  • Gourmet Seed International**
  • Uprising Seeds**
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Veg posting journal entry 1. 7/2/20

Got started on the beds today, started by weeding and digging the beds. Dug up a lot of bind weed roots, honestly I wish theydid something useful because they’re just fantastic at growing. Found a lovely fungus growing on one of my beds, they are prone to a little mold but the boards are thick enough to withstand it. Once they were dug over I collected some compost from my bin and added it to the beds. I only had enough black stuff to cover two of my beds, I might buy some more or leave the other bed open as a little experiment.

Wish I’d taken more pictures as it was a lovely day and I was closely supervised by both assistant gardeners. Didn’t see our robin though, maybe he was busy today.


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HLU: “Soil Structure”

Today’s Horticulture Learning Unit is on the topic of soil structure in your raised planting beds.

Here in the Maritime Northwest, we see constant rainy Winters and Springs. This rain, paired with the Pacific Oceans influence on the climate, causes our soil to be slightly acidic with an average pH of 6.0. Most garden vegetables won’t mind a pH of this number, however, if one wanted to have their soil a true neutral they could amend their soil with mature compost.

According to the Tilth Allience, “A gram of healthy soil is home to as many as 500 million beings: bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, yeasts, protozoa, algae, etc.*” We as gardener’s try to maintain and assist these organisms by keeping our soils healthy and balanced with the right nutrients and amendments.

When early Spring comes around, it’s time to assess your planting soil and determine the structure and if it needs any amendments. There are generally four (4) soil types.

  • Clay: heavy, compact soils. Clay soil is rich in nutrients and is very fertile. Retains all water and in summer, will dry out and crack. Slow to warm up.
  • Sand: light soils lacking in moisture retention. Dries out, drains, and warms up quickly. Usually very acidic and lacking in nutrients. Sandy soil can wash away easily by heavy rains.
  • Silt: fertile soils with a silky texture. Silt soil drains quickly and holds moisture, but compacts easily if pressed or stepped on.
  • Loam: a mixture of clay, sandy, and silt soils. Moisture retentiave, fertile, holds its shape, and is easily worked with. Loamy soils are preferred for raised beds.

How can you tell if you have a balanced loamy soil? (Preform this test in sunny weather and not immediately after rain.) Go out into the garden and grab a handful of soil from approximately 1-2 inches beneath the surface. Squeeze it into your hand to form a ball like mass. Toss the compacted soil into the air and catch it in the palm of your hand.

  • If the mass breaks apart and crumbles in the air (or even in your hand before tossing), you might have too much sand in your soil.
  • If the mass stays intact and does not break when it hits the palm of your hand (or even splats like mud), you might have too much clay or silt in your soil.
  • If the mass stay intact in the air, and breaks apart into clumps when it hits the palm of your hand, you have a more balanced soil.

Of course, this simple test is an old farmers trick. If you want a in depth test, you can send a sample of your soil to a soil testing facility. They will be able to give you a in depth report of your soils structure, fertility, and nutrients. The photo below** lists a few soil testing facilities for the Maritime Northwest area.


Cited Sources

*Elliott, Carl, et al. The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide: Planning Calendar for Year-Round Organic Gardening. Seattle Tilth, 2012.

**Elliott, Carl, et al. The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide: Planning Calendar for Year-Round Organic Gardening. Seattle Tilth, 2012.

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Building a Hügelkultur: A First Attempt Guide

Spring is coming, I can feel it in my bones, which means it’s a good time to prepare my raised beds! Hence my impulse driven project of chopping up my Christmas tree and building a hügelkultur as dusk started to fall.

For those who don’t know, a hügelkultur is a German permaculture-esque practice of burying logs and branches with compost to create a raised bed. As the wood decomposes, it releases water and nutrients that the plants can easily access, meaning you don’t have to fertilize or water as often. Sustainability rocks!


Step 1: Dig a big hole. I’m doing this in raised bed boxes, but you can do it anywhere.

Step 2: Lay a bed of logs and branches, logs on the bottom, branches on top. Make sure you have a decent layer, branches like to spring but the woody material is what holds all the good stuff. I’m only using the branches, since the trunk of the tree is going to be firewood, but this has been done with full trees. Like, full maples. Big ass trees.


Step 3: Organic material! Kitchen scraps, partially decomposed compost, garden cuttings. I have a camellia that drops it’s flowers all over my pathway, so I was able to use those and do a bit of witchcraft while building this thing.


Step 4: Brown material! All those dried leaves, the soggy mess from your gutters, all of it. Plop on top.


Step 5: Cover it all up with a layer of fully composted material and the soil you dug out when you made that big hole.

This raised bed will be decomposing for several years, and as it decomposes, the soil will get richer and richer. As it is, it’s a really soft and springy bed, great for root systems.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this guide!

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Welcome to the PNW Horticulture Blog!

Welcome garden enthusiasts,

I am the owner and operator of SeattleSucculents. I live in the Pacific Northwest Maritime climate, Zone 8a. Though my hobbies focus largely on houseplants, I do partake in edible horticulture, specifically Olericulture and a slight influence of Pomology and Floriculture.

I started my own journey in horticulture in spring of 2018. I started growing different varieties of vegetables in a in-ground bed. I had a average growing season.

In spring of 2019, I decided to forgo in-ground beds and switch to raised beds. The results of my growing season were multiplied exponentially from the year prior. On my down time, I learned on ways to make my garden more sustainable. Water conservation, seed saving, plant breeding, soil structure, organic pest elimination, companion planting, vermicomposting, and agriculture education were among my topics of study.

2019 Garden Pictures

This year, I am expanding on my raised beds even further by adding a cold frame so I can extend my growing season. I plan on documenting my journey and sharing my experiences with all, and applying my learned knowledge to further create my sustainable garden.

To those who are just now joining me on this journey, I welcome you and hope we all learn together! To those of you who are following me over from SeattleSucculents, thank you for your support and sticking with me for so long!

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My raised bed is coming along.

Digging out the root-filled bed area and laying the brick wall foundation now. Pretty sure it’s not level so I’ll need to back l go back and fix that

It will be a scrap board wall to top since I’m using all salvaged materials I found on the property when we bought it. But I think I can still make it look good.

Don’t know what the concrete foundation on the left side was for, but I’m going to put the workbench (from the barn) there for a potting bench

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Garden log


This is where the vegetable garden will go. We’re gonna do two rows of raised beds, starting at the front by where I’m standing, and expanding backwards as materials and my ability to care for it allow. It’s a lot of space!

I’m starting by solarizing a section big enough to put three beds (that’s what the plastic is for) and hope to have them built and filled and planted for fall crops. Garlic, at least, but I bet I can get some quick/hardy greens in there in time.

I bought a few bags of soil to start me off, but I’ll be mixing it with the existing sandy soil in the beds, and of course the rabbits make their contribution.

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All I’m wanting to do right now is build some raised beds and some chicken coops and beehives and maybe have a lil bit of land with a tiny house, or alternatively have a rooftop garden in a big city and spend all day painting my bee and chicken and vegitable friends

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no witcher has ever died in his own bed. ( vesemir ),  you always were an unruly child. ( ciri ),    I selfishly considered you mine. ( geralt ),  they were raised by wolves ( wolf school ),    with your name tattooed across my heart ( visenna )

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