Add Gardening Space, Beauty and Ease with Elevated Gardens

By Melinda Myers

Elevate your gardens to waist high level for convenience and easy access. Elevated gardens are easy on your back and knees and are perfect for the patio, balcony, deck or any area where a bit of planting space is desired. Place them near your kitchen door, grill or table for easy cooking and serving access. You’ll be able to plant, weed and harvest with minimal bending or even from a chair.

Purchase one on wheels or add casters to the legs of your elevated garden for added mobility. Then wheel it into the sun or shade as needed each day or out of the way when you entertain.

Set the garden in place first. Once it’s filled with soil, it will be very heavy and difficult to move. Those gardening on a balcony should confirm the space will hold the weight of the elevated garden you select when filled with soil and mature plants.

Make sure you have easy access to water. Since this is basically a container, you will need to check the soil moisture daily and water thoroughly as needed. Fill the elevated garden with a well-drained planting mix that holds moisture while providing needed drainage.

Incorporate a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer like Milorganite ( at planting. It contains 85% organic matter, feeding the plants and soil. Slow release fertilizers provide plants with needed nutrients for several months, eliminating the need for weekly fertilization.

Grow a variety of your favorite herbs and vegetables like basil, parsley, compact tomatoes, and peppers. Support vining plants or try compact ones like Mascotte compact bush bean. Add color and dress up your planter with flowers like edible nasturtiums and trailing herbs like thyme and oregano which will cascade over the edge of the planter.

Maximize your growing space by planting quick maturing vegetables like radishes, beets and lettuce in between tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and other vegetables that take longer to reach their mature size. You’ll be harvesting the short season vegetables just as the bigger plants need the space.

Further increase your garden’s productivity with succession plantings. Fill vacant spaces that are left once a row or block of vegetables are harvested. Add more planting mix if needed.

Select seeds and transplants that will have time to reach maturity for harvesting before the growing season ends. Broccoli, cabbage, compact Patio Pride peas, lettuce, spinach and other greens taste best when harvested in cooler fall temperatures.

Replace weather-worn flowers with cool weather beauties like pansies, nemesias, dianthus, alyssum and snapdragons. Fertilize the whole planter so new plantings and existing plants have the nutrients they need to finish out the season.

Protect your fall flowers, herbs and vegetables from hard frosts with floating row covers. These fabrics allow air, light and water through while trapping the heat around the plant.

Once you discover the fun, flavor and ease of waist high gardening, you’ll likely make room for more elevated planters for your future gardening endeavors.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening for Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Milorganite for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.MelindaMyers.

“Harvest and Preserve Herbs for Flavorful Meals Year-round”

Add a flavorful boost to any meal with garden-fresh herbs. You’ll quickly discover the difference fresh herbs make when preparing any meal or dessert.

Harvest herbs whenever you need them for cooking or garnishing a favorite dish. Adjust the quantity of herbs used to allow for variations in flavor intensity and your family’s preference.

In general, you will need two to three times more fresh than dried herbs. So, if the recipe calls for one teaspoon of dried parsley use one tablespoon (three teaspoons) of fresh parsley leaves.

Use a pair of garden scissors or pruners for harvesting. Make your cuts above a set of healthy leaves. The wound will close faster, and the remaining plant will look better. Rinse off the clippings and remove tough stems and any discolored or damaged leaves and start cooking.

Store the extra, unwashed leafy herbs in a vase of water and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Keep basil on the kitchen counter and cold-tolerant herbs like parsley and cilantro in the refrigerator.

Wrap thicker-leafed herbs like sage and thyme in a paper towel, set inside a plastic bag and place in a warmer section of the fridge.

Don’t be afraid to keep harvesting. Regular picking encourages new growth for future harvests. Just be sure to leave enough foliage to maintain plant growth. You can harvest as much as 50 to 75% from established annual herbs and one third of perennial herbs at one time.

Clip off leaves and stems before the plant begins flowering to encourage more tender growth. You’ll get the greatest concentration of flavor when the plant has formed buds, but before they open. However, don’t discard the flowers if you’ve waited too long. Enjoy the beauty and added flavor of basil, lavender, lovage, monarda, oregano, Rosemary, sage, sweet marjoram and thyme blossoms in salads, soups and other beverages.

As the season winds down, consider preserving some of your favorite herbs to use all winter long and to give as gifts.

Drying is one of the easiest ways to preserve your herbal harvest. Collect large amounts of basil, rosemary, marjoram and sage just prior to flowering. Cut the plants back about halfway in the morning after the dew has just dried off the leaves. Rinse – do not soak – the clippings and then remove any damaged or dried leaves.

Gather the herbs into small bundles and secure with a rubber band. As the stems shrink, so does the rubber band. Use a spring-type clothespin to hang the bundles from a clothesline or hanger.

Store the bundled herbs in a warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight for drying. Some gardeners cover the drying herbs with a paper bag to keep them clean.

You can also dry herbs in the microwave. Remove the leaves from freshly harvested herbs. Evenly spread two cups of washed herb leaves on a double thickness of paper towel. Microwave on high for four to six minutes, depending on your microwave.

Fully dried herbs will be brittle and rattle when stirred. Store dried herbs in an airtight container for later use. Label the container with the name of the herb and date preserved.

Then add these flavorful additions to your meals throughout the winter. You’re sure to savor the flavor and memories these homegrown preserved herbs add to every meal.