Traditional gardens are great, but there's something to be said for raised bed gardens—it allows you to grow more food in less space, tailor the soil precisely to your needs, and decreases the amount of space for weeds to grow wild. Plus, the soil in raised bed warms and dries out earlier in the spring than regular garden beds, so you can get planting sooner. They allow you to garden without fighting stones and roots, and the soil in them stays perfectly fluffy since it doesn't get walked on.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks to raised bed gardens. In hot dry weather, they tend to dry out quickly. Roaming cats may find the nice, fluffy soil attractive for their own reasons. However, these few drawbacks are easy to avoid with a little planning and prevention.
Don't Walk on the Soil
The biggest advantage of raised bed gardening is the light, fluffy, absolutely perfect soil. When you build your raised beds, build them so that you're able to reach every part of the bed without having to stand in it. If you already have a raised bed and find that you have to walk on parts of it, consider installing strategically placed patio pavers or boards, and only step on those rather than on the soil.
Mulch After Planting
Mulch with straw, grass clippings, leaves, or wood chips after planting your garden. This will reduce the amount of weeding you'll have to do and keep the soil moist.
Plan Your Irrigation System
Soaker hose and drip irrigation are the two best ways to irrigate a raised bed. If you plan it ahead of time and install your irrigation system before planting, you can save yourself a lot of work and time spent standing around with a hose later on.
Top-Dress Annually with Compost
Gardening in a raised bed is, essentially, like gardening in a really, really large container. As with any container garden, the soil will settle and deplete as time goes on. You can mitigate this by adding a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost or composted manure each spring before you start planting.
Fluff the Soil as Needed
To lighten compacted soil in your raised bed, simply stick a garden fork as deeply into the soil as possible and wiggle it back and forth. Do that in 8- to 12-inch intervals all over the bed, and your soil will be nicely loosened without a lot of backbreaking work.
Cover up Your Soil, Even When You're Not Gardening
Add a layer of organic mulch or plant a cover crop at the end of your growing season. Soil that is exposed to harsh winter weather can break down and compact much faster than protected soil.
What is a slime mold?
Slime molds are members of a shape-shifting group of organisms called myxomycetes. These organisms are found all over the world, even in deserts, high altitudes, and on the edges of snowbanks. Although they often resemble fungi, slime molds are more closely related to amoebas and certain seaweeds.
What does a slime mold look like?
A slime mold spends most of its life as a lumpy mass of protoplasm, called a plasmodium, that moves and eats like an amoeba. It may be white, yellow, orange, or red. The color of a particular species can vary slightly with temperature, pH, and the substances the plasmodium eats. One very common slime mold, Fuligo septica, looks like dog vomit or scrambled eggs, from which it derives its common names. Others resemble a network of veins or a fan. In the course of a few hours a slime mold can transform from its amoeba-like phase into its fungus-like phase, which produces spores.
Where do slime molds come from?
he most common slime molds in Wisconsin love moist, shady places like crevices in rotting logs, leaf letter, and bark mulch. Spores of slime molds are resistant to adverse conditions and will germinate after a heavy rain. The plasmodium forms from many individual swimming cells called swarm cells. The plasmodium can move at a very slow rate, feeding on bacteria, other microorganisms, and organic matter. Changes in moisture or temperature, or exhaustion of its food supply can cause the slime mold to move to a drier, more exposed location to produce spores.
What do I do with a slime mold in my garden or lawn?
Slime molds do not cause diseases of plants or turf. They do use leaves and stems as surfaces on which to grow and can block out sunlight leading to leaf-yellowing. The best way to get rid of a slime mold is to break it up and dry it out. Rake up and dispose of slime molds on bark mulch. For slime molds on turf, mow the lawn, and rake up the thatch. Alternatively, you may want to enjoy a slime mold if you find one in your yard. These complex organisms are fascinating to observe and can be “captured” and grown indoors as a science project.
This post was directly excerpted from the University of Wisconsin Extension article by Joy and Brian Hudelson, UW-Madison Plant Pathology (2002). The original document can be found here for download: