When the Adams County Master Gardeners began working to install planting beds in the Trial Garden area at the Extension Office on Old Harrisburg Road in Gettysburg, they proceeded with plans to use raised beds in which to grow and demonstrate their various trial growing projects. It was a wise decision as this method of gardening has kept the trial gardens producing well from their inception in 2007.
Many consider raised bed gardening a novel idea in gardening. Nothing could be farther than the truth. There is some archeological evidence that suggests raised beds were used by the early Greeks and Romans. Remains of these types of gardens have been found at castle and monastery sites throughout Europe dating from the Dark Ages. When the Pennsylvania Germans arrived in our area in the 1700s, they brought this custom of gardening with them.
When the Penn State Master Gardeners of Adams County planned their raised beds in 2007, they made them all 4 feet wide and up to 20 feet long with some being shorter. All the beds have approximately a four-foot grass path in between them and plastic wood borders that keep the soil in.
One of the main reasons raised beds are so successful is because the soil never becomes compacted. There is no reason to ever walk on these beds. They are narrow enough for gardeners to reach across, so planting and weeding are both relatively easy. The soil is easily amended; it doesn’t wash away during a hard rain. Pest and disease control are easier because of the limited space, and water utilization is improved.
The Master Gardener Trial Garden beds are “owned” by individual master gardeners and usually feature a limited choice of plants. This year we are featuring plants that attract Monarch butterflies so several beds are filled with selections of milkweed, including the common roadside milkweed. Unfortunately, this particular type of milkweed can be invasive and must be guarded against quickly filling in an entire bed.
Besides these plants, there will be beds of perennial butterfly weed and swamp milkweed as well as annual milkweed such as balloon plant for the Monarchs to utilize. These plants provide nectar for monarch butterflies, and they also allow places for the monarchs to lay their eggs. After the eggs hatch, the tiny caterpillars spend their growing time eating the milkweed leaves. By the fall, Adams County Master Gardeners hope to have raised many Monarchs. Aiming to hopefully provide a Monarch way-station, they will be planting many milkweed varieties to provide for many Monarchs.
Adams County Master Gardeners always welcome visitors to their gardens. Their goal is to educate homeowners, new gardeners and experienced gardeners as well in all things green. They try to show various new and exciting plants, old favorites, and new ways of having beautiful gardens. All their beds are planted and ready to be viewed.
Again this year they will be holding garden chats but with a difference. Those who attended on June 19 saw a demonstration of succulent planters. This is a new easy trend in gardening. Another enticement was tea and cookies during the garden chat. July 17 will be a chat on indoor worm composting. Bring the children on Aug. 21 to enjoy a story in the garden, tea and cookies and a chat about the children’s garden where they can see and smell the popcorn plant. The last chat is Sept. 18, with a demonstration about making a bee box for the garden and a visit to the pollinator garden. Also visitors will see many goldenrod plants in bloom, a preview of next year’s gardening emphasis. All Garden Chats take place outside at the garden and start at 6 p.m.