I’m pretty new to gardening. In the past I’ve grown a few tomatoes, herbs & peppers, but I’ve never really done much research or planning. Mostly, I would buy some plants, put them in containers and water them when I assumed they needed it. Whatever I got, I got. I was happy with any production at all.
This year I decided to give myself a bit of a YouTube education, along with the help from a few books so I could finally get this kinda shady small Olathe, KS vegetable garden off the ground!
Gardening Books I’ve Recently Read
- Kansas Garden Guide from Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
- The Autopilot Garden: A Guide to Hands-off Gardening by Luke Marion
- The Hydroponic Garden Secret: How to Grow More Food Faster All Year Long by Susan Patterson (decided this isn’t for me right now)
Gardening YouTube Channels that are Helping me Learn
- Self Sufficient Me
- Epic Gardening
- Next Level Gardening
- Scott Head
- The Gardening Channel With James Prigioni
- Plant Abundance
Through this educational process, I came across a few videos from MIgardener, Luke Marion – and I got an idea for an experiment!
What Happens When you Plant 6000 Seeds Without Spacing Them? FINAL RESULTS!
This was the final (3rd) video in a series, where Luke threw 6000 random seeds of lettuce, radish, turnip, lots of carrots, cabbage, pak choi (bok choy), and more into one single 48 sq ft. bed while completely disregarding spacing, rows, and all other common planting practices. Luke did prepare the bed amending it with fresh compost, his own organic fertilizer Trifecta+, and other organic soil amendments.
In this video, Luke noticed that radishes seemed to grow very tightly, right next to each other with almost no space at all between them. He also mentioned that the turnips looked great as well. I continued this series, starting from the beginning.
Just 2 Weeks after We Planted 6000 Seeds and Disregarded Spacing
This was the 2nd video in the series. At this stage, Luke mentions that the radishes seem to be growing without affecting the carrots at all and he anticipates harvesting most of the radishes before the carrots need to use the space themselves to grow – though in the final (3rd) video, Luke mentions that the carrots did not actually produce as well as he thought they would.
(Last week, I did actually plant a section of a different bed to try something similar, but with only radishes and carrots. I selected very quick to harvest radishes and a bunch of different random carrots)
Planting Potatoes in June for a Late Fall 2nd Harvest
TODAY I came across this video while searching through YouTube videos, looking for something to plant in of the 18 inch by 42 inch bins (5.25 sq. ft.) in one of the raised beds.
In this video, Luke mentions that he uses a more simple method of planting seed potatoes than what most people and seed potato packages suggest. By planting deeper – , there’s no need to keep hilling/mounding soil/straw over the potatoes as they grow. Luke also mentions he plants 5-7 inches deep, but also mentions that he has planted seed potatoes as deep as 12+ inches and received great results. My bin is 20 inches deep… I had an idea!
The Massive Root Veggie Experiment
What type of results will I get if I plant potatoes, beets/turnips, and radishes all in the same bed at the same time and on top of each other – all while planting potatoes deeper and closer to each other than normal, and completely disregarding spacing for the beets/turnips & the radishes by random scatter shaking to spread 1 packet of turnip seeds, 2 packages of beet seeds on the next layer, then on top another layer of 3 packages of radish seeds?
This was my thought…
If I can plant potatoes 12 inches deep, they won’t need to be hilled/mounded, plus there might be enough space above the growth before the potatoes are ready for harvest for other root vegetables to grow. Then, based on some other videos I’ve seen on the MIgardener channel, I started thinking that if I get longer more slender radishes, rather than round globe radishes, maybe the tight growth would be more likely to send the radish roots deeper down, needing even less space, leaving more space for other root veggies – maybe beets and turnips? I don’t know. Let’s try!
Here’s what I did…
I started with a bin that had wildflowers growing in it. When my dad helped me start setting up the garden in late March and early April, I wasn’t sure what to plant in that bed, so we just tossed in some wildflowers until I decided which veggies would take their place.
I didn’t have any seed potatoes, beet/turnip seeds, or radish seeds on hand, so I went hunting at the local home and garden stores. Unfortunately, it seems most of these big and mid-sized stores really stop putting efforts into the vegetable garden part of gardening after about mid-May, so veggie pickin’s are getting slim. I ended up needing to make multiple stops, but I did find everything I needed for this experiment.
This bed was about 4 inches low on soil. I already had “left-over” soil in my soil mixing tub. This was a mix of everything I’ve used so far this year – a bit of dirt left over from an in-ground bed that was reshaped, “old” potting soil, composted cow manure, sorghum peat moss, “new” potting soil and organic fertilizer. This definitely wasn’t any sort of specific blend, but plenty of quality soil once mixed and modified a little.
Being potatoes prefer acidic soil, I was all ready to go with a bag of Majestic Earth Peat Moss I bought last week, to add acidity to the soil if needed.
I ran out of Trifecta+, so I grabbed some organic fertilizer when I was at the store last week – Dr. Earth Home Grown® Organic & Natural Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer (4-6-3, N-P-K). I don’t buy only organic vegetables and seeds, but I try to stick to organic fertilizers, soil amendments, composts, etc. and I use the expensive organic fertilizer with high levels of colony forming units (CFU) – beneficial soil microbes plus mycorrhizae
I bought a bag of Timberline Soil/Green Country Cotton Burr Compost from Lowe’s. I bought some of this last week to use as mulch for peppers I transplanted into containers and I’ve really liked the way it holds in moisture as well as it’s aesthetic.
For the root veggies, I ended up at Menards (after a failed stop at Ace Hardware). I’d remembered seeing seed potatoes at Menard’s a few months ago. Also, I knew Mendards had all seeds on sale, as well.
- Potato: Superior – Early-Season White from Holland Beauty Flower and Bulb Corp. – 8 full seed potatoes, 75-90 days to harvest
- Beet: Detroit Supreme from Burpee – 3 grams of seeds, 14-21 days to germination, 60-65 days to harvest
- Beet: Detroit Dark Red Medium Top from Burpee – 5.5 grams of seeds, 14-21 days to germination, 59 days to harvest
- Turnip: Organic Golden Globe from Burpee – 3 grams of seeds, 7-14 days to germination, 55 days to harvest
- Radish: Salad Rose from Burpee – 2.5 grams of seeds, 4-6 days to germination, 35 days to harvest
- Radish: White Icicle from Burpee – 4.5 grams of seeds, 4-6 days to germination, 27-35 days to harvest
- Radish: French Dressing from Burpee – 4.5 grams of seeds, 4-6 days to germination, 25-35 days to harvest
Preparing the Soil for the Raised Garden Bed
Being this bed was full of already growing wildflowers, I pulled them all out and I sifted through all the workable soil to find any maple tree helicopters and all other types of roots that had taken hold.
Pulling wildflowers from raised bed garden binThese nice raised beds were built by the previous owners, and as I mentioned, I hadn’t really done much with them since. Though, it does seem the previous owners may have started these beds by filling them halfway with the dirt they dug up so they could actually build the beds. Apparently, this is a common newbie gardner mistake (I know I have bought topsoil a few times in the past – whoops). In this bed, only the top 3 inches of soil was “soft” and easily workable. I dug down about 10 inches total and worked all that “old” dirt into the “leftover” soil mentioned above and I added some additional peat moss to make the soil a bight lighter in weight and to add a bit more acidity into the soil. Without the peat moss, the soil was an even neutral 7 pH. I didn’t want to overdo it, so I only added enough to drop the soil’s pH to just under 6.5. That’s not quite as acidic as potatoes really like it, but that will be the starting point for this experiment.
As well, I added about 2 1/2 times as much organic fertilizer as instructed on the packaging. I added a lot because it seemed obvious that the deep dirt needed it, this bed had basically been fallow for the past 3+ years, and potatoes are heavy feeders. Also, the package does not assume that you’re digging that deeply into the soil to add fertilizer throughout.
Planting the Root Vegetables
I planted 8 Superior – Early-Season White seed potatoes. The package instructs to cut the potato in pieces that include “one or more” eyes each and sowing 18 inches apart and 3-4 inches deep. Instead, I planted full seed potatoes. No cutting. I dug down 12 inches and put the entire seed potatoes in the hole, then covered the hole. The spacing is about 3 inches from the bed’s edge, with about 8 inches between seed potatoes. I was actually difficult to take a photo with a good enough angle to actually show the hole depth.
Beets & Turnips
In Luke’s videos, there was no mention of beets, but I just figured they’re similar vegetables, so I’d give it a try. That said, it seems the turnips will be ready much before the beets. All the beet and turnip packages suggest planting seeds 1 1/2 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart, then thinning seedlings to 3 inches. I did not do that spacing and I will not be thinning. I took all the seeds in each packages and split the entire package of each seed through 1/3 of the bed each. The packages instruct to cover with 1/2 inch of soil. I did do that – I covered these seeds with 1/2 inch of the great soil I just prepared. I paired the beet/turnip with the radish that has the best fitting time to harvest. In the back 1/3 – Golden Globe Turnip, middle 1/3 – Detroit Dark Red Medium Top Beet, front 1/3 – Detroit Supreme Beet.
As soon as I spread the turnips at the back 1/3 of the bed, I realized a mistake. I put the first veggie with the projected first to harvest date at the back… It should be at the front, of course.
I chose three long radishes for this experiment. All packages instruct to sow thinly in rows 6 inches apart, then thin seedlings to 2 inches. I didn’t so that with the spacing and I will not be thinning. Same as with the beets/turnips, I gave each package it’s own 1/3. In the back – French Dressing Radish, middle – White Icicle Radish, front – Salad Rose Radish. As with the turnips/beets, I sowed the radishes backwards based on the days to harvest, but that’s okay.
All packages suggest to cover with 1/2 inch of soil. Instead, I covered the entire bed with about 1 inch of cotton burr compost. Last week I tried something similar with the other bed that has radishes. Instead of covering the radish seeds with soil, I covered them with about 1 inch of shredded cypress mulch and those radish seeds sprouted in 3 days, so I figured trying it with cotton burr compost was worth a shot.
Next I watered-in the bed with water from the rain barrel I got in from a free workshop hosted by the Geoscience Academy at Olathe North High School in April 2019. I’ve also added a water transfer pump with quick release connectors, which is also plugged into a smart outlet, so I can start and stop the pump with my voice through Google Home and Google Assistant.
The pump has a mounting hook in a dry spot on the underneath of the deck, just out of shot to the right and it’s plugged into an outdoor extension cord that runs along the side of the house under the deck and plugs into an outdoor smart plug. Later this month, I will be installing drip irrigation into a few areas. At that time, I will also empty the rain barrel and add a connection on the right side at the bottom, with an additional screen filter. This way, I can always have the pump connected so I will be able to turn on and off the drip irrigation system from my phone or with my voice. As well, it will allow me to use the spigot at the same time. I like the idea of being able to easily water all the beds and planters throughout the yard all year using only rain water. Of course, the drip irrigation lines will be a nice bonus.
I decided to water-in atop the cotton burr compost. Of course, this is not usual. I did this because I did not want to put too much coverage on the radishes, so I skipped adding soil and only used the compost. Had I watered before adding the compost, the radish seeds would’ve likely been washed all across the bed. This way, the seeds are more likely to stay in place.
Lasly, I added a handful of red wiggler worms from my worm composter. This is new and really exciting! Last week, I bought 1 lb. of red wiggler worms (~1000) from Rangel Worm Farm in Lee’s Summit and they’re great. I’ve added a handful to every bed in the yard and the rest are chomping away in the worm composter underneath the deck.
Follow Along with this Tubular Experiment!
I plan to share updates as they happen – sprouting, squirrels eating the seedlings, bugs, growth, harvesting, and anything else interesting that may happen with this bed. Sign up and I’ll shoot you an email when there’s a new update.
Let me know what you think!
- Have you tried anything similar to this in your garden?
- What do you think will happen with this experiment?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below