Question: I'm looking through my seed catalogs and online, and I'm amazed at the variety of vegetables and herbs I can grow. Is there an independent group that tests varieties and that can help me decide which vegetables will grow well for me in my area?
Answer: One place to look for independent evaluations of old and new varieties from home gardeners like you is Cornell University's Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners Web site. Gardeners can register at the site (http://vegvariety.cce.cornell.edu) to rate and review their favorites, as well as those that didn't work well for them. The site has more than 3,400 reviews/ratings entered by more than 2,300 registered users. Anyone can visit the site to read these reviews and ratings to find varieties that will work best in their gardens and to offer their own insights. To date, the site has more than 5,600 vegetable variety descriptions along with seed sources. Check it out and give some new varieties a whirl.
Question: I would like to make several raised beds for my garden. What is the best material to use for the walls. Cost is a big factor.
Answer: There are many materials that can be used for making raised beds. All you need is a material that can be stacked 8 to 10 inches tall and that will hold the soil inside. Wood is the most commonly used material for building raised beds. Rot-resistant woods, such as cedar and hemlock, are best. Treated woods should be avoided since the chemicals may leach into the soil. While wood is very functional and attractive, you can also use other materials. Bricks, cinder blocks, and stone all can be used to make raised beds. These materials can be stacked or cemented together. Stones are attractive and inexpensive if you gather them yourself. If you're not using cement, be sure the stones stack tightly together so the soil doesn't run through the gaps when it rains or when you water.