Duke Norfolk
Makes The Most Deluxe
Minibed Growing Cages!

(click on photo for larger view)

In one of my recent YouTube videos, Duke Norfolk left this comment...
I've made my own mini-beds this year and I found that cutting a cattle panel crosswise, into 24 inch width pieces (each opening is 8 inches wide) and zip tying them together makes a great tomato cage. It fits perfectly inside the the 30x30 mini-bed frame.  And the height is pretty good at 50  inches. 
They just sit right on the ground, with no anchoring, but the weight is substantial enough to make them very stable.  And they only cost about $15 each (you can get 6 sides out of  each panel, at $20 per panel), vs. the $35-40+ you'll pay for a good tomato cage.
The Duke has sent me the photo you see above, and the following (click on the photos to see larger views)...

These photos show Minibeds with tomatoes, but Duke Norfolk says he has also used them for other crops. 

These custom Minibed growing cages are impressive. Thanks for the inspiration, Duke!

2019 Garlic
Minibeds In Wisconsin

Rick's Garlic Minibeds in early June
(click photos for larger views)

Back in March of this year I posted here about Rick's Amazingly Beautiful Wisconsin Minibed Garden. The photos of Rick's garden in that post were from the 2018 gardening year. But the photo above is from Rick's 2019 Minibed garden. It was sent to me in June with the following e-mail...

Hi Herrick,

I just thought I’d drop you a line and update you on my mini-bed experience. 

I have just about all my planting done, except for carrots and I plant those the first part of July. We had a cool spring here. We had a few 80 degree days last week and now we are back to the low, to maybe mid 70’s this week. We didn’t have any 80 degree days in May, so things are kind of off to a slow start this year. That’s OK with me though. I don’t mind working on the cool days. When the temps get in to the upper 80’s to around 90 degrees with a 65-70 degree dew point, I start to melt. I don’t work so well outside then. 

Last year was my first year with a mini-bed garden and I cracked the soil as I prepared the beds for planting. I didn’t notice anything different, or unusual when I cracked the soil. 

This year as I cracked the beds to prep them, I got a surprise. My four tined potato fork that I use slipped in to the soil in the beds with hardly any effort. At most, I gave the fork handle a little push. The soil was so soft and friable I was amazed. I kept the beds mulched with leaves over the winter and with the amount of snow we had, I thought the beds would have settled, or packed down some. They did not. 

Also this year after I cracked the beds, I added the amendments, then worked up the top 2”-3” of soil to mix them in. My thought is that some of the amendments will mix a little deeper in to the soil. Also instead of breaking up and mixing the top few inches of soil then adding the amendments and then mixing again. I added the amendments right after I cracked the soil and then mixed. 

Last year I wrote to you and told you about my garlic patch failure. Out of 150 cloves planted I got one plant. When I checked it out later last spring I think all of the garlic cloves rotted except that one. When I searched the bed I couldn’t find any trace of the garlic cloves. 

Last October I planted garlic in mini-beds in my lower garden. I amended each bed with alfalfa meal, kelp meal and dry screened chicken manure. I will have garlic this year. Actually I think it’s the best garlic I have grown. The leaves are tall and the stems are thick. I’ve attached a few pictures of the beds. I noticed yesterday that the scapes are just starting to emerge from the top leaves. 

Take care.

Rick from Wisconsin

Here's another photo of Rick's garlic beds in early June. No weeds. Beautiful plants.

I never got around to posting those photos and Rick's comments back in June. So I contacted him a few days ago and asked if I could get some current pictures. These are the garlic beds on July 9th...

Those beautiful garlic beds are almost ready to harvest. If that's not some great gardening inspiration, I don't know what is.  

If you have not yet seen my YouTube videos about Minibed garlic, here they are...

And if you are not familiar with cracking the soil...

Elizabeth Makes
A Minibed Garden!

Elizabeth lives in the future State of Jefferson (a.k.a., Northern California). She is a frequent commenter (and encourager) on my personal blog and the Whizbang Gardening Facebook page. This year she made a Minibed garden. That's it pictured above. 

The hardest part of Minibed gardening is getting the infrastructure in place. It was a daunting task for Elizabeth to do this, mostly on her own, but she did it.

Congratulations, Elizabeth! 

Rick's Amazingly Beautiful
Wisconsin Minibed Garden

(click on photos to see larger views)

Rick L. in Wisconsin recently sent me the following e-mails and photos. As you might imagine, I'm so pleased to see this kind of feedback on my gardening system. Thank you, Rick, for allowing me to share your comments and photos here. I find them powerfully inspiring, and I'm sure everyone who comes to this page will too!

Rick's First E-mail...

Hi Herrick,

We have emailed back and forth a few times. Last spring I bought your Mini-Beds on Plastic Reports 1 & 2. I also bought Report #3 last week. I have read all three reports more than once. I want to thank you for the mini-bed gardening system.

I, like you, resisted using plastic in my gardens until four, or five years ago. I started using the Dewitt fabric with holes burned in it for carrots and onions. It worked pretty good. Your Mini-Beds on Plastic Reports made so much sense and reduced weeding that I went whole hog with it.

I have two gardens. My upper garden is near the house. It is about 36’ X 40’ and I grow tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, carrots, herbs, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce and peppers in it. This is the garden I converted to a mini-bed garden. I have 67 beds in this garden. My pole bean cattle panel trellis are the only beds that are not standard 30” X 30” beds. See attached picture.

My lower garden is more traditional and is about 30’ X 60’ in size. I grow potatoes, onions, sweet corn, dry beans and garlic. Last summer I planted eight mini-beds of strawberries down there. I converted about one third of this garden to mini-beds for garlic and strawberries. The strawberries did great until the deer got in to them around mid-October. They really munched them down to just the crown and a few sprigs left on each plant. I didn’t know deer liked strawberry plants so much. I don’t know if they will make it through our winter, but I mulched them good, so time will tell.

I have to tell you my wife and I were more than pleased and impressed at how the mini-beds performed. We had a few things fail for one reason, or another, but it wasn’t because of the mini-beds. We had the best peppers we have ever grown last year. I put four pepper plants to a bed. Just recently I have read that you should plant peppers so the plant leaves touch when they are mature. Supposedly it increases the yield. I don’t know if that is true, or not, but last year our peppers produced like crazy. When the frost finally killed them and I pulled the plants, I had some peppers with one inch diameter stems. I’ve never had peppers plants like that before. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the mini-beds.

Our zucchini, cucumbers produced like crazy and lasted two, or three weeks longer than they usually do. Our tomatoes didn’t do the greatest, but we had plenty to eat fresh and canned enough to get us through the winter. Tri-planted carrots did good. Everything pretty much did better, or a lot better than the traditional row planting and mulching that we used to do and there was a lot less weeding work. That is a major plus to me.

We have quack grass here and it seems I’m battling that through out the whole gardening season. Not last year. I didn’t have any quack grass come up in the mini-beds. In the lower garden where I planted strawberries in July, I just had the area covered with plastic and the mini-bed frames pinned down. When I cut the plastic and cracked the soil in the beds, I did find a lot of quack grass rhizomes, but they were dry and appeared dead. They did not grow in the beds.

I could go on, and on, but I’m going to stop here. We are looking forward to a great gardening season with our mini-beds. I’ve attached a few pictures of my mini-bed garden from last year. I have many more pictures, but I think these show it the best.

It was obvious to me that Rick was a serious, long-time gardener. I was curious to know just how long. His reply...

How long have I been growing my own food? Well, the short answer would be, 44 years that my wife and I have been active, avid gardeners. 

My wife and I were married in 1971. I was active duty military at the time. I was discharged in 1975 and we have had a garden every year since. Sometimes not such a great garden, but we always got a fair amount of food out of them. Now our gardens feed us close to year around. When I go grocery shopping it’s mostly for dairy products (milk, yogurt, etc.) and meat. We have chickens, so we have our own eggs.

The other answer would be most of my life. My parents and grandparents had gardens as far back as I can remember. While I wasn’t involved very much with planting, or preserving the harvest when I was a child, they got me involved in weeding as soon as they could. Ha! Ha! So I have been eating home grown vegetables most of my life.

Now I start my own seeds every year. I marvel at the miracle of a tiny seed growing in to a healthy, vigorous plant and producing food for us to eat. I never thought much about that before I started growing my own plants from seed.

I’ve sent a few more photos. Every thing was grown in mini-beds.

Hmmm... that's a real nice Whizbang Garden Tote in that last picture (Click Here for how-to instructions). 

Here's a photo of Rick, at the end of the growing season, with one of those amazing, thick-stem, Minibed-grown pepper plants he mentioned in his first e-mail (it looks more like a small tree trunk!)...

If you are not familiar with my Minibed gardening system, full details are in my 2019 Minibed Gardening Trilogy Report. Click Here to learn more.

Illinois Becky's
Inspiring Minibed Garden

Becky's Minibed Garden in 2018
It was late in 2016 when, after decades of trying so many other gardening methods, I developed a new system for gardening. In the beginning, I called it Minibeds-on-Plastic. I now call it Minibed Gardening.

At first glance, Minibed gardening doesn't look like anything all that unique. The casual observer would only see plastic mulch and some small beds. So, what's the big deal?

Well, the big deal is in how the beds are laid out and managed. I call it high-culture. High culture is all about focused attention on the health of the soil, and providing optimum conditions for plants to thrive. There's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

For the past two years I have had a Minibed experimental garden. I have put my initial ideas into practice. I've seen them prove to be sound, productive, and profoundly satisfying.

But what is even more satisfying to me is seeing others take the Minibed gardening idea and put it to good use. Such is the case with the garden in the photo above. Becky M. lives in northern Illinois, about an hour southwest of Chicago (zone 5). She sent me that beautiful photo above with the following comment...
"I bought your garden book and the first update and last year I converted my garden to minibeds.  Wow.  I had a few bumps along the road and I learned from them but for the most part, my 45 mini-beds were a huge success.  I'm 66 with bad knees and the weeding my traditional row garden required almost made me give up gardening completely.  I'm so glad I got your book and took the plunge!"
Becky's Minibed garden puts my garden to shame. Here are a couple more pictures from her first year of Minibed gardening (you can click on the pictures to see enlarged views)...

Here are some "before" photos of the same garden in the spring, after getting the plastic and Minibed frames in place...

And here's a final photo from Becky...

 Now, if all of that doesn't inspire you to get gardening this spring, I don't know what will. 

The way I look at it, gardening is one of the most positive and productive things you can do in a world full of such craziness and uncertainty. 


With your Minibed gardening success and satisfaction in mind I have recently (just yesterday) finished putting together a new Minibed gardening resource...

The Minibed Gardening Trilogy is a collection of my yearly Minibed gardening reports (2017-2019). It has 130 pages and 250 photos. It explains the history, the theory, and the best practices of my Minibed gardening system. 

This new resource is formatted as a pdf download. The price is $17.95. But I have put it on sale until March 16 for only $12.95. Click Here to order.

If you want to learn more about the Minibed gardening system before purchasing the Trilogy, Click Here to go to the Minibed Gardening web site.


NOTE: If you have purchased the previous yearly reports from me, you already have the first two thirds of this trilogy, and you should have received and e-mail with information about purchasing just the 30-page 2019 Minibed Gardening update (priced at $2.95). If you did not get the e-mail, contact me at  herrick@planetwhizbang.com and I'll send you the details.

Minibed Gardening
Blog Posts
Are Coming!

This blog site has been mostly inactive for a long time. After beginning as a Minibed gardening blog, I ended up using it to feature and sell my Minibed Gardening Reports. But now that I have a new Planet Whizbang Web Site, I've moved the marketing there (except for a couple links on the sidebar here). So, now I am planning to get back to blogging more here about Minibed gardening.

I'll blog about my own Minibed gardening, and I'll post blogs about other people's Minibed gardens. My next post here will be about "Illinois Becky's Inspiring Minibed Garden." Some of you have read about Becky's garden at my personal blog, The Deliberate American, but Becky's garden needs to be here too!

And then I'll be posting some great pictures and feedback from another inspiring Minibed gardener. Rick L. and his wife live in Wisconsin and they've been gardening for 44 years. Their Minibed garden is powerfully inspiring!

There is a spot over on the sidebar where you can sign up to get e-mail alerts when I put a new blog post here. You might want to check that out. Unfortunately, the e-mails you receive are usually not formatted for easy reading (Blogger has some issues), but when you get the e-mail you can click on the title and come right here to read and see the photos.

As for my own Minibed garden, there were a few ice crystals still in my Minibeds yesterday, but the soil was mostly soft and tillable. I used my Whizbang Pocket Cultivator to stir up the surface and plant 5 Minibeds. Two to spinach, two to shell peas, and one to Flashy Trout lettuce. All five were covered with solar pyramid cloches. Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow.

Planting those 5 Minibeds was a joy. No rototiller was needed. Just my trusty pocket cultivator! And as I planted each bed, I logged the information into my free Minibed Garden Journal App.  I'm loving that app!

I'm very excited that more and more people are putting the Minibed gardening system into practice.

If you can send clear photos (not too small) of your Minibed garden, or of individual Minibed plantings this year, please do so. If you have a new idea that integrates with Minibed gardening, let me know. I would like this blog to feature other Minibed gardeners and their gardens as much (if not more) than my own.

We can learn from each other, and be inspired by each other's Minibed gardens. That's what this blog is all about. 

After two years of experimentation, I'm persuaded that it's easier to realize kitchen-garden success and satisfaction with the Minibed system than it is with any other gardening system.


Dateline: 1 January 2018

For those who have not yet heard the big news, I launched a video blog on YouTube last week. It's called This Agrarian Life (Details HERE). I expect to be posting videos of my minibeds experimental garden on a regular basis. Here is another...

There are numerous other videos about gardening at My YouTube Channel. I will post the minibed movies to this web site, but if you wnt to see all of the films, you can subscribe to my channel at YouTube.

Making Whizbang Solar Pyramids
(A Most Excellent Garden Cloche)

Dateline: 2 May 2017

A single tomato plant, thriving inside a solar pyramid.

I've had a lot of gardening ideas. Some seem clever at first, and hold promise, but end up disappointing me. Then again, some actually work pretty well. Take, for example, Solar Pyramids. They are an idea I developed several years ago, and they work amazingly well.

I explain the story behind my Whizbang solar pyramid idea in my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. For people who don't have the book, and who don't want to spend the money to buy a copy, I sell the chapter about solar pyramids as an inexpensive PDF download.

I am more enthused than ever with my solar pyramid idea after realizing that the unique solar cloches integrate perfectly with my Minibeds-on-Plastic gardening idea. The one difficult aspect of the solar pyramids was that they had to be sealed around the bottom perimeter with soil, but it turns out that is not necessary with minibeds. The minibed frame anchors and seals the bottom of the pyramids just fine.

The solar pyramids that I made, as I'm about to show you (with sewn seams), are no worse for wear after five years of use. The ones that I made by trying to fuse the plastic together with a hot putty knife have not held together.

The translucent superstrong woven poly from Northern Greenhouse Sales is remarkable stuff. It's incredibly durable and long lasting. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if these solar cones lasted me for more than 20 years. The plastic is UV resistant and it is only outside for a couple months in the spring.

So, I decided to buy a 10'x 12' piece of the superstrong woven poly to make more pyramid covers. I paid $69.60 for the piece, plus $15 for shipping. Total cost: $84.60.

However, to my surprise, the good folks at Northern Greenhouse Sales actually sent me a 12'x 12' piece. And I'm glad they did. I was able to get exactly 8 solar pyramid covers out of the 12' x 12' sheet, and I would have gotten only 6 covers out of the 10' x 12' piece. The point being, if you want optimal yield, order a 12' x 12' sheet.

In the picture above you can see the roll of superstrong woven poly, tape, scissors, and my pattern. I tell how to make a pattern in my Idea Book For Gardeners

I made that particular pattern back in 2012. When I was done with it, I rolled it up and stuck it in the rafters of my shop. It was pretty dusty and dirty but was still useable, as you can see in this next picture...

The only place I had to lay this all out was on my kitchen table (my workshop is too crowded). I taped the pattern in place...

Then I traced around the perimeter of the pattern with a Sharpie marker...

I proceeded to do that seven more times on the sheet of plastic, then I cut the shapes out with a pair of scissors...

The woven poly does not unravel after you cut it. Not at all. It's fused into a solid piece of superstrong material. After the eight pieces were cut out, my wife sewed the seams...

Here are the eight covers all sewed up and ready to use...

Here's a cover on the frame in my kitchen...

Here's a picture of one of the solar pyramid cloches in a Minibed...

Here's a picture of some snow-covered solar pyramids in my Minibeds-on-Plastic garden...

But, while the weather outside was frightful, the environment inside those solar pyramids wasn't so bad at all...

I have all kinds of seeds planted under the solar pyramid cloches.

Stay tuned for more details...

I invite you to read about how I think Thomas Jefferson actually invented solar pyramid cloches back in 1812. CLICK HERE to read the story.

Planting Into A Cover Crop
In The Spring

Dateline: 30 April 2017

This blog post may be the most useful gardening revelation I have ever shared....

If you have read my garden writings for long you know that I became interested in no-till gardening last year, and that I started growing some cover crops in my garden. The picture above is an example of what I mean. The garden bed on the right has a cover crop of oats and the garden bed on the left has a cover crop of mustard. As you can tell by the leaves on the ground, that picture was taken in the fall.

I did not have time to get any cover crops into my Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden last year. But, as I explain in my Minibeds-on-Plastic Report, cover cropping and no-till gardening will be an integral part of my whole approach to minibed gardening. So, please keep that in mind as you read this post.

If I were to till a cover crop (like you see in the picture above) into the soil at some point, that cover crop would be a "green manure." But with no-till gardening I'm not interested in expending the effort to till the green manure into the soil.

Rather, my objective is to grow roots underneath the soil and leave them in place. While the plants are alive, the soil ecology interacts with the roots, resulting in a healthy, LIVE soil. When the plants die, the roots in the soil die also and feed the ecology, while the biomass above can be utilized as a mulch, which protects the soil—again promoting life and biological activity in the soil.

Now, the other thing that a cover crop as I've just described it does, and the thing I want to emphasize here, is that it GREATLY improves soil tilth. It makes the soil more "mellow," which is to say, it is more easily worked. And when garden soil is easy to work, especially at planting time in the spring, it is a real joy.

This delightful reality was my recent experience in that oat-seeded bed you see in the picture at the top of this page. Here's a picture of that same bed during a thaw this past winter...

And here is a picture of the oat bed as it looked this spring...

If you look close, you can see some full-size leaves that were captured by the stand of oats in the fall. And I should mention that, as the oats were getting started, I sprinkled some shredded leaves between the rows. So the bed had the benefit of growing oats, along with some leaf mulch.

This next picture shows me digging a furrow into the same bed to plant some onion sets earlier this spring...

What you are seeing in that picture is a soil that is incredibly mellow and easy to dig in. In this case, a picture really doesn't tell the story like I wish it could. Suffice it to say that I have never had a spring-planting soil that was so easy to work in. I simply parted the oat-and-leaf cover and used my Whizbang pocket cultivator to fork a planting furrow under the string line. NEVER have I planted a bed of onions in the spring so easily. 

The soil tilth is far, far better than if I had just put a leaf mulch over it for the winter. I think there is a synergistic soil tilth result that comes with this sort of cover-cropping and no till gardening.

Here, for comparison, is another bed in my garden that had no cover crop, no mulch, and not even an occultation cover. This picture was taken on the same day as the picture above...

That barren bed is hard from exposure to rain and snow for the past few months. It needs some rain to get the pretty-much-lifeless soil into shape so the bed can be cultivated for planting. It will require a lot of WORK on my part, as compared to the bed with the oat cover crop.

The lesson here is clear and powerfully compelling. Cover cropping improves and maintains soil structure. It allows for very easy, no till gardening. I am persuaded more than ever that a system of simple cover cropping, along with no till gardening, in manageable minibed "islands", surrounded by an ocean of black plastic mulch, will make for a very successful Minibeds-on-Plastic gardening system. 

But the proof will come with my Minibeds-on-Plastic experimental garden as I commence to plant and tend the beds this first year of the experiment. Stay tuned for that.

Before I end this post, here's a picture of my garden taken a couple days ago. It is actually a picture of one of my elderberry bushes that I have bush-planted, as explained (for raspberries) in my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners. There are strings tied from each elderberry cane to the post.

The onion bed I wrote about above is visible in the background. I have planted three other beds (including that one with the hard, dead soil) to spring cover crops. One to oats. One to rye. And one to mustard. I am experimenting with each cover crop. I can cut them down and plant into the bed at any time.

Also, you can see some minibeds with Solar Pyramids in the background of the picture (some of the minibeds on the right have not been positioned and staked in place yet).

(click on any of the pictures to see larger views)