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Ring Gardens... Step by Step
Ring gardens, like those grown at Three Sisters Farm, utilize the principles of sustainable agriculture, companion planting, and soil building to create a lasting and beautiful ecosystem within a relatively small space.  Ring gardens maximize planting space and once installed, are easy to maintain and grow.  The ring structure and the practice of companion planting create a lush and fruitful garden, where yields are great.  One of the greatest benefits of the ring model is that the value of the garden increases each year with minimal labor.   The soil, a key element in any garden, becomes richer and more fertile with every passing season, due largely to the incorporation of composting within the ring.
The labor required to install and maintain a ring garden is largely spent in the installation.  Installation includes the driving of the fence posts and construction of the wire ring, which acts as the trellis.  Horseshoe shaped raised beds are then begun by the addition of soil, approximately one cubic yard.  The finished bed is 21 feet around, three feet wide, and six inches deep.  Next, drip irrigation is installed on the inside of the ring tracing the trellis around. One end is fitted with a garden hose connection.  Now, planting can begin.  Tomatoes should be planted next to the trellis, and thrive on the companionship of marigolds, mustard greens, herbs, and lettuce plants.  Plants can then be mulched to help prevent weeds and maintain soil moisture.

3/4 inch poly tube, laid out to water both sides of the trellis. the poly easily adapts from drip to spray depending on needs.

Maintenance and Growth
Caring for and growing a ring garden is simple and rewarding.  Daily watering is a necessity.  Unless watering is on a timer, this will require monitoring and daily attention.  Watering systems can be as simple as a hose or as complex as a timed automatic irrigation system.  A middle of the road approach would be to install a simple drip irrigation hose (as described in installation procedure).  Other maintenance requirements include weeding, which is minimized greatly by mulching, and observation of plants for distress.  Tomatoes should be tied to the trellis as they grow to provide extra support and prevent the plant from breaking under the weight of its fruit

The Fruits of Your Labor
In 70-100 days, tomato plants will begin to bear fruit.  Herbs and lettuce plants will be earlier, most of which are cut and come again varieties. Harvesting can and should be continuous throughout the season.  Planting can begin as early as September and as late as December/January.  A garden will be productive for five to six months, barring any serious disease or pest problems.  An eight-foot (in diameter) ring, which includes approximately 10 tomato plants, yields about 100 pounds of tomatoes. Companion lettuce and herb plants, many of which are cut and come again varieties, would easily provide greens throughout the season. 


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