Friday, April 16, 2010

Starting the Garden

This is my garden, prepped for the year with lots of manure incorporated into the soil and a fence surrounding it. It was a good garden last year, but it took quite a bit of time to move the hoses around to water it, and by late summer the weeds had taken over. So this year I was trying to figure out what to do to make my life easier when I heard about square foot gardening. The part I liked about it most was that you plant the seeds very close together so that you don't have to water as much and weed as much.

The new square foot gardening calls for building boxes 4 foot by 4 foot x 6 inches and filling them with 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss. Since my husband had already gone to so much work preparing the garden soil and I have very limited construction skills, I made a few changes. I found an old window frame that would make a 4 foot by 3 foot frame, pounded a few nails into it and tied baling twine across it. Having those 1 foot by 1 foot grids really helps visualize everything. I could only find small bags of vermiculite, so I got a couple to start my first square, but I'm hoping I'll be able to locate bigger bags, 4 cubic feet. I found some peat moss, then learned that peat moss is not considered environmentally friendly because it comes from the wetlands in Canada and takes thousands of years to form. Apparently a good substitute is coir, made of coconut husks, so I'll have to look for that.

I stirred the vermiculite and peat moss into the soil on my 4 x 3 plot. I also put down some weed guard as part of my path in the garden. By planting seeds so closely together, I suddenly have a lot more garden to make use of! I may be able to get enough tomatoes to can and corn to freeze. But fortunately those are warm weather crops, and I still have time to plan!
My first square is mostly for cool weather plants, my spinach, carrots, onions, peas, lettuce, beets. I'll also give some wildflowers a try, wildflowers that I'll harvest just like my veggies, but instead of eating them, I'll bring them into my kitchen to give it a splash of color.

We only got the carrots and spinach planted on the first day, sixteen carrots spaced two inches apart in a 4 x 4 grid and four spinach (I could have done nine spinach, but four is plenty). That's enough for a first crop of those two veggies.

Desert Boy's job was to water. He still needs a few pointers, but he seems willing to practice!
We didn't get around to planting more due to naps and other activities, but that was okay, it gave me time to plan. I got some more information about companion planting, or which plants grow best next to each other on a different square gardening page. Emily advocated drawing out your garden plan, so I did, and I have to admit it was really fun. So this is what our first box will look like. I'll have to wait to put in the beans and pumpkin, but figured that with the fence already behind the frame, I should use it to its greatest advantage.

So today, more planting and putting some mulch on top of the weed guard to make a nice path. Soon I'll go on a scavenger hunt to look for more old window and door frames to make some additional "boxes." This is turning into a really fun project! And I'll probably know what I'm growing. In the past I planted seeds in rows and then forgot what I planted and the weeds came up first, which made it a little challenging sometimes to figure out what were the weeds and what were the plants.

How is your garden doing? Do you have any special tips or tricks to make the garden work easier and more productive?

7 comments:

The Incredible Woody said...

The first time we put out a garden, we planted silver queen corn - planting extra seed, just in case of birds, etc. Every single one of those seeds sprouted so we had corn growing about an inch apart.

Everyone said that we needed to thin it out but we just didn't have the heart. It was our first crop! So we let it go.

We had more corn than we knew what to do with. So I say close is good!

Anonymous said...

That is how we plant as well. We have a ton of arugula sprouting up in our little garden and the zuchini is starting to come up too. We planted tomatoes already, so they are battling the cold nights...hope they make it. We also planted green peppers...waiting for action on that front. Ru-ru just pours the seeds in a small area and we mark it.

A student that landscapes said that making mounds, put the seeds in the top part and add mulch around each mound.

For pepper, add 8" aluminum foil around the plant to reflect the sun.

Grow spinach first, then readies the soil for carrots.

Plant marigolds at edge of the garden to prevent rabbits and insects.

At the end of the growing season, add grass clippings to cover the garden.

Merry gardening!

G. Robison said...

I used Square Foot Gardening techniques for the entire 15 years I had a garden plot and/or back yard to garden in here in L.A. I wouldn't do it any other way. Over time, I modified my techniques a little, and over time you will probably find little tricks geared toward your individual needs and microclimate. You'll be amazed how much food you can produce! French biointensive gardening is similar.

Sliv said...

Ours may have to wait until Tues. since we are making a quick trip to your desert destination this afternoon. We have the materials ready to put together our box, and packets of seeds. See you this evening, I hope.

Appreciate all the good experience and suggestions.

Ann Flower said...

Nice blog. Hardwork always pay. Expecting the picture of blooms on your upcoming blog.

jendoop said...

You're getting a jump on me, even though it's been warmer here. I have my seedlings growing indoors well but don't have the great manure on hand like you do. I hope to have my garden ready to go by the weekend.

Thanks for the heads up about peat moss, I had no idea!

Amanda said...

Square Foot Gardening is the most productive, efficient, and easy way to garden. Not only does it use just 20% of the space a traditional row garden, it saves water, and time spent digging and weeding. For more information on Square Foot Gardening please visit our web site http://www.squarefootgardening.com/
Happy Gardening Everyone!

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