Square Foot Gardening?

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joemanc's picture
joemanc
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Growing Corn in a SFG

Anyone growing corn in a SFG? We had a pretty good rainstorm Saturday night along with just enough wind that a lot of my younger corn plants got tilted over. I know the soil is very loose and was afraid this might happen, and it did. Do I need to plant the seeds deeper? Or give the plants some support so they don't get blown over? I did try that actually, but only around the box and not in between the grid. Maybe it's just not worth the hassle and I need to plant corn in regular garden soil?

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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corn in an SFG box

I've not done corn in an SFG box but this year we did sunflowers. The book, SF Gardening, says to only support it around the sides. That proved inadequate for the sunflowers, but my SFG was only 6" deep. Still, after that I'm inclined to plant my corn in bare soil.

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Woodman
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Growing Corn in a SFG

I stick to smaller veggies like beets, onions, lettuce, carrots, and spinach that benifit from an organized SFG and raised beds.  In other areas that are just fields or hills of compost I rotate corn, potatoes, and squash/pumpkins, which all need lots of room and do just as well in good garden soil.  Bush (determinant) tomatoes too.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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First, the good news. Two

First, the good news. Two years ago this yard was a wasteland of weeds. But now...


Counterclockwise from lower left: Cabbages and pole beans on netting, newly replanted lettuce bed, zucchini and dill, the "Bonsai" peach tree,  peanuts, sunflowers and cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots & Swiss chard and plum tomatoes, and an herb box. There are basil and zinnias in the center of the photo and morning glories starting to climb the clothesline pole in front of them. (Behind the okra you cannot see the jalapenos and the bell peppers. But they are there).


Front to back - left side: Broccoli, beets and basil, limas, radishes and marigolds, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, and turnips.
Right side: hand-made solar drying rack full of figs with the beehives (not occupied - yet) way behind them. Off camera to the right of this is the well and the firewood stack. Our next big project is a pump house for the well.


Side view. Basil and limas in the foreground, and the chair is from my harvesting limas earlier today. From this angle you can see the two new blueberry bushes in gallon pots to the right of the burn barrel, and the peppers. Wayyy in the back under that large pine tree is the 22-ft box  long where I grow things needing partial or full shade. Sweet peas and leaf lettuces love that box. There are a few black-eyed pea plants in full sun to the left of it along the fence - an experiment.

We also have pole green beans and a white mulberry (not fruiting, I may have to take it down), and the cold hardy orange tree on the side of the house, plus a beach rose (for rose hips) and Indian hawthorns (ornamental and medicinal) in the front. Plus the fig bush tree, which has simply gone berserk and is now 10-ft tall.

The oscillating sprinkler to keep this all watered was the smartest thing I did this year.

And now, the bad news. While we are learning what works and does not work in  our climate and soil, and we have had enormous success with certain crops, if we all we had was this garden to feed ourselves...we'd be dead. One cannot live on what we've produced so far, although I hasten to add that yeilds are WAY up as we ramp up the learning curve. Still, it's an excellent supplenent to our diet, and the cost is going down as we save seed and replant it.

Example: experimenting with green beans has not gotten us the perfect bean(s) for our yard yet. I had great hopes fort he Kentucky Blue snap beans: a cross between Kentucky Wonder pole beans and Blue Lake bush beans sounded good. It wasn't. We got a lot of leaves a, very few beans, & first-time aphids on our snap beans. Next I'm trying a southern heirloom variety of beans - "greasy" or hairless, shiny green beans that resist transpiration and are drought-resistant.

Lessons learned. General lesson? Experiment. Expand on success. Concentrate on what works in your area, and pay particular attention to legumes, tummy-fillers, strong seasoning tastes, and starches. Our initial success with lima beans last year made them our bean of choice, with peanuts as a backup. We got the spacing right (planting limas and peanuts three inches apart means no weeds) and yeilds soared. As for starches, last year's SFG sweet potato travesties were not repeated (planting yams in loose, friable soil meant three-foot, half-inch thick snake-shaped yams - who knew?) but we have not dug up the ones we planted in sandly clay soil yet (they seem healthy enough).  In what I call the tummy-fillers department our okra, cabbages, radishes and lettuce win. In the "strong seasonging tastes" department, we had great sucess with garlic, jalapenos, dill, bergamot, and basil. Not with onions. I am open to suggestion here, but for now I laid in a bunch of dehydrated onion just in case.

We did not repeat the mistake of not thinning the carrots. Bad idea, people: they need an inch of space around them to grow properly. This year, yeilds are way up.

Plant what you like. We planted parsnips last year. Sure, they overwintered just fine, but the strong taste was nasty. Carrots overwintered just as well under a layer of mulch, and we will actually enjoy those. We also love a paticular variety of cos (loose Romaine) lettuce: Jericho. It loves our garden and loves us back.

Give up and buy what you cannot grow. Beets? This year I gave up. Celery? Ditto for now.

joemanc's picture
joemanc
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Mid-November and still gardening

Well, well, it's my 1st year ever gardening and I'm using SFG and here it is, mid-November in southern New England and I am still harvesting kale and swiss chard. And this, after we had a whopper of a snowstorm in late October that buried my garden under a foot of heavy, wet snow, followed by several nights of temps well down in to the 20's. Not bad for a rookie! Hopefully I can inspire others to try gardening and to extend their growing seasons...

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Found a cool web app for square foot gardening

I've been trying to find an app for gardening the square foot method for a while now and I think I might have found something pretty useful. Smartgardener.com just came out with a new "add on" to its online application that lets you map out your garden with suggested square foot spacings and even has cool little structures for trellises, cages and other types of support. 

 

It's also a plus that the website sends reminders for my garden tasks and has a huge database of all the growing info I would ever want about the plants I'm growing, even down to the variety level. I'm going to give this a try this summer and then reply back with my experience with it and I'd like to hear some feedback from others about this app and other apps that are useful for growing a lot of food quickly in small spaces. 


So far I've planted my Butternut Squash and Melons that will grow on supports w slings, and I'm doing 3 cherry tomatoes from starts I grew indoors using the square foot intensive spacing and raised beds filled with our city's municipal compost and organic potting soil.

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An Update on my Square Foot Garden and Aquaponics

Having attended the Chris and Becca weekend seminar at Rowe Massachusetts, I came home and expanded my SFG and Aquaponics set ups.

Rather than repeat the postings, the link to the Rowe Seminar Forum with my 5 postings is http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/rowe-2012-seminar-forum/72891?page=1...

Here is just one of the photos of my SFG

Simon

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carrot germination

Nice garden Simon.  I get away with cramming a lot more veggies into my beds, to get enough production to meet our family's need.

Why is it I'm having such a hard time with carrots germinating this spring?  Only 20% at best.  I used Nelson and Napoli, pelleted, fresh from Johnnys Seeds this year, planted at least a month ago before it got too warm in Maine.  Spinich, lettuce, beets, peas etc all came up in same beds.  T

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Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Who knew it was also an art?

Pictures of our SFG and backyard garden courtesy of Cat's artistic eye.  Most of what you see can either be eaten or is a pollinator that directly supports that which is eaten.  Except the cat. 

Don't eat the cat - Cat would be upset.  Which means I would be upset too. 

Link to Cat's Flickr photostream when the SFG pics are:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/41761556@N08/7294306176/in/photostream

(Cross posted into Agriculture/Permaculture thread)

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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hey Dogs, gorgeous garden

Your wife is quite a photograhpher.

I went and added flowers to the veggies this year, 'cause you folks inspired me.

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Full Moon
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wheat

So  if hyper-inflation comes about soon  and I can grind wheat and  bake a  good $3000 loaf of bread will I be able to pay my  house off  quick like ?        sell a $200 tomato ??

   Just trying  to figure out  how I am going to make my garden pay  :)

FM

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Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Radiator Charlie and his "Mortgage Lifter" tomato....

Full Moon wrote:

So  if hyper-inflation comes about soon  and I can grind wheat and  bake a  good $3000 loaf of bread will I be able to pay my  house off  quick like ?        sell a $200 tomato ??

   Just trying  to figure out  how I am going to make my garden pay  :)

FM

It worked out nicely for Radiator Charlie....

http://www.tomatogeek.com/2010/08/04/mortgage-lifter-tomato-story/

We have 6 planted in our SFG boxes, 4 feet tall right now and you can hear them growing if you listen closely.  Still shaking my head over the possibility of a 4 pound tomato.....

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robie robinson
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Tomatos!!!!

Yawl have gotta try Pantano Romanesco and Thesaloniki and Coustralee. Been gardening all my life and they're well.....

Safewrite, I too gotta a bug the weekend you were by.

Dogs,  is it curculio? (shoulda used past tense as our peaches are...)

Robie

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Full Moon
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Thanks Dogs

  The grandson  just told me that  this man was able to pay off his mortgage in the first  year .  He said right time and right product .   We may have hope yet if we can keep the Govt.  out of the back yard .

FM 

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Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Thanks Robie....

robie robinson wrote:

Yawl have gotta try Pantano Romanesco and Thesaloniki and Coustralee. Been gardening all my life and they're well.....

Dogs,  is it curculio? (shoulda used past tense as our peaches are...)

Robie

I've added those to the list for next year.  Do they hold up well in July/August?  We had some problems two years ago with splitting when we watered too much, too fast after a dry spell (defined as July and August).

I think it was curculio - I stripped every single fruit off the tree that looked like it even had the remotest chance of a spot or a dark cut in the skin.  Still have a good 30-35 fruit still on the tree so I should be able to concoct my white habanero-ghost pepper-peach salsa this year.  I did cut into some of the fruit and couldn't find any larva.  Hoping for a couple of good hard freezes this coming winter to kill those buggers off some.

The plum dropped every single leaf - they turned yellow, withered and fell off in about a week.  There is nice healthy looking new green growth pushing out again and enough new leaves that the tree should be able to capture enough sun for photosynthesis, but I still don't know what happened.  The only thing I could think of is I drove a food spike at the drip line that may have shocked the tree somehow??  Guardedly optimistic and fingers crossed. 

Pleasantly surprised to find our two dwarf Brown Turkey figs are loaded with figs.  And after transplanting my currants for about the 80th time, both the white and blackcurrant are loaded with fruit and new canes.  Speaking of canes, the Apache thornless blackberry we picked up at the Lowesville seminar a few years back has pushed out 11 primocanes (and counting)!!  I have four floricanes that are about 6 feet long with 8-12 branches on each cane that will probably give us about 8 quarts of blackberries this year.  Next year the birds will eat well.

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Wendy S. Delmater
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learning from the previous generation

I had the privilege of visiting my octagenerian father-in-law  last month. Charles is an avid gardener and has 1-ft deep raised beds in a large area of his back yard, and fruit trees.

Here are a few of the things I learned on that visit.

He's s seed saver, and keeps his seeds in glass jars with a dessicant packet in it, with the names of the seeds and the date saved on envelopes. The jars go into shoe boxes or other boxes of similar shape, and are kept in the coolest area of his home - the garage.

Every year he uses new jute string in an arangement like maypoile ribbons to train his pole beans up 10-ft pipes.

He uses fabric floating row covers to cut down on insect infestations. Near as I could tell it was some sort of light, white fabric; definitely not netting or even guaze. I guess he was using it to confuse flying insects, not crawling ones because he was just laying it on top of things.

Charles makes reusable crop identification spikes with cut PVC pipe. He slits the pipe in halves or thirds, sharpens it on one end, and writes the planting marker plant name in magc marker. Next year he just wipes it clean with nail polish remover and reuses it.

He let Jerusalem artichokes take over an entire raised bed. Says they are invasive, but give them their own box and they crowd out anything else - including weeds, and that's a good thing. They were WAY in the back since they get quite tall.

Like me, he started with six-inch deep beds, but then he got enough compost to raise them to 8 inches, and then 12 inches. With foot-deep beds he had to raise the walkways between them. To raise the walkways, he just used plain dirt and walking on it plus not watering it keeps it clear of weeds.

His idea of trickle watering is to turn the hose barely on and set it at the base of each plant, one after the other. 

And he always wears a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a hat when gardening. And gloves.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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a very nice article on SFG

This is an incredible accessible site for the new and experienced gardener.

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/05/creating-a-raised-bed-garden/

Because plants can be grown very close to each other in a raised bed, even a tiny yard can support a lavish edible garden. The four 6-by-4 foot beds in my small herb garden, pictured here, produce copious quantities of parsley, thyme, and other aromatics. I pick these herbs at the peak of their perfection, then freeze them for winter use. A raised bed vegetable garden has less weeding, less bending, and absolutely no tilling—there are really no negatives to this type of gardening. Well, none that I can think of, anyway.

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SPAM_kd6iwd@gma...
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off topic question

Hi I was reading your post and have a question that might be best answered in the energy blog but anyway here goes, what do you think of thorium reactors and the possibility of using them for electric generation. Are they lots safer than uranium reactors? The info i have read suggests that they can be operated at near atmospheric pressure which limits danger and they shut themselves down if coolant is cut off, they do not melt down. Is all that correct and if so why are we still building uranium reactors?

Best Regards

Jim

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