Square Foot Gardening?
great thread, had to tag. thanks guys
As of late, it seems the site has been focusing heavily on financials, so I thought I’d try to kick up some dirty talk – garden dirt that is.
So how are the gardens doing everyone? Successes/failures?
I had my first real attempt at a garden this year and the engineer in me gravitated towards SFG. We planted heirloom varieties and had some good luck! By far the greatest success was the Contender Bush Beans, they have been producing for probably two months straight and at least half of that was in pretty poor soil conditions (we ended up adding some fertilizer midway through summer). The oakleaf lettuce stayed small but kept on going until it got too bitter. Zuccinis (of course) are doing well. We started the tomatoes from seed and they were stuck at two inches and two leaves for well over a month, but finally took off and we are just getting tomotoes in (they are good!). Have about 5 cantalopes just about ready – I keep tugging but they haren’t ready to give up yet. On the other side, edname beans didn’t do much, eggplant fizzled (which I don’t like anyway – it was for my wife), and spinach never got going.
Anyway – here’s a shot – see the ‘lopes in the forground?
The funny thing here at home is that the garden has been therapy . This is our first real attempt to try and feed the family plus have some to share . Everyday we are busy preserving something . Right now we got 6 bushel of spaghetti squash that we were not ready for and need to get shelving built .The tomatoes bring in a bushel a week . ( Good thing they are easy to can !) , Need to get the potatoes dug and the carrots but the beans don’t quit and the weeds are getting ahead of us!!!!
We put the horses out on pasture for the summer , threw some pumpkin seeds out in the coral and now we have a jungle . I should have thrown some corn in there too because the ditch-weed is twenty foot high and we had to whack out a path to get back to the bucket calves for their feedings .
We ended up ordering canning lids by the case and going to every auction to buy more jars . Yes our efforts have been blessed and doing something feels better than sitting around worrying about things it seems we have no power to change.
Two weeks ago we put in the fall garden . It is all up now! I think we will be ready for the winter rest time .
My garden has been a lot of work not only with normal duties but the initial building of fences, beds, gates etc. this year plus building a coop for the chickens. But I’m enjoying top quality veggies now with zero need to buy any at the store, just enjoying what is in season and having more fun too and so are my kids. I focused on building up great soil with lots of compost and keeping things organized, and tried a bunch of different things in different places around the yard.
Dug out last of red potatoes (Dark Red Norlands) planted end of April, after tops wilted, best potatoes I’ve ever tasted. Got a couple rows of Gold Rush to dig up sometime, but it’s so warm now I wonder if they’re better stored in the ground for the moment until my basement cools down in the fall. Will have enough to get through most of winter, and am saving small ones for seed. Potatoes were so easy I can’t believe this is the first year I’ve ever done them.
Good crop spring peas, though missed a bunch that got overripe all at once, got a fall crop started now.
Got lots of carrots, but finding taste isn’t as fabulous as it is in spring or fall during cooler weather. Next year I would plant more in the spring and fall and less in the middle of summer. Some got left in ground too long.
Tomatoes finally taking off now with warmer weather. I slice up a few with fresh basil leaves over pasta, avoiding the cost of canned sauce. The heirloom bush type (first Light) seem to be doing a lot better than the indeterminant vine ones.
Blueberries, peaches etc. not doing great this year but picking what I can.
I planted a ton of squash and pumpkins that are starting to spread out all over, even plant out front by the road instead of flower beds. I like squash because it tastes good, has lots of carbs and vitamins, and stores well.
Cukes, peppers, onions growing well also. Broccoli tasted good but only got a small amount despite huge plants.
Spinach and lettuce didn’t do much this spring, hoping for better this fall. Chard grew well but seemed bitter.
Next year I’ll do more beets; taste great and store well.
Four 80′ rows of corn starting to grow ears now. I’ll have way too much at once, so will need to figure out how to save or use for chicken feed.
Fall garden needs to go in and cold frames need to be built before it’s gets too late!
Mistakes: didn’t get netting rigged up in time for squash in raised bed; it’s all the ground now. Started too many seeds indoors too early, and plants were oversized by the time of transplant. Squash, cukes, lettuce, beets, broccoli, spinach, onions I won’t bother with transplanting next year; direct seed did as well or better. Will only start tomatoes, peppers, and cantelope indoors and just direct seed everything else.
I ordered a food dedydrator to try. Feel like I have no time for canning. Eventually I’ll build a solar food dryer that needs no electricity.
Cat asked me to type up a synopsis of our SFG endeavor this year. Here goes – I think she is getting some pics ready.
This was a lot of fun and a lot of work. We had done some token gardening in the past, a couple of tomato plants, a few peppers, etc. with limited success.
We decided to go all in with SFG this year and so we did. Building the boxes, placing the boxes, estimating sun coverage, etc. was all part of the equation. (Note to potential SF Gardeners who are married to Interior Designers, just surrender up front and put the damn boxes where she says to)
We had a pretty ambitious mix of plantings and used the companion planting guide outlined in Mel Bartholomew’s book as far as herbs and flowers and other hoo hahs.
Good mulch/dirt is key. If I had to do it over again, I would buy a few thousand red wriggler worms and chuck them in before we started planting.
We had Green and Red Bell peppers, Black Beauties, Sweet and Hot Banana peppers, Jalapeno and Anaheims. We lost a few plants but once the hot, nasty July-August SE Virginia weax set in, they really started producing. We planted some of the peppers a little early, but overall I give us a B+ on peppers.
Beans – we planted Green Pole beans, Wax beans and Purple Beuaty bush beans. Great success with the Purple Beauties and Wax beans, not so much with the green beans, although it wasn’t too bad.
Tomatoes – (I have no idea what we planted) – Grapes, Cherry, Celebrity, Big/Better Boy, Sweet 100s, some kind of purple stripey thingie tomato. We learned a lot here – we got some splitting of the fruits because of too much watering too fast, but are really getting a lot of good ‘maters now. SE Virginia had a bad outbreak of Early and Late blight and septoria. We had a touch of early blight/septoria and aggressively treated the plants with copper soap solution and won that battle – be forewarned, the copper solution is expensive at ~$20.00 per treatment and we needed three treatments. Had a brief fling with tomato worms, but fortunately the Virginia state bird is the cardinal and cardinals love tomato worms. We were first cued to the fact that we had tomato worms when we saw a bunch of cardinals hopping around the plants – thinking they were eating the tomatoes, we investigated, and found some very large worms – aparently the cardinals get spooked by a worm as long as your thumb and left them alone. I did not get spooked and I cut them (the worms) in half and left the body parts out for the birds who happily took me up on my offerings. We are having a huge late (I think) crop similar to what Steve talked about in his post, but it may be a SE Virginia thing.
Lettuce – Arugula, Mesclun, others. Great success – we have been eating our lettuce since May.
Nasturtium – these are cool. You can eat the whole thing, leaf, flower and all. They are spicy and are great in salads. The dried up flowers can be crushed and used as a pepper substitute. They are easy to grow and spread like wildfire.
Herbs – no description of mine will do it justice. Cat’s herbs are masterpieces of landscaping, planting, gardening, visual and culinary architecture. Thai basil, African Blue basil, Sweet basil, Dill, Marjoram, Lavendar, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Chive, four kinds of thyme, Stevia, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Cilantro, and some other stuff I’ve never heard of – the whole backyard smells like an Italian Grandmother’s kitchen after she finishes cutting herbs.
Zucchini/Squash – this part was painful. We had beatiful heirloom seed plants for both. We lost all of our squash plants to squash bugs and half of our zukes. I hate those little sap-sucking bas…., er, critters, and took great pleasure in squishing them (hence their name I suppose?) since there is no insecticidal treatment that works. We are getting great zukes now, but only got one yellow crookneck before the bugs got the plants. We also lost all four of our spaghetti squash. Lesson learned – when you see what looks like a stink bug on your squash, grab it, squeeze it and go over every leaf looking for eggs. They lay eggs on the underside of the leaves, close to the center or along a large vein. I took a sharp knife and cut the whole section of leaf out. Another sign that the bugs are sucking sap out of the plant is when they have a droopy or wilt appearance. At first we thought they needed watering, but in hindsight it was due to squash bugs and we probably could have saved most of the plants. Next year is mine – I have declared a GWOSqB – Global War On Squash Bugs.
Cukes – we planted Lemon cukes, Armenian cukes and regular old cukes. We lost the regular cukes to squash bugs and wilt, but the Armenian and Lemon cukes are doing well. Didn’t have any trouble with cucumber beetles, but I did find more than a few squash bugs on our cukes. The Lemon cukes are the best tasting cukes I have ever had and are going to be a centerpiece in next year’s garden.
Ichiban Eggplant – these were so freakin cool. Once we got them in the right box for sun exposure they went nuts – they are slender eggplants, similar in shape and size to a curved armenian cuke and are very tasty. Cat did up a killer eggplant-beef-rice dish.
Carrots/Radishes – we planted them too close and didn’t thin them out enough, but what we did get was tasty and we know what to do next time around.
Beets, cabbage, brussells sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli – we learned that these are fall plantings in Virginia. Had a lot of trouble with cabbage loopers – buy BT and wage biological warfare on them. We have nursed the surviving plants along through the summer and they are starting to really take off. Should be cutting some brussells sprouts in the next few weeks. Also have one softball sized cabbage on our only surviving cabbage plant. Our fall garden plantings of broccoli, b. sprouts, cauliflower are sprouting inside in growing cups and we should be doing our fall planting in 3-4 weeks. Or whenever Cat tells me to.
Wonderberry – Cat covered this in an earlier post of hers somewhere. These guys are cool – very tasty when cooked, (87 cups of sugar might have something to do with it). Very low maintenance too – lots of berries, impervious to bugs and the birds stay away from the berries. A word of caution – the Wonderberry is in the same family as Black and Deadly Nightshade and the green berries are poisonous raw. They have glycoalkaloids in them that are hallucinogenic. Atropine and Scopolamine are derived from the Nightshade berries and if eaten in sufficient quantity can kill you. One source said 10-20 berries of the Deadly Nightshade can kill an adult and 2-5 berries can kill a child. So don’t eat green Wonderberries and everything’s good.
Sweet potatoes – they are growing all over the backyard, spilling out of the boxes and climbing the fence, azaleas and wisteria and we expect a pretty good yield.
Thornless Apache Blackberries – no thorns, very heavily fruited and boy does it grow. Check online for pruning tips. Huge fruits and very tasty. You will compete with the birds for these guys.
Strawberries – they are weeds in the part of Virginia where we live and grow everywhere. We get enough each spring and with all the local growers, it really is more cost efficient to go out and pick your own. At the same time we will keep our plantings going just in case.
Blueberries – we have three, two-year old plants, and got a few berries this year, left most for the birds, but are expecting lots of berries next season.
Black Currants, White Currants – these were experiments this year. We got a lot of fruits from each, but had some issues with spotting and blight. There is a lot of new growth so I am hopeful that they will recover and will be even more productive next year.
I am sure I forgot something – Cat will correct me.
Overall it was a lot of fun, a lot of hard work and we learned a lot. Cat and I have a nice routine where we take morning and evening walks through the backyard to check on “the kids”. When we see a new zuke, cuke or bean or whatever coming in, it’s almost like being a new parent except we know that the Lemon cukes aren’t going to poop in a diaper.
I forget who mentioned it here on the site, but one of the regulars here told us that our garden was going to be an experiment and sometimes your experiment gets eaten by somebody else.
So it was, but we are one year wiser and are looking forward to our fall planting and next spring. Hopefully in the time it took me to compose this post Cat got our pics up – if not, we’ll get them up soon.
Wow, sounds like some great successes out there!
I see a couple of you planted spaghetti squash – do they keep pretty well? I like them and thought about it too late this year.
We will not have much to can/freeze/dry this year, but I’m happy just to be getting a few ‘real-time’ meals out of it!
BTW a local magazine had an article about the White House garden – from the pictures it looks like they had at least a few SFG type beds. I didn’t realize how much the organic nature of the garden riled the pesticide/fertilzer lobby groups. They sponsored letter writing campaigns against it and spouted off a lot of propoganda; I especially liked one quote where they mentioned how home grown and local produce would produce obesity and starvation in the same sentence. It shows how even the most benign effort can be twisted around to look bad.
Re post #24
Some pictures from the Dogs and Cat garden… If you wish, more can be seen at my photostream at Flickr, just search,”garden.”
Cat and Dogs…
Great work and thanks for sharing. You have a beautiful garden.There truly is not a better feeling than growing your own food (at least for this urbanite). This weekend, I will be done harvesting my New Mexican Green Chiles, and will immediately proceed to making my annual green chile sauce and stocking up the freezer with it for the year. Its a two-day ordeal because I have a lot of roasting, peeling, deseeding, chopping and cooking to do. Typically, the skin on my hands, and any other body part that I foolishly touch during the process, burns for days afterward.
I’ll share some pics of the process after I recover.
Thank you, the garden has been a joy. Strangely enough, I am also enjoying cooking more… I know it is due to the fresh veggies straight from the garden.
I remember a previous post about your salsa recipe, I know you posted the recipe somewhere. Would you please repost in the, Recipes for Food and Drink Thread?
Amazingly the grandchildren that were picky eaters will eat anything that thethemselves planted and harvested . They are close to the ground and see those beans a lot better too . There is so much they can learn at a young age that they will be able to use .
The son -in-laws are another story I guess they will eat if they get hungry enough .
Anyone know of the best place to get pantyhose to store the onions in ? They hang so nicely that way and with the knot between each one they do not spoil .