Friday, September 11, 2009

You've come a long way baby!

Warning: Tons of gardening pics to follow! Last year it felt like every other post was about the garden because that's all it seems like I did last year. This year is much garden has been SO LOW MAINTENANCE! Moms...listen to me...anyone who wants more time, but still wants to garden listen up....SFG is the way to go! I have loved my square foot garden. I am not kidding when I tell you I have pulled ONE weed from it this year. It has been awesome. didn't produce as much as I wanted simply because 1 - I planted it LATE and 2 - I didn't get even half the squares planted. But I am all set up and ready to go for next year. I am so excited and can't wait to see what it can do then. OK as a reminder of where I started in June:

I did want to share what I learned with you just in case you decide to take the plunge!

#1 - Just buy the book. I think it cost me $12 or something off of Amazon. Part of the delay in my getting started was waiting for it at the library and there was a LONG waiting list. It is a great book and has a ton of information you'll want to refer back to such as planting charts and information for just about anything you'd want to plant. BTW - I LOVE Amazon. I get so much stuff from there for much cheaper than I could anywhere else. Plus if you spend over $25 most of the time you can get free shipping. Oh and make sure you get the "All New Square Foot Gardening" book. Apparently there's been a lot of revisions since it was first published.

#2 - Husbands are really willing to help you get started if you promise them that they won't have to do anything later :) Joey HATES weeding the garden, but helped me last year anyway because he knew it was important. He wasn't super excited about this project this year - he was really skeptical. I talked him into it anyway and promised him I wouldn't need anymore help once he set up the boxes for me. I did have him pound in the fence posts, but otherwise have made good on that promise and he has been pleasantly surprised with the result.

#3 - IFA sells Mel's Mix. Mel's Mix is the soil you use in the garden. It's a specific mixture of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. We spent a lot of time and energy trying to find the right ingredients for our soil mixture. After I had most of it bought I found out the all IFA stores SELL IT ALREADY MIXED UP! Well gee whiz! It seems kind of expensive, and it is to get started, BUT by the time we spent all the money we did on gas driving literally from Fillmore to St. George and the time to get everything and then MIX it ourselves...I would say it's totally worth it to buy it. He says in the book that they sell it, but I got the impression that they only sold it in Eden UT where he lives....not the case! So just buy it at IFA. Take my word on it.

#4 - Plant earlier than I did. Start planning ahead in the winter because there is a lot you can do before the last frost. He has timelines in the book that outline when you can start seeds indoors and how to extend your gardening season outside.

#5 - It takes more water than the book says. The book claims that you SAVE water by using this method. I don't know if that is true or not, but I had to water it every day during much of the summer. I think it's because the soil is SO porous and "friable". The windy and hot conditions we have here it just dried it out quickly. But hey...if you don't have to WEED it for an hour every day...I think it's totally worth the trade off! Besides your kids will be totally happy to water it for you.

#6 - Smaller boxes than I did would probably work just fine. I did bigger boxes than recommended. Mine were 8 x 5. He recommends 4 x 4 or 4 x 8. I only had so much space and wanted to make the most of it, so I did these ginormous boxes. They work fine, but it is hard to get to the inner squares and as you can see I didn't even get a lot of them planted.

#7 - A lot of these concepts would probably also work really well for container gardening. If you really don't have space even for a SFG, I'd still maybe invest in the book because you could translate it to a few pots or containers and still have nice fresh veggies for the summer.

OK - on to my experience with specific veggies:

CORN: This actually grew quite well...I was really happy. But don't transplant corn. I tried a few because they were selling them at the nursery. The book says they don't work and they don't. Mine grew fast at first, but stunted at about a foot high and ended up quite sad. The corn you see in this picture was all from seed. I planted four to a square...not sure if I'll do that many next time as they seem quite crowded, but most of them grew and produced. Also, I tried this year to grow pole green beans with my corn. I planted my beans SUPER late (July...) and they haven't really worked, but even if they did I don't think I would like it. It's difficult to see what is going on and you have to train the beans up the corn stalks. There's just too much greenery in there. I would just do your beans on bushes or up a trellis like most people do. That is my plan next year. I will plant more corn next year than I did this year because it did work so well and I had plenty of unused squares this year.

Not sure what to say about the cabbage. I planted it next to some broccoli and cauliflower. Neither of these did really well. I ended up having to stake the broccoli because of the wind, but even so I didn't really like the product we ended up and don't think I will worry about it next year. I did broccoli last year too and think I just prefer buying mine in the produce isle ;) I still haven't picked the cabbage because it's so small, but I'm a little concerned it's going to be no good as it has visible spider webs all over the outside. The cauliflower I think I planted MUCH too late. It is a cool weather crop apparently and I didn't plant it until late May or early June. It grew HUGE, but never produced anything beside giant leaves. I finally just pulled it up. The chard and lettuce worked well. I might plant more than one square of chard at a time next time though because it produced well, but not quite enough to use with a meal if you were just going out to pick what was ready that had to save it up over a week or so.
EGGPLANT: This was a bit of an experiment as I have never grown eggplant or known anyone that has. I was impressed. It was slow growing at first as there was a lot of blossoms but no production for some time. However when they started to grow they went crazy! It's hard to see in this picture, but this one Japanese eggplant has at least a dozen eggplants on it. I also had a regular eggplant that produced very well as well. It can also be quite fun trying to find things to do with eggplant. If you want a great recipe check out my recipe blog. I posted one tonight and will have at least two more coming.
ZUCCHINI and SQUASH: I resisted the urge to plant more than one zucchini plant this year and I am GLAD I did. One plant really is enough! I have a pile of zucchini still in my kitchen waiting do something with. The zucchini was my most successful plant of this group. I never did get the trellis up so am not sure how it would have done if I'd tried to train it to go vertically. As you can see it took up a lot of room growing it like I did. And it crowded up the poor cucumber plant that was doing well next to it. I also think it has caught some type of disease from the broccoli that was growing next to it. I have a butternut and acorn squash plant there that are doing well, but since I never got them growing vertically they are kind of everywhere. I will definitely get the trellis up next year.
TOMATOES: I got one trellis up this year as seen here. That my friends, believe it or not is mostly ONE tomato plant. There are really two there, but the one in the corner is tiny and never really took off. The book says tomato plants need two squares per plant. I kind of planted them leaving the extra square in front of the plant, but if you are going to do trellises I would give them a square next to plant instead. I have really like growing the tomato this way. This is my best producing bush. I did prune it back as suggested in the book. Joey was sure I was going to kill the plant, but you can see it's doing fine. And the weight of the plant seems to be just fine on the netting, it's not nearly so heavy as it looks. BTW...they also sell this netting at IFA. That was the only place I could find it besides ordering it online. It seems flimsy...but has worked great.
HERBS: What fun these have been! Here I've got a basil and a lemon basil plant. Off to the side there is also mint, thyme and a parsley plant farther back. I planted some others, but again I planted them late and after I found out most of them needed to be started indoors to be most successful. The lemon basil came up from seed and the basil plant I got from a start from a friend. The only problem I've had is they've been prolific and I'm just not used to cooking with fresh herbs much. However once you get used to it, it's quite fun. I've made two recipes this week with my basil (one was a pasta sauce, the other was a pesto) and the richness of flavor is A-MAZ-ING. I will plant herbs again next year. Even if you don't use them, it's fun to pick them off and smell them and let the kids smell them. Also I'm pretty sure you can dry them, just haven't got to that point yet.
CANTELOUPE: Also, another lesson: If you don't get your trellises up...use your old tomato cages. That is what I did here and it seems to like it just fine. I was worried they wouldn't be sturdy enough because the soil is so loose, but I just had Joey push them deeper for me. It has kept the plant contained mostly. I do have to keep training it around the tomato cage as it keeps trying to move next door onto the neighbors cage. You can see in the second picture that the melons are hanging just fine above ground. This has worked so well I might just do this next year again and try it with my squash too. It's not quite as tall as the trellises and might be more "sturdy" for some of the bigger fruits.

Here are my other tomato plants that I put in cages instead of up a trellis. Again the biggest problem I've had is everything is LATE because of when I planted them...argg... Also, I think I will plant a lot more tomatoes next year, especially knowing that the cages work OK. I was concerned about having only so many edge squares for vertical plants. Knowing that the cages are plenty sturdy allows a lot more flexibility of where I can plant them in the layout of the garden. I will also plant more peppers and onions. I want SALSA!

So after that monster post anyone up for a giving it a try next year?


Shanna said...

I am going to get that back. I think I would really like the SF gardening. Isn't it so fun to see things produce and think that you grew your own food! Great job. I loved this post.

Shanna said...

Sorry. It's late. I meant get that book, not that back!

Audrey said...

I'm glad that your SF garden worked out, ours really didn't do very well. We spaced things the way it said and still ended up having some plants crowd out and kill others, and none of our produce got very large (I think because of the crowded root systems. My father in law has a flourishing in ground garden every year and keeps weeds down with the plastic sheeting around all the plants so we are going to share space in his garden next year I think.

Also, we did see that Ladybug Nursery here in Cedar also sells the already bagged Mel's mix at the same price as IFA.

Rae said...


Rebecca said...

I LOVE SFG! The only thing I harvested from my garden this year was experience. LOL That's what happens when you have major crises, a new baby, and an unexpected move! Your garden is inspiring! You go girl!

midRae said...

Love the garden. Worked much much better than my container garden. I will for sure get the book soon and start working on a good garden for next year. Thanks.

Andrea said...

So good to know. We did garden boxes, but didn't pay much attention to the square foot stuff.

Kristy said...

I'm so proud of you - can you do a garden for me and send it up to SLC? Jk

Jason and Andrea Wilcock said...

WOW! I'm so impressed. I really need to buy the book. Our main problem in Heber is the very short season. We can't plant until the first week of June and even then we can lose a lot of plants. Then, we lost a lot the 3rd week of August to an early frost. So, our season is so short. I need all the help I can get. Thanks for all the details and photos! You are AWESOME!!!

chrissy said...

i don't know that i'll do a sf garden, because i'm lazy. ;) but now that i know i don't kill everything i plant, i'm going to branch out from zucchini and tomatoes and plant more stuff!