Showing posts with label Square Foot Gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Square Foot Gardening. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Soil Refresh for Year Two Raised Bed Square Foot Garden


I have been so busy chasing squirrels, avoiding my "smoky" leaf burning neighbors, and making Trisha Yearwood dips, that I'd forgotten I had not put up a post about the soil mix I used to refresh my raised beds this second year of my attempt at square foot gardening. Thanks to a reader who wrote to ask what I had used, I am getting this post up finally! {Thanks Tracy!}

One thing that I did not do, but wished that I had, was to pull the dead plants and cover the beds for winter. Granted, for us this winter was unusual and unusually long, but not cleaning up and covering the beds made for much more work pulling out dead plants, and pulling up plenty of break-through weeds, plus the soil was very compacted when I got ready to plant this spring.

       This is the 4 x 8 bed - what a mess it was!                 This shot is the turned soil.

My first duty was to pull up the grid markers and then pull weeds. I actually cleaned the grids since I knew I would be photographing them for the blog.  Not sure I would have bothered if I weren't blogging about it, but admit, it does make the garden look neater.  After that I used a shovel to dig into the existing soil and turn the dirt. If you used a landscape fabric under layer, you'll want to take care not to tear into it with the shovel, so don't dig in too deep. I then took a hoe and cultivator to work through and break up the soil.

Since I was refreshing the existing soil, I was able to mix the soil up in the wheelbarrow. I simply started with the primary Jungle Growth mix, and then added in the other elements, turning with each addition.You can click here to see the original soil mix I used year one.

Last year I was unable to find the vermiculite for the original soil mix, so I had hoped that the vermiculite contained in the Jungle Growth would be sufficient. Pretty soon as the summer heat and humidity took over, I discovered it wasn't. I could not find vermiculite again this year, but I did use some perlite - a little less inferior than the vermiculite that Mel recommends, but I'm hoping that it will help.

In this picture above, you'll see some plants already in. I had a few herbs that survived or came back from last year, so I worked around them when adding the new soil in one of my 4 x 4 foot beds.  Oh and don't forget!  Now is the time to string in your drip line if you plan to use one. I decided to add one in very late last year and what a pain that was to work in with all the plants full grown!

Soil Refresh for Year Two
Raised Bed Square Foot Garden

I mixed everything in a wheelbarrow this year and used the following refresher soil mix for one 4 x 4 foot bed and doubled the mix for the 4 x 8 foot bed.
  • 1 full bag of Jungle Growth Flower & Vegetable Mix (2 cu. ft. bag)
  • 1/2 bag of Black Kow manure (50 pound bag)
  • 1/2 bag peat humus/compost (40 pound)*
  • 2 big overflowing shovelfuls of peat moss
  • 1/2 of an 8 quart bag of perlite
*Of course, where you have your own home compost that has been breaking down awhile, definitely use it!!  If not, just grab the bags. Remember the original soil make-up suggested at least 5 separate sources of compost - from your own compost pile, from different types of manure, humus, mushroom compost, worm castings, soil mixes and boosters and such. You can use any of those sources or a combination of them for the compost portion of the refresh.
When you add the perlite or vermiculite, sort of dig a hole into the soil in the wheelbarrow to pour it in. It's very light weight and can take off on you with a slight breeze!

I mixed all of that up and dumped it into the bed, then turned all of the soil together to mix the old with the new and followed up with the cultivator to smooth it out.  This should bring the soil right about up to the top again.  Then replace the grid markers and plan your new plantings!

While the soil has settled somewhat, I'll probably top dress with a bit more Black Kow or compost as needed, which technically since I've had the squirrel issues, I've pretty much already been having to do anyway. {In addition to the thorny deterrent I'm using, I am trying something new for this and will report back on that!}

Check These Out Too!  -  Building the Square Foot Garden

Step 1: Build a Box
Step 2: Dirt Mix
Step 3: Add a Grid (for Square Foot Gardening only!)
Step 4: Planning the Plants

Here are my two primary gardening books - I highly recommend both but especially the "new" square foot gardening book, if you want to try this method of raised bed, square foot gardening.

Guide to Mississippi Vegetable Gardening - it's probably available for your state too! It's a perfect guide to tell you what to plant and what works best in your region, and also when to plant. I love this guide! A very helpful companion.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Year One Raised Bed Square Foot Gardening Quick Link Summary

It is about the most gorgeous day we could possibly have in South Mississippi and I am going to {try to} take off from blogging for a weekend - yes even over at the food blog - so that I can get outside, soak in some Vitamin D, and start getting my veggie gardens ready for planting.

Now that I'm about to move into Season Two of my Raised Bed Square Foot Gardening efforts, I thought that I would put up a page with quick links from my first year. I'll also be updating with a "what I'll do different" post very soon, and I'll update this post with links I might have missed today as I find them.

~For a general vegetable gardening primer with the basics for your vegetable garden site, soil fertility, garden tools and buying plants, click here.

~Basic information on wood and a good soil mix go here. (scroll down about halfway)

~For my site selection dilemma and a little bit of inspiration, click here.

~And more about the importance of site selection, click here.

Here are my two primary gardening books - I highly recommend both but especially the "new" square foot gardening book, if you want to try this method.

Guide to Mississippi Vegetable Gardening - available for your state too! It's a perfect guide to tell you what to plant and what works best in your region, and also when to plant. I love this guide!

Building the Square Foot Garden

Step 1: Build a Box
Step 2: Dirt Mix
Step 3: Add a Grid (for Square Foot Gardening only!)
Step 4: Planning the Plants

Year 3 Update:  I'm starting with seed for most of my plants so this will be a new experience. I like to use the Jiffy trays. You can read about my start with seeds right here.  I'm also doing the larger bed this year of mostly tomatoes and peppers by using tomato towers in middle of the bed. Should be interesting.

I might as well mention my MOST favorite, back saving garden tool. You'll see this in the background of many of my pictures (mine has a yellow seat). Talk about a life saver in the garden - I love this tool too! If you are doing any gardening this will become your best friend, I swear. Get one!!

Updates in the Garden:

My (almost) 1 Month update
Pest Control
Gardening Pests - Getting Rid of Aphids
A Different Kind of Pest Control - Critters

Adding the Vertical Supports
2 Month Garden Update
3 Month Garden Update
First Harvest
Final Update for the 2009 Season

Other Vegetable Garden Updates:

How to Grow a Tomato in a Bag
Topsy Turvy Upside Down Tomato Experiment & Updates
Tomato in a Bag Update
Topsy Turvy and Tomato in a Bag - Do Over

2010 Square Foot Garden Updates

Year One Raised Bed Square Foot Gardening Quick Link Summary - you are here!
Blue Lake Bush Style Green Beans and Pesky Squirrels
2010 Square Foot Garden Planting Grid and Garden Notes
Soil Refresh for Year 2 Square Foot Raised Bed Garden
*check back for more updates

I need to go back and check all my labels and organize them a bit better, so just in case I missed anything, check back periodically as I will update this post as I find things in time. You can click here for all the posts on Vegetable Gardening by date, and my veggie garden diary notes from 2009 will be posted "HERE" as soon as I can gather them all together. There are lots of weekly posts archived there, so be sure to scroll down to the bottom of each page and click on "older posts" to see them all.

If you're interested, check out my flower gardening efforts here and here.  Things are looking pretty drab out there right now after this winter, but I'm hoping for some color to show up soon!  Again, lots of posts archived there, so be sure to scroll down to the bottom of each page and click on "older posts" to see them all.

Happy Weekend Y'all!!! Get out and get gardening!

I am a simple home garden struggling through my failures and relishing in my successes.  If you are thinking I am any kind of expert, you might want to read this little ole disclaimer right here.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vegetable Garden Update - 3 Month Report

I can't believe that I started my vegetable garden 3 months ago!

I'm happy to report that using pest control in a responsible manner has helped to get rid of a lot of the bug problems. It was frustrating at first but I didn't overuse the treatments and I'm also happy to report that I still have regular visits from bees and butterflies, I have frogs and lizards and spiders, and my 3 wild turtles seem to be fine. I think a large part of reducing the bug population has also been the work on the lawn to finally get rid of the overabundance of weeds, and to build back healthy grass - an ongoing project to say the least!

My biggest bug problem has been the aphids. I kill them, but they keep coming back. They have terrorized my eggplant and every single one of my pepper plants. I can't seem to get rid of the things! Now, that has been frustrating.

I'm hoping that the tomatoes will start maturing soon - seems that they are behind - but we did have a few cold spells there at the beginning of my planting which caused some blossom drop, so the tomatoes essentially had to start over. I have no idea how to calculate when they should mature now, so I'll just have to wait on them! And maybe eat a few fried green tomatoes in the meantime. And pray they don't get harmed by slugs or other critters!

Despite killing by hand several squash bugs and borers the squash has been producing well so far. I'm happy about that since every other time I've tried to plant them, those darned buggers have killed my plants. I've had plenty enough so far for things like squash casserole and squash fries!

The peppers and the beans, two plants that have always performed well for me, haven't this year. The peppers have had the aphid fight and the beans, well that was really my own fault - overplanting, but more on that later.

Here's a look at how the garden is doing for those of you who are curious.

Below is a shot of both of the 4 x 4 foot beds. The one in the forefront has all the herbs - basil, oregano, rosemary thyme, dill, chives, cilantro & parsley, they're doing okay, not great. I think I'm probably overwatering them. There are also a couple of Big Beef tomato plants and a cucumber plant. Yes, that white thing you see is a container. Plopped right up in the middle of my raised bed. Originally there was a cucumber plant in this square but it died, and I had planted one of the extra cucumbers in this little white container. As it grew, the stick support I put in there started leaning so I just stuck the whole container into the empty square in the raised bed to level it and let it climb on the netting.

I've gotten quite a few large cucumbers already - they've made an appearance already in those lovely summer salads I posted recently.

Yes, that's the original dead vine still hanging there. I didn't want to damage the surviving vine which was intertwined with the dead one, so I just left it.

And even the poor pepper plants that have suffered so much at the constant aphid attacks, is still trying to produce some peppers. I nearly pulled all of these plants up not long ago out of frustration, but maybe they'll end up producing something. The leaves look awful don't they, but many of the pepper plants and even the eggplant have new growth showing, so I'm encouraged, even though I had to treat for aphids yet again, two days ago, and there were a lot of them. Arrrgh!!

This is the back side of the other 4 x 4 foot bed - as you can see, I've been trimming a lot of branches off of those tomatoes - for two reasons. One, I want larger tomatoes, and two, those darned leaf miners make an ugly mess of things. They have literally taken over all of my veggie gardens and are near impossible to get rid of, if not impossible altogether. They don't really interfere with fruit production I think, unless they mine the entire plant I suppose, but they make the garden so ugly!

This is what the Big Beefs are looking like. The plants are gaining height to the point that they are now climbing up out of the vertical support so I'm a bit anxious to see how I'll handle that! There are only about a dozen tomatoes between these 4 plants in the two 4 x 4 foot beds. The one leftover Big Beef I stuck in a container has about 8 tomatoes alone!

In that same bed, there is a cantaloupe plant, several bell pepper plants and a few green beans. The second planting of those beans, which I over-planted the first time and ended up pulling up every single one of them {see Bad #2}, did not take well. I think the seeds I used were too old, so I've planted some fresh ones today. I guess we'll just call it "succession planting!" That might actually work out better anyway. I also have several cantaloupe melons hanging - I hope they make it but it's so exciting to know that these came from seeds that I planted! I've never planted cantaloupe before, so I guess as they mature they turn that lighter yellow color we're accustomed to!

Here's another - I think there may be about 4 large ones, and several babies so it's still trying to put more out. They seem to be doing fantastic with the nylon netting so far, but I'm wondering if I should make slings for them anyway?

This is a slightly closer view of the bed with the cantaloupe, peppers and beans. There are a couple of replacement pepper plants that I bought waiting to be planted - it's just been way too hot and I've ignored them. I finally got those put in today.

These are the Bush Goliath tomatoes that are in a large container. There are probably about 16 larger sized tomatoes on this one plant right now.

More of the Bush Goliath - they are clearly the largest tomatoes so far.

The Roma is in a large container too, but it's not really putting out as much fruit as I would like to see. I may plant several of these next year because I'd love to put some away. I relocated this container today to see if that makes a difference.

This is a front view of the Better Boy tomatoes in the larger 4 x 8 foot bed. I'm not sure how many tomatoes are on these plants - maybe about 30 or so.

This is a back view of the 4 x 8 foot bed. I totally love and highly recommend using the nylon netting and building vertical supports. It does a great job, way above and beyond those cheapo cages, certainly better than stakes, of supporting the tomato plants and I'm glad we took the time to build these.

Except for those tomatoes all along the back row, the squash have all but taken over the 4 x 8 foot garden. The original pepper plants that were in the center, 2 of which remain but might get pulled up too, haven't done well at all anyway thanks to constant attacks by aphids.

And here's the original Tomato in a Bag, still hanging in there, growing taller, and it actually has a few blossoms on it! Considering I planted it back at the end of April, that took awhile didn't it? Hey, I'm just happy that it's alive. And yes, that is another tomato plant you see on the other side, replacing the one that I drowned.

The original Tomato in a Bag even has some baby tomatoes starting to show up!

And, on the other side of the original tomato in a bag, I ran across what I think is an heirloom tomato, called Mr. Stripey, so I bought it! This is what Mr. Stripey looks like at maturity, so I really hope I end up with a few.

So here's a close-up of Mr. Stripey on the other side of the Tomato in a Bag. No buds or tomatoes showing yet, but I'm keepin' my fingers crossed.

And, yeah, I went and did it. After I broke that last tomato in the Topsy Turvy, I know I said that I wasn't gonna try another. But the Mr. Stripey plant had a volunteer so I split him and put one of them in the Tomato in a Bag and the other in the Topsy Turvy.

Well, that's it for the veggie garden update. Hopefully soon I'll be reporting on some mature tomatoes!

Click HERE for all the Year One 2009 Square Foot Vegetable Garden Updates

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vegetable Garden Update - 2 Month Report: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Crookneck Squash

Well, my veggie gardens are officially 2 months along now, so it's time for an update! And, as promised - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - in all its glory. (Check out the 3 month update here.)

As far as the raised bed, square foot gardens, this is what they looked like last night.

No, I'm not the crazy lady down the street!

But we did have a cold front come through that not only finally brought us beaucoup rain, but crazy winds, and a big ole drop in temperatures. Last night, tonight, and tomorrow night, temps will dip down into the 50s, and rise back up to the high 70s and low 80s during the day. Last week, we were running in the high 80's and with extremely high humidity, making it feel like mid-90s. All that to say, with that much fluctuation in temperatures, I was concerned about blossom drop on my veggies, all of which pretty much have blossoms right now, so I went out and gave them all a blanket hoping that they would stay warm enough so that I don't have blossom drop. Will have to repeat this for the next couple of nights.

This is actually only my 3rd season of really semi-seriously giving this gardening thing a go - both for veggies and for flowers. For years, when I was working full time, I just stuck some vegetable plants in the ground and didn't really have time to tend to them or baby them like now, so I never had much of a bounty as the bugs and critters always got the best of it.

So.... here we go!

The Ugly No. 1: My poor Topsy Turvy planter.

After I replanted it with a healthy tomato plant, it was doin' great, and then...

...I dropped it. And I broke it.

After all that rain, and with it hanging on the outside of the eave, well it got a good heavy watering. And, apparently it got so heavy from the water that it had bent the nail it was hanging on, and it must've just been teetering there when I touched the planter to turn it and look at the plant...

...and it fell off the nail. I tried to catch it, but it landed plant down in my hands, and broke off the tomato plant right at the stem. Funny thing is, when I was out there covering all of those plants last night, I looked up at the planter and thought it might be a good idea to take it down, but I knew it was heavy and full of water and didn't know where I was gonna hang it, so I didn't take it down. Should have trusted my instincts.

Well, I think that's likely the end of my Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter experiment. It's not the planter's fault - just my dumb luck. First, I drown the first plant right off by giving it too much water and the wrong kind of fertilizer and now this, so I can't rightly give an opinion on its performance. I have, however, seen lots of people using this method with both the Topsy Turvy planter and homemade planters across the internet, so if you're curious about them, just give it a try!

The Ugly No. 2 - my Tomato in a Bag.

Well, the first tomatoes that I tried in the bag of Black Kow weren't very healthy to begin with because they were leftover from my raised bed plantings and had been sitting in a partially empty plastic cell pack for weeks. I lost one of them pretty quick. So I bought a new, healthy plant to give it fair try.

Well, this one, it seems, I drowned by over-watering.

Apparently the composted manure holds water pretty well, so all the times I was watering the other plants in the raised bed, I should have been checking the soil in the bag, and not just watering it! Yeah, I killed it. Apparently I do not have my Grandma Mac's green thumb.

But, the good news is, the original unhealthy tomato I planted on the other side of the bag is {so far} hanging in there, and except for those pesky leaf miners, seems to be doin' okay.

Now ... on to the raised bed, square foot gardens.

Here are some pictures of all of the gardens as of this morning after I uncovered them. Besides the growth of some of the plants, you'll notice there are a few things, well, let's just say, different from when I started.

Bed No. 1 - 4' x 4' Left hand back side has 2 Big Beef tomato plants, plus there is a planter in the back that has the Roma in it. In the back far right is a cucumber plant - I lost one to over-watering, I'm pretty sure. In the row in front of that, marigolds, eggplant and two pepper plants. You'll hear more about those in a minute. The next 2 rows aren't much like I started at all. I added stuff, moved stuff, started stuff over. But right now, back to front, are cilantro, dill, chives, jalapeno pepper, then basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme. And on the ground on the left hand side in a small planter, mint. I've heard that mint will take over a garden pretty fast so it's best to grow in a container. For once, I listened.

Bed No. 2 - 4' x 4' There are 2 Big Beef tomato plants on the left hand back side and a Bush Goliath in a planter behind this bed. Cantaloupe on the right hand back side and some peppers in front of that. Newly planted beans are in the front 4 center squares and the one to the far right front. Yes, it's a re-plant - more about that later. Right behind the marigolds I just planted some lavender seeds, because I moved the cilantro that was planted there over to Bed No. 1. I have no idea if lavender is a good plant to intermix with vegetable plants, but I was going through seed, ran across them and thought I'd see if any came up.

Bed No. 3 - 4' x 8' Back row is all Better Boy tomatoes plus there is a small planter to the side that has another Big Beef tomato plant in it, and a planter behind it that has a cucumber plant in it. The two large plants centered on both sides are crookneck squash, and beside the marigolds there are some green bell pepper plants scattered in there too.

Okay, now on to The Bad - my mistakes.

The Bad No. 1: Not following the author of All New Square Foot Gardening, Mel's Bartholomew's, exact soil formula.

Especially in relation to vermiculite, but also not using enough different sources of compost, both of which would have helped with moisture retention. I couldn't find any vermiculite in the large sized bags I needed, and since the Jungle Growth had some in it, I thought it would be enough. But after that initial period of rain we got, we went over a month with no rain at all and I found my beds drying out quick so that I was watering daily for awhile there and on a couple of those really hot, humid days, twice a day! That's just too much. Of course some of that was over-watering - more on that later. But, I think that it would have helped a lot to have added the vermiculite as recommended.

There is some good in the bad here in that Hub's accidentally picked up the wrong kind of Jungle Growth when I sent him back for some new bags for flower gardening, and it ended up being Jungle Growth Water Wise - containing extra sources for water retention. I top-dressed all of the raised bed plants with this and it really seems to have helped.

The Bad No. 2. Not separating the bean seedlings when they came up.

I planted bush green beans in the front and middle 4 squares of Bed #2, putting 2 bean seeds into each of the 9 holes so that I would have enough plants come up. Well, just about every one of those beans sprouted, but I never got around to thinning them out. Big mistake. By May 1st, they looked like this.

Highly overcrowded themselves - making them an easy prey and a great hiding place for bugs - and crowding out all of the other plants around them so that they weren't getting enough sun, I tried to first pull them together with string to kind of rope them in a bit. That really didn't work well, so then I tried to separate them and thin them out at this stage. Big mistake. Thinning them didn't work out well at all and just when I was starting to get beans, I ended up getting frustrated and pulling every single plant up, and they all went to the compost pile. And I started over. And I wanted to cry.

And yes, those branches with stickers on them? They're in there on purpose. But that's another post I need to finish so more on that another day!

The Bad No. 3.
Accidentally grabbing the Dawn dishwashing soap when I did the second soap spray treatment on the eggplant and peppers for aphids.

I wasn't thinking - or in reality, probably thinking of too many things at once - and I grabbed the Dawn instead of the generic, lemon scented stuff I used the first time. If you wait about an hour after spraying, you can then rinse the plants off, but like the first time I just sprayed the plants down and didn't rinse them. Again, my instincts told me I should go grab the hose, but I did this in the evening, so I didn't think that sunburn or scald would be an issue by the time morning rolled around, so I didn't rinse them off. Sure wish I had because when I sprayed everything, they looked like this. Looks nice huh?

But then, by the next day and the day after, the plants started looking like this.

The Bad No. 4. Not giving my seedlings a thorough inspection when I purchased them and not catching the aphids quick enough.

Of all the bugs I've had to deal with in my three years of trial veggie gardening, I don't think I have ever had aphids, so I am convinced that I carried them home on the plants I bought. By the time I noticed them, my plants were infested, and while I've been treating them and it's working, the damage was done. The leaves are all curled up. The plants are stunted. They aren't budding up as they should be. I seriously am considering pulling them all up and replanting.

The Bad No. 5. Assuming that wilting in the pepper plants was a need for water.

Apparently pest damage from aphids to the peppers was what was making the pepper plants look wilted all the time and not a need for water. Logically I saw that the rest of the plants seemed fine, but in my mind I associated wilting with a need for water, not aphids. So I kept watering the darned plants. I lost one cucumber as a result of this over-watering, and the poor pepper plants, already suffering from the aphids and the Dawn soap scalding, were now dropping perfectly fine, green and healthy leaves from yep, being over-watered!!

Well ... despite all that, there has been some good! So, I guess you can say I've saved the best for last.

The Good No. 1: Sticking with the square foot guidelines for bush squash plants, despite the fact that it takes up most of your bed.

If you question why so many squares, just have a look at this picture. Closest to you is actually the back - that's all tomatoes, but those plants in the center of all of those blank spaces are the squash when I first planted them. Seems such a waste of space, doesn't it?

Until you see this picture. Those huge plants are the squash plants 2 months later. As you see, it has grown significantly and pretty much is already taking up all 9 of those squares that were reserved for it. It's doing pretty good so far, though I did see a squash borer eyeing it up one day when I was outside. I angrily swung at it with my flip flop, hit it and sent it sailing through the air and didn't see it again. I'm hoping I won't be seeing problems with this pest but I'm trying to keep an eye out for them for sure.

The Good No. 2. Not planting the watermelon in a raised bed.

Instead I did it in a pot, using a broken tomato cage that I clipped the top part off of, so that the watermelon could grow up the cage, over it, and out of the pot, just to sort of lift it up and out of the dirt. As the plant began to grow, I laid down a square of newspapers on the ground that I then topped with landscape fabric and secured with garden staples. I cut a wooden stake in half to set up under the planter just to lift it off of the ground a bit. That way, if any water accumulated, the pot would not be sitting in the water. The plant has plenty of room to sprawl, and I didn't have to set up an entire raised bed with all of that soil to grow it in. I've never grown watermelon before, so if I manage to get even one melon from this plant without a pest attack, I will be thrilled.

The Good No. 3. Putting up the vertical frames.

So far anyway, I am LOVING these frames. The plants are so easy to train - every once in awhile when you go out to the garden, you just tuck the plants in and out of the nylon netting. Of course the true test will come as the plants begin to bear some heavy fruit - especially those cantaloupe. But right now this is far and above 1000% better than cages and staking and all that other mess I've tried before. And, once it's all over these can be removed and stored for next year, and supposedly, many years.

The Good No. 4: Seeing the fruit of your labor finally showing up.

The Good No. 5: Having garden buddies to admire and talk to.

The Good No. 6: Being able to walk out the back door of your house, and despite the mistakes and the failures and the do-overs, despite the seemingly never-ending battle of the bugs and mother nature, you, yes you, have grown a vegetable garden!

Click HERE for all the Year One 2009 Square Foot Vegetable Garden Updates
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