Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Update on Plants - Raised Bed Square Foot Vegetable Garden

In case you've hit this link off of Google, or are just now poppin' by, here's a recap of the previous links:


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

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

First, let's also recap a few of the previous links I've published.

~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.

Well, it's been just a bit over 3 weeks since I planted my vegetable garden, but I have a lot of updates to post about my trial run with my first real square foot vegetable garden. As you may recall, I am following Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening book, which by the way is an excellent resource, so whether you buy through my affiliate link or not, please pick up this book if you are seriously considering this type of gardening. The book is loaded with information that you'll need to know and is worth every cent. You'll find yourself constantly referencing this book!

I apologize in advance if this first post is a bit disjointed and unorganized - I had pictures taken at all different times, forgot what was what, kept having to go back and take new photographs - so I tried to correct it best I could! To avoid making this any longer and harder to get through than it already is, I decided to separate the things I wanted to talk about into different posts. This first post will just basically bring you up to date on the plants. I'll follow this post up as soon as I can with one on pest control, then fertilizing and then one on dealing with fungus.

So, let's talk plants!

As you probably recall, I started with a few seedlings. You'll note that on the right side of the box, I have veggie plants in both larger peat pots and some in those white and black plastic 9-cell packs of smaller seedlings. You'll see the difference here in a minute.

And, of course, I also started with some of these. The okra seeds haven't gone in the ground yet, but those will go in another garden very soon. I have a bed on the south side of my house that is a pretty hot bed come summertime and next to impossible to grow anything much in because of that, so I figured it would be a perfect spot to try some okra! Okra likes heat and is a member of the hibiscus family, so it produces some pretty blooms. I thought it'd be perfect for that bed!

Now first, if you are still considering whether to invest in the larger and more pricey individual peat pots for your seedlings, or to just go with the inexpensive 9-cell plastic bound smaller seedlings, here's something to consider.

The decided difference between those cheaper 9-cell packs of smaller plants and the larger, and more expensive, single plant peat pots, well, it's pretty evident here. On this larger single plant peat pot pepper plant {say that fast four times lol}, you can see that lots of buds are already beginning to appear. This is the larger yellow bell pepper plant I put in.

And, it's a fair sized plant overall already.

On the other hand, the green bell pepper plants that were in the plastic 9-cell packs, while healthy, are a bit scrawny and have no buds at all, so they have a way to go yet.

Same thing with the tomatoes. Tomatoes that are determinate, bush type tomatoes can only be planted 1 plant per 9 squares, like the yellow squash I planted, so I opted to grow the two determinate plants I bought in separate pots outside of the square foot garden. By the way, if you don't know, determinate tomatoes are plants that grow to a determined size and then stop growing. Basically they are a bush tomato. A cluster of flowers grows at the end of a stem and stops the growth so that all of the fruit forms about the same time. These are generally tomatoes that are good for processing. Anyway, at a cost of 9 squares, I didn't want to use that much room in my raised beds. The Bush Goliath was purchased in one of the single plant peat pots. It was larger to begin with, but as you see, it has grown pretty substantially from that plant in the cardboard box above, and already has a tomato on it.

I'm so proud!

The other determinate is a Roma tomato plant, and was also potted as a larger single plant. You can see it has several buds on it.

And some have already opened, so tomatoes won't be long behind!

To compare, this is one of the smaller Big Beef indeterminate tomato plants that came in the plastic 9-cell pack. Indeterminate tomatoes set fruit clusters all along a vining stem, which will continue to grow and generally will need trellising. These tomatoes come sporadically throughout the entire growing season, rather than all at once. As you see these have also grown a good bit from where they started and are healthy enough, but much smaller than the Bush Goliath and the Roma, and not a bud in sight yet.

So, essentially that's the difference between buying the cheaper 9-cell packs and the larger, and more expensive single plant peat pots. If you can spare the expense, go for the larger plant. Otherwise, the smaller ones will eventually grow - it just takes a longer time and a little patience.

Now ... here's an overall look at the beds as a whole from the day that I planted them (3/23/09) to today.

Bed #1 at Planting on 3/23/09

Bed #1, First Update at just over 3 Weeks on 4/15/09

Fairly nice growth there considering a lot of the time it's been raining and cloudy! In the back, on the left side are the Big Beef (indeterminate) tomato plants. These are the tomatoes that came from one of the cheap 9-cell packs. They are vining, indeterminate plants so they'll be getting a vertical support to climb on. We have to pick up the supplies for that, but we're using the recommended one in the book that uses nylon trellis netting on conduit and rebar supports. In the back row on the right side are the cucumber plants, which you can't really see well because they are hidden behind the larger pepper plants, but here's a close up of one of them.

There are 2 cucumber plants per square and they will also vine on the trellis.

In the next row, left to right are marigolds, eggplant, red bell pepper, and yellow bell pepper. You've already seen the peppers, so here's a nice close up of the eggplant.

Carrot seeds are in the next row, far left and far right squares. The center squares are empty.

Is this evidence of a carrot trying to poke through? Or just a weed? Not sure, but I've left it be to see if anything else shows up. Today I saw another similar sprout coming up. Carrots need really warm weather, so if the weather's on the cool side - as it has been - it can take the seeds a month to a month in a half to sprout! I planted two squares of carrots, and I used some old seeds I'd had awhile, so I think that I'll wait it out a bit and see if anything happens.

In the front row are herbs, a little too small yet to see in the big picture. From left to right these are basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme, most of which have just sprouted. After I planted them the first time, we had a very heavy rainfall a few days later and they didn't come up after 2 weeks, so I have since replanted them. Problem is, I think I got my squares mixed up and ended up planting a different herb on top of the previous herb on some of the squares. In other words, except for the basil, I'm not sure what herb is planted where anymore!

In the lower, far left square, these are the basil seedlings that came up. It looks like ALL of the seeds sprouted after all.

This is the second planting on the second square from the left on the front row. These are just now beginning to come up and was initially planted with rosemary seeds, but I think when I replanted it, I accidentally put another type of seed here, so I'll have to wait to see what this actually is!

There is nothing sprouting yet on the replant of the 3rd square, so this is the 4th square, the one on the far right, and should be thyme. Funny how nearly all the herb seedlings look identical, at least in the beginning.

Bed #2 at Planting on 3/23/09

Bed #2, First Update at just over 3 Weeks on 4/15/09

As you see the beans in the four bottom, center squares have sprouted well! These are bush green beans, so they are 9 plants per square and it looks like most of the seeds took so I will need to do a little thinning out yet here as well.

Not long after planting the green bean seeds, they began to poke through the soil. If you want to get your child involved in the birthing of a plant, beans are an excellent seed to use because they pretty much always come through and they come up fast. Don't forget to plant at least 2 seeds though just in case one fails, and you can speed up the sprouting process if you also give them a quick soak before planting them. I just placed all the seeds I wanted to plant into some warm water and let them soak until they became wrinkled, about an hour.

Now, they look like this!

Of course, that's marigolds to the left of those. Right behind the marigolds are some cilantro seeds I recently planted, which have already sprouted.

In the very back are more of the Big Beef (indeterminate) tomato plants on the left side, and on the right are my cantaloupe sprouts. Cantaloupe are planted as 1 plant per 2 squares, so the space to the left of the sprouts is empty. Looks like the cantaloupe seeds also took well, so I'll have to likely thin out these as well. Apparently the seeds really loved this soil!

In the row right under the tomatoes are the small green bell pepper plants that came in one of those less expensive 9-cell packs, so they'll take a while yet to bud.

I have been looking for a jalapeno plant but haven't been able to find one. On my errands yesterday I found one pack of misplaced jalapeno seeds in the seed rack at WalMart, so I snatched them up. I planted 3 jalapeno seeds in the square at the very bottom right just yesterday. Right above that I planted an Anaheim pepper plant that I found yesterday, which is a hot pepper, but a little on the milder side. These start off green, but turn red when they reach maturity. If I get a good crop out of this plant, these can be canned or dried for future use.

Bed #3 - Left Side at Planting on 3/23/09

Bed #3, Left Side, First Update at just over 3 Weeks on 4/15/09

This is the left side of the bigger 4' x 8' bed. In the back are Better Boy tomatoes, also an indeterminate vining type, that will have the vertical supports built behind them. The squash plant is in the center - that's the bush variety so it is 1 plant per 9 squares - meaning all of the spaces around it are actually empty. Seems a lot of wasted space for a square foot garden I know, but I wanted some squash this year! Last year the bugs got both of my plants and I had ZERO squash. There are marigolds in the foreground, and more of the green bell peppers from the 9-cell pack behind those.

The squash are beginning to show some budding too. The bees will be so happy when these flowers finally burst out! Bees LOVE squash flowers.

Bed #3 - Right Side at Planting on 3/23/09

Bed #3, Right Side, First Update at just over 3 Weeks on 4/15/09

This is the right side of the big 4' x 8' bed. To the left of the picture are more of the green bell pepper plants that I planted from the 9-cell pack. I had initially reserved that square on the front left for something else, but decided to go ahead and put the last green bell pepper plant there afterall. I harvest and freeze most of my green peppers since we use them in so many dishes down south, so I wanted a lot of plants! Again, they're quite young, so it'll be a bit before they bud out. In the back are more of the Better Boy tomatoes. In the center is the other squash plant taking up most of this side of the bed. Now you see why those determinate tomatoes went into separate pots!


These are the Jubilee watermelon seedlings I started from seed. They're in a side pot next to Bed #2 for now.

I was really excited to see the strawberry when it started poking through the soil.

Now, it looks like this! These are my first strawberries ever, so I hope that they grow well. The leaves look more delicate than the jagged edges that I'm used to seeing on strawberries, but this is a Quinault strawberry so maybe they're different, or maybe it's just that this one is very young. Guess we'll see what becomes of it!

Even the flat leaf parsley I had leftover from the old garden, you know... the one that survived and thrived I might add, even through 3 freezes...

...but, alas, succumbed to one lawn mower wielding hubby who 'thought it was a weed,' is trying to come back! I thought it was a goner, but was excited to see the little green sprouts on the shredded stalk. Yes, it's a leftover from last year's "traditional garden" and while not officially in any of the square foot garden boxes or even a planting for this year, I had to show it off anyway. Flat leaf parsley is one tough plant!

I am hopeful that this year, with the education from all of my past blunders {of which there have been many}, and by using the raised beds and this square foot gardening method, I'll see a better crop.

As a side note, you'll notice color variations on some of the photos in this post. Some of that is the camera and time of day when the picture was taken, some is from adjustments to dim down the brightness, but some of it is also from a lack of sunshine due to the days and days of rain the past few weeks, and some I think, a cry for a nutrient boost. So, next we'll talk about fertilizing!

Now, lest ye think I am such a smarty pants to have all of this knowledge in my little ole head, besides gleaning the square foot gardening information straight from the man himself, I also am using this book on vegetable gardening as well! Check to see if there's a guide for your state if you're interested.


  1. there's like a hundred things I want to say, and I know I've already forgotten most of them. . .I'm just so jealous that you've already got a tomato! We got 3 inches of snow today *sobs* and I can't even think about planting tomators yet. This is why we're moving to the south :)

  2. Awwww Krystal {{{{HUGS}}}} I heard about the snow on the news - it's crazy!! Well, just remember that in the not too distant future you will soon hear me whining about being so hot I'm about to melt! In the meantime you can garden vicariously through me! Don't be jealous cuz truth is, there is a high possibility I may end up with a big ole failure but it won't be for lack of tryin' - between the bugs, the wildlife, fungus, mildew, blight, whatever, vegetable gardening has always ended up a struggle for me down here.

  3. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for your kind comments. I do the same thing when I go to SITS, I stop by the blog of the person in front of me.

    I can't believe you have tomatoes already! We just planted our plants on Easter Sunday. We probably wont have anything until June.

    You have a fantastic blog yourself. I have enjoyed browsing through and am signing up to follow you!

  4. wow! I'm jealous of your green thumb! I would love to have my own fruits and veggies and herbs. talk about organic and local!
    but unfortunately...I've got the "death" thumb. every plant commits suicide with me! BOO HOO

  5. Hey Katherine! I love your blog - saw a few recipes I am definitely gonna try for sure! I love visiting the blog ahead of me and look, today I found you! I wish I could visit more but I'd be here all day! Thanks so much for stopping by my world and following me. I look forward to gettin' to know ya!

    burpandslurp, don't be jealous! When I was working and used to have houseplants I was notorious for murderin' them. Didn't mean too but it got to where I just didn't see them. My 2 cats now prevent me from havin' houseplants cuz they like to chew on 'em!

    As far as the outside stuff, I only really got into this since Hurricane Katrina. Lost my job thanks to that hurricane and haven't been able to get re-employed here since, so I've finally had time to garden. Didn't have much time before. Course now, I seem to be pretty occupied with blogging instead! Too bad it's not a paycheck!!

    Oh and no organic here unfortunately. Too many bugs - I'd have to have a HUGE garden to accommodate the bugs and still have a harvest, and I only have an itty bitty subdivision lot that is loaded with oak trees and limited on where I can put a vegetable garden, so I just have a few boxes. I just can't go organic. If you follow along I'm sure you'll hear about my bug adventures and frustrations. It always happens.

    I'll bet you could do a small 4 x 4 raised bed garden. Why don't you give it a try?

  6. I am impressed what a garden. We still have snow on the ground here. My daughter use to live in Mississippi. Thanks for sharing all of your ideas.

  7. Oh thank you! I mostly did it to document my first time with both square foot gardening and also raised beds and to hopefully inspire somebody who might not otherwise think that they too can do this!

    I can't believe all the late season snow around the country. It's be hot as hades here before too long, so I try to really enjoy the spring weather as short as it is down south!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  8. I'm impressed and inspired. I was hoping my son would be inclined to plant with me. I will be sending him by here to have a look. Maybe it's too late to start, I don't know but I sure would like to try planting some veges. I will be looking for the guide book for Florida!

  9. Most plants can be done in succession planting, putting down more of them like every 2 or 3 weeks (for those lucky enough to have room that is) so it's never too late - this is the perfect time to start! Just do one small 4 x 4 with tomatoes, peppers, some herbs, whatever you like and see how it goes!

  10. What a nice garden and I'm so jealous because you have something growing! Here in Mo. I haven't planted yet as the weather has been really frosty at night. I'm hoping to plant some this next week. I just found your wonderful blog and will be back often. Have a great day!

  11. Your garden is great! Love the raised beds idea, we have a huge garden this year as well, but we plant in raised rows. we also have tomatoes on the vines and even some squash starting, its always so fun.

    I have posts on my garden if your interested.

  12. We have snow too!! And even if we didn't, it might freeze in a couple of days. BUT, after reading your post, I bought some seed packs and some peat pots to start some veggies and flowers in my garage until the middle of May, when we can safely plant outside. You've inspired me.
    I'm also going to make your strawberry pie this weekend.
    I just found your blog last week, and I'm having so much fun!

  13. Hi Lynda and welcome! I know several people from the blog world that live in Missouri. Weather up that way has been really wacky, I heard everything was blooming for spring and then bam, big freezer and snowfall! That's really crazy! Thanks so much for takin' the time to stop and write to me. I hope I do see you again!!

    Newlyweds, I will be sure to swing by!! I had some cucumber and squash flowers open today ... I was so excited LOL!! You know, I started to do rows and then at the last minute changed my mind. I've had such problems with bugs over the past couple years I almost didn't plant. Then I thought, okay I'll do one 4 x 4. Then I thought nah, might as well do two. Then I decided to try the square foot thing and expanded to two 4 x 4s and another 4 x 8 LOL!!

    Hi again Debbie! I am so thrilled you got inspired by my diary!!! That's really why I decided to post about it all to begin with. If I lived up north I'd absolutely had to do a set up in the garage with grow lamps and stuff! I don't know if I could bear to wait so long. Please let me know how you like the pie if you have the time. Glad you're enjoying the blog - those kinds of sweet comments makes this all worthwhile!!


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