Mar 23 2011 - Garden Journal – Beginning of 2011 Season
Now that Spring is almost here (freezing rain and snow in the forecast for today), it’s time to start planning the garden. I’m doing it a little different this year, so I thought I’d keep an online daily/weekly journal to post notes and comments on how things are progressing. This way I might be able to help out anyone who’s just starting out with a garden, as well as having some notes for myself to use in years to come. And let me make one thing clear before we get started, I am not a professional gardener by any means. I just enjoy doing it, just as my parents did when I was growing up. I’ve only had an actual garden for a few years now, so there’s still a lot to learn! So with that said, let’s begin!
I mentioned I’m doing things a little different this year because I’m planting a square-foot garden instead of a typical garden with rows of vegetables. A SFG is essentially a new way to garden in less space with less work. The garden is planted in 4′ x 4′ blocks, which are further divided down into square feet. Within these squares, you can grow a variety of vegetables such as one green pepper plant, 16 carrots, or four heads of lettuce. If you have any type of vine vegetables, such a cucumbers or tomatoes, you train these plants to grow vertically, so they only take up a square foot as well. If you want to learn more about SFG, I recommend picking up the book, Square Foot Gardening, written by Mel Bartholomew. There may be a newer edition out, but this is the one I have. A great book that explains all the details from making rich soil, to building your own trellis (and other growing contraptions), to planning out your garden.
I’m using three 4′ x 4′ blocks (shown above after a rough winter) to plant my vegetables. You can easily start out with one block, which should be able to grow enough veggies for two people. I’m using three because we’ll be canning tomatoes and pickling cucumbers later this year, so we need a bit more room. Plus, I tend to over-do things, so we’ll at the end of season if I actually needed the three blocks.
I’m in Zone 5, so typically we still have frost/freezing nights in March (all this week), so I haven’t really done much outside at this point. This week, I’ll be focusing on creating two trellises that we’ll need for the cucumbers and beans we’ll be planting. These will be approximately 4′ wide (to fit the block) and about 6′ tall and will look similar to the trellises pictured here.
You probably noticed the existing trellis in the first photo above. This was a trellis we added last year, originally used to grow pole beans. We’ll be using it again this year, but probably for tomatoes, so we’ll have three trellises total. For the two new ones, I’ll be using the following materials which I picked up at a local Home Depot:
- 3/4″ conduit (4 x 10′, each cut into a 8′ and 2′ piece)
- 3/4″ Elbows (4, two for each trellis)
- 3/4″ Couplings (2, one for the top of each trellis)
- Garden Trellis Netting (5′ x 15′, cutting into two 4′ x 6′ pieces – bought at Burpee’s website)
The cost came out to roughly $30-$40, but these trellises should last for years. I could have gone with the 1/2″, but it seemed a bit flimsy to me. And if I ever decided to plant melons on a vine, I’m not sure if they could withstand the weight, so I went with 3/4″ (definitely solid). The 8′ pieces will be driven about two feet into the ground for support with the smaller 2′ pieces creating the horizontal bar across the top (connected with a coupler). The netting will be interwoven on the frame and will help to support the vegetables as they grow. There are other methods you can use to accomplish the same thing, but I decided to go with netting because of the horizontal support it provides as the vegetables grow. Supposedly this netting has 60 lb. breaking strength, so it should provide more than enough support. I’m just hoping when I cut it down to size to better fit my trellis, it doesn’t start to unravel.
I didn’t have time to start any seeds indoors, so everything I’m growing will either be from seed or a store-bought plant. Here’s a list of vegetables/herbs I’m planning on growing this season.
- Cucumbers (pickling/slicing) – I’m trying White Wonders from Burpee…a free gift when I ordered the netting
- Pole Beans
- Snap Peas
- Green Peppers
- Tomatoes (not sure on varieties yet, but indeterminate) What does indeterminate mean?
- Herbs – basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme, parsley, dill
We’ll also be growing 8-ball squash and a couple stalks of corn, but these will be planted elsewhere in the yard. Depending on the type of squash you grow, it isn’t always the best candidate for a SFG…just ask my buddy Scott about the pumpkin he grew last year in his backyard…10′ vines in all directions (lol).