Square Foot Garden: Why Community Gardens are the Best Gardens. And Fall crops.

I had to leave my garden for almost three weeks. In the middle of summer. Just as the green beans were coming in. Hard to do. Very hard. But made easier by my community I garden with. An email out to the others with raised beds in the garden, asking for help watering when I was gone (and with hopes they would harvest a few things) kept my garden more beautiful than I could have hoped. I nervously headed to the garden after my return to town, not sure what disaster I would find. But, I found this lovely garden:

Lush and ready for harvest. If anything, I wish that my lovely water crew had helped themselves to more veggies- the green beans were a bit starchy and after I picked some I gave up on them. So, I did a little maintenance on my return (mainly tying up wild tomatoes trying to refuse the trellis and picking corn) and said many quiet thank yous to my watering crew. Below is my first harvest after arriving home:

The corn was disappointingly not so sweet. I thought maybe I waited too long to harvest... but some of my later planted is the same as well. Maybe variety? Who knows. Maybe a question for the OSU extension services.
As I picked corn I pulled the stalks and set them aside to dry for fall decor. I also started plotting fall crops. As predicted early in the summer, I'm trying broccoli/sprouts/cauliflower again. I went from starts, as I'm about 5 weeks too late for seeds. We'll see. I'm skeptical, but I also hate blank garden space.
 In go the new plants! As the corn gets pulled, I keep adding to it. Some onion seeds and carrot seeds. Looking forward to seeing if I really prolong the harvest season.

 I've also enjoyed garden cooking- below is an all garden meal (except the mushrooms). Finding a way to stay ahead of the veggies is the final trick in all this gardening.


Square Foot Gardening: The Corn is as High as and Elephant's Eye!

Here, in the deep of summer, this garden looks so different than last February. The hot crops are moving fast. We have corn! Tall and wonderful. 

It just grew so fast that my tomatoes are having trouble getting their fair share of light. Note of next year- plant the onions in front of the tomatoes. They stay little for so long.
In between the corn, green beans are coming in and onions are slowly being picked. I threw in some more carrot and beet seeds where I pulled out other things. I also started the cucumber up the trellis where once the peas stood strong.
I've always avoided cucumbers and other vine things- I don't want them taking over precious space- but when I discovered I could trellis them?? Well... now we are on to something. Grow UP not OUT when square foot gardening is the game. 
Today's harvest had green beans, one cucumber, and an onion. Fingers crossed I time my out of town time so I can enjoy corn and tomatoes on my return. 
And, when you find yourself without a baby teething toy, any beet will do
Or green bean, as the situation calls for
Pinkies up! We are very fancy at our garden. 


Square Foot Gardening: Rotating Crops and Notes to Self

With grad school done, I can garden and  update about it. But for now, a quick list of things to help me out when I'm planning next year. 

Potatoes need more room. They dominated everything. Next year they either get an 18 inch row, or I move onto potato cages I've read so much about. The onions and tomatoes suffered as the plants grew. 
HUGE! The poor onions tried to get out from under them... but there was no escape
-Growing potatoes is FUN, despite the large amount of space they need. The first harvest below:

I'm doomed never to grow anything in the Brassica  family. Despite planting the brussels sprouts in Feb, with the very warm spring we've had, I got loose sprouts. I pulled them out so other things could grow. I know me, I'll probably try a fall crop like a sucker.

It took about 12 weeks for the potatoes to set enough to pick. We got mostly baby potatoes- delicious, but next year I want to leave them in a spot where I can let them grow for longer. Look at the giant space opened up in the garden when I pulled them, finally. 

Carrots are awesome and way better than radishes. Every year I do radishes because the grow fast and are ready to pick quick, which is fun. But we never eat them. Carrots, on the other hand, are devoured and the joy of picking it only adds to the fun. 

Totally worth giving up some space to flowers. Sweet Peas and Poppies. It makes the garden look so sweet. 

Peas should be staggered in plant times. I planted them all at once and we are eating peas with everything- just this week I pulled out all the vines and picked off the last ones. 
So many peas

I've enjoyed the thought I put into the changing garden this year. Instead of thinking of each square as one vegetable, I tried to plan out multiple items for each square by accounting for grow time and weather. Cool weather early spring plants vs hot weather summer plants.
Pulling out the potatoes and peas made room for corn, green beans, carrots, and spinach. Watching the different squares change and moving through the spring and summer season with different veggies to look forward to has been fun.
Potatoes gone- before the peas were pulled
The bounty changes week to week- finally we have beets and some bigger onions. It's lovely. 

The next few weeks will bring lots of watering, tending, and fussing over my tomatoes. I also decided to put in a cucumber plant and I'm going to trellis it where the peas were, hopefully preventing it from taking over the garden. Happy Solstice! SUMMER!!!!!


Square Foot Garden: The Onion Experiment

We went for a walk this weekend, on down to check on the garden. It's growing so fast, I wish I could be there every day. 
 The tricking thing about square foot gardening is that things really do get PACKED in. The brussel sprouts are probably still 2-3 weeks from being ready for harvest (or more? I don't know) and they are shading beet seedlings and pushing over onions. The potatoes are the same, I have no idea how big they will get before they are ready to dig up, but they are pushing into peas and the spaces I set aside for green beans. I think the key is to stagger crops. Green beans will go in next week and the first potatoes will come up a week later. It's a constant rotation of the new and the old.
Onions have been my experiment. The large onions in the picture below  were planted from bulb sets in late February. It seemed silly to plant a small onion just so I can grow it into a bigger onion. All that energy already put into growing it, tending it, picking it, drying it, then shipping it so I could plant it. But I went ahead and tried it out. The small ones near the bottom of the picture were also onion sets, but they looked more like small green chives that had been picked by the root and bundled. Not quite as silly as the other onion sets. I planted them three weeks ago and they seem to be doing fine. They are about the same size as my THIRD onion experiment- just between the large onions and potatoes- which was planting from seed in late February. So far, I'm impressed. If started early enough they seem to give the same result as the sets I planted a few weeks ago.
And that's the latest garden fun. Here's hoping we can get some tomatoes and green beans in this weekend- it might be a squeeze but I want to go for it.


Square Foot Gardening: In anticipation of greater things

Today, I built a trellis. Because, one day the little early pea sprouts will be looking for a place to climb. We have a yard full of bamboo, since our neighbor planted a running bamboo, and we are constantly cutting it back. That leaves us with more than enough for yearly projects.
 I started with some fresh cut bamboo and some wire caging left over from a project involving rock and concrete. The bamboo needed a bit of a hair cut.
Regular loppers did the trick and I took all the extra limbs off the bamboo stalk. Bamboo is a lot less overwhelming after a trim- kind of the way a fluffy kitty looks after it's thrown in a pool of water.

 I actually wove the bamboo through the wire caging, Over/Under, then I lashed it to the perimeter with kite string
I made a frame around the top and two sides. I didn't even lash the sides, except at the top where the joint between the two pieces of bamboo.
 I also wove some of the thinner bamboo through in a diagonal pattern. You can see that the sides go down an extra 18 inches (ish) so it can be put in the garden. Ta-Da! It's pretty sweet.
 The real fun was transporting it. It wasn't heavy, but it was large. 7 feet across.  You can see the hot-pink string that tied it to the mirrors. My husband was the grandmaster behind this plan. We also had only about a mile to drive.
 Ready to put it in the garden~ we could hardly wait. When did I become such a garden nerd?

Yes! It's lovely!! And just what I hoped for. The little peas at the base are just barely ready to reach it, but hopefully with some warm weather we'll see those lovely veggies climbing to the top.
And we had our first harvest! The best part about radishes is how fast they grow....


Square Foot Gardening: Slow Spring Start

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Starting seeds as early I did has been an experiment- and a lovely one. Because, I have a garden! It doesn't grow with the leaps and bounds of a summer garden, but peas have sprouted, potatoes are up, the onions are doing well, little radishes are moving along quickly, and the brussel sprout starts should give us something delicious to eat before summer gets too hot. 
Even with the slower spring growth- comparing this pictures to the one from last post shows how much it's really taken off. 
I need to build and get a trellis in for the peas- they are growing slow but they'll want something to hang onto soon. I have plans for a bamboo trellis- my lesson for last year is to make it TALL. 
The hot February that had me inspired to start has been replaced by a normal April that reminds me there is still time to do more and do it well .

With spring comes the first signs of slugs. SLUGS. Last year I let some bugs go, accepted the little holes in the leaves- but this year I'm going to war. I feel protective of my little pea sprouts and my precious carrots. So I broke out round one of slug defense- the classic beer trap. Do you see it tucked in there? Look close--

There- at the bottom of the picture- my first defense. When we went to empty them after a week I had about 12 dead slugs. HA! Hopefully it's keeping my little plants safe. I'm also going to try grinding up egg shells into a dust and putting it around the garden. Supposedly slugs won't crawl over it. We'll see. If I use the shells from easter eggs I'll have a pretty little slug barrier. 
Look at these plants grow! If I could be in the garden every day, I would be. 


Square Foot Garden: Best Laid Plans

Today brussel sprouts went into six square originally marked for garlic, beets, and beans. But- the little starts at the garden store called to me and things are easy to rearrange when they are on paper. Plus, it's fun to see some green in the garden. Sometimes the seeds in the ground feel so theoretical it's hard to wait until they sprout.
I planted two per square, which will probably prove to be a little snug as they get bigger. We'll see.
Sweet little sprouts:


Square Foot Garden: The Plan

In winter, I plot and plan. In spring I move. -Henry Rollins

It all started with this- the seed catalogue made it's appearance in January and I found myself carelessly flipping through pages.
Then I was folding down corners, marking pages to come back to, making mental notes of things I wanted to plant.
Then, for the first time, I really read the descriptions of how and when to plant certain seeds. I noticed recommendation for soil temperature and for care. I found a few things that could go in the ground early- forty and forty five degree soil for germination. Suddenly, spring felt close again.
So, I started to plan. I made lists of veggies we wanted to try for the first time (potatoes!), veggies we wanted to be sure an grow again (peas! beans! tomatoes!), and the veggies I wanted to take a break from (broccoli, cherry tomatoes).
And then I really got into it. I started regrouping things by plant times and soil temperatures so I could think about planting order and what I could start.

I roughed out this plan:

You can see, on the side, things are sorted by temp. I also made a code for the order I would plant thing and started to think about what I could plant in a square when my early crops are done. It's all a grand experiment.

I'm doing square foot gardening for the second year. My plot is about 6ft by 8ft, which is huge. Last year I spent a lot of time researching how many of each seed I could put per square foot. There's lots out there to guide anyone who is interested.
This year, I'm trusting my math skills a little more. If something says it need to be three inches apart to grow, I know that means I can do about nine seeds and still leave enough room to not crowd too close to the edge of the square.

I learned a lot last year. Like, trellising tomatoes is amazing- but I can be even more aggressive in pruning and tying them. And I should expect much to grow in the squares right in front of these tomatoes.

Anyway, after my rough draft, I started this one:
This one is a little easier to read and I tried to leave room in the squares for extra notes- things like variety, date planted, etc.

So far I have in the peas, sweet pea flowers, the onion, and the garlic. Potatoes go in this week. Then I'll just be in a waiting game until those first sprouts come up. That's always the best feeling.

This plan will change- and it will change a lot- before the summer is over. I know that. But a plan gets me started and gives me something to hang my hat on.

Below are some of the onion sets being set in place for growing. I put them close together and I'll thin the when they start going.


Square Foot Garden: Prepping the bed

"We are stardust. We are golden. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden"- Joni Mitchell

Somehow, here in the middle of February, spring found Portland. Signs of spring, as my daughter would say, are everywhere. For instance, this slug we've already found creeping in our new plants:
"It feels all sticky" she says with no qualms
So, my gardening adventure begins again. The bedraggled vines of finished veggies, the forgotten last tomatoes of last October-- mere memories as I flip through the seed catalogue, plotting the great comeback that is SPRING.
And while I hope, with grad school coming to a close this May, that soon I'll have sewing projects to share and crafting successes to celebrate- I thought sharing this gardening adventure post worthy as well. Not to mention, a record for when it starts again next spring.

This is year three in my fabulous garden plot. With no sun in our own yard, I use a community spot at the neighborhood middle school. Year 1- I threw some things in and had a cherry tomato that took over everything. Some good harvest, but lots of missed opportunity. Year 2- I discovered square foot gardening. My math heart could not resist. Squares, math, order, LOVELY. But still, lots to learn. So now, Year 3, I'm ready to make even more of my space.

The bed had a few remnants of my attempts at winter crops. Not wanting to say goodbye to my garden last year, I planted some carrots. I think they would be something great if I gave them another month, but I'm not willing to do so at the expense of waiting to get other plants in, so out they came.
We dug up the soil turned it all, then got ready to add another layer of new compost. The school will do this as a service, but not until community service day at the end of April. Since I just discovered that peas can go in NOW, I couldn't wait.
So, here's where we started:
New dirt waiting to join the old
We brought in three bags of good garden bed compost and spread it out and worked it in with the dirt from last year. I don't plan on fertilizing much beyond that. 

Then we started putting in the grid. The idea here is to plant things by the square foot, not by the row. We just stuck thumb tacs in every 12 inches into the frame and wrapped string around each one. M continued to spread dirt for us. 

laying out the grid

Now, that's a beautiful garden. Ready for anything. We put in a few peas today. Yeah! Soil temp for peas only needs to be 40 degrees and the Oregon State extension services says to plant them in February. Who knew we could get this rolling so soon! Soon to come- radishes and potatoes- also cool weather starts.

 And so it begins! Spring! Garden! A life outside grad school! But for now, I need to hit the books again.