Exactly 2 months to today’s date, we gave you an update on our garden… well more specifically at that time, it was our seedlings in the house that were just about ready to be transferred to the outside!
We hardened off the seedlings and was ready to plant in our garden.
But then something happened that abruptly caused us to make a major garden switch!
Thanks to my friend and faithful reader here on our site, Jolee, she really, really encouraged me to look into square foot gardening after the update a couple of months ago.
At first I was like -“no way, we want to grow so much that it won’t work for us!”
Well, I also seem to forget each year just how much work and effort it is to run a garden in our yard with weeds (trying to keep on top of them without pesticides) and the terrible, I mean totally awful, soil we have in our area! It is a lot of work for veggies that barely grow as they can’t move through the soil very well with it being so awful… but we have yielded some produce with a lot of effort.
So, my friend told me that we can fit A LOT of food in square foot gardens. I decided to check into it. I WAS SO GLAD I DID!
In fact, I was out working to lay down weed barrier, bark and my neighbor saw and came out and we chatted, to only find out that she had the official book and let us borrow it!
Well, this was a huge blessing. We followed the plan exactly and we were both surprised about how easy it was! The cost was about $15 – $20 to make the boxes with new wood or nearly free with wood that was available.
We decided just to start with new wood because we have a limited supply of tools in our home. And for the free wood, we would need a table saw, which we did not have…. we could have borrowed one from someone I am sure, but we were now a week behind in getting our gardens in since making changes to the plan, so we needed to be quick!
Well, we literally got the book on a Friday night, read it and planned for our “date night in” that night, and on Saturday morning, Alex went to Home Depot (because you can cut the wood to exact sizes with their table saw for free!), got the supplies, built 4 boxes and had them ready to go by noon! We then followed the formula for te soil – 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 soil and filled our boxes and transplanted all in one day!
So here’s some things I learned
1. This is our corn that was not transplanted, but started from seed 1 month ago. I learned that you cannot transplant corn seedlings. They are fast growing, and they will not make it if transplanted….. as demonstrated by my attempt! The Square Foot Gardening Book pointed out this fact that I did not know before!
But now my corn is growing like CRAZY!
You can grow 4 stalks in one sq. foot and so we wanted a lot and used 8 squares, which means that we have 32 stalks growing. I also learned that I may be able to plant another crop of corn after harvesting these.
2. I was able to transplant some of my beans and peas, but I had way more room in those sq. feet to start a lot more from seeds right in the box!
So I did!
Aren’t they beautiful?
We will need to build a trellis in the back (which is always the north side!) and plant the taller plants in the back (N.) in each garden. These will soon be climbing up a trellis that is posted in the back of the box (combining vertical and sq. foot gardening).
Here’s a close-up of the peas (9 in each foot for 18 total).
Here’s the green beans and they are the same as the peas – 2 feet with 9 in each for 18 total. They are both on the same back side as they have about equal growing and vertical space needed!
So I basically learned that it isn’t necessary to start beans and peas in the house before the season as they are fast growing (I should be able to do a late season pea crop too) and the transplanted ones vs. the ones planted in the box are about equal size as they thrive outside much better! So I will wait on these next year until it is time to plant!
3. Starting broccoli and cauliflower in the house is necessary!
Here’s a close up of one of the broccoli plants! It is so gorgeous! What is interesting is that we planted the seedlings in the house at the same time for both the broccoli and cauliflower and they are all growing at much different paces… which I am happy about so I can harvest both over a few weeks and not all on the same day! But I don’t know why some are naturally much more mature than others. In the future, I think I will start the seedlings several days apart. The only bad part about broccoli and cauliflower is that they take 1 sq. foot per plant. Now this wouldn’t be much of a problem if they were like squash growing many on one, but I am pretty sure we will only get 1 per plant??
4. Starting peppers in the house was necessary and they need to be done earliest of all!
In fact, I am not sure if my seedlings are going to make it before the frost season….. they are very slow growing. I transplanted 3 of them and they are growing, but at a snails pace. When I went to buy my tomato plants (the plan to buy these all along) I found a purple bell pepper plant for $1. I decided to get this one now and have peppers soon since they others were going to be much later….. if they make it! I will need to start these sooner in the house next year!
5. I had a hard time transplanting the plants where there are 16 in each sq. foot. The below picture shows radish transplants as well as radishes from seed – they both look about equal in growth! It actually looks like we will be able to harvest the first batch in a week or two!
Because I went into this not planning to do sq. foot gardens, transplanting shouldn’t have been much of a problem….. well, when you are trying to transplant 16 of something in a 1 foot space, things get squished and they don’t like it. I transplanted my carrots, radishes, beets and green onions…. all of which you can plant 16 in each sq. foot (which is a lot!) and some made it, but it was seriously too tight of a space to transplant. I ended up re-planting seeds for the ones that just seemed so weak and sad. The seedlings are now stronger and healthier than the transplants.
So….. I will again wait on these and plant seeds in the ground when it is time! Seedlings that grow inside and then need to be planted that tight probably will not make it or be very happy!
6. One of the best transplanting was the squashes and cucumbers….. unless they get broke!
My squash plants (yellow, zucchini and spaghetti) transplanted well, they were already quite mature and hanging over a bit! Well, life happens and the stems of many of them we crushed against the side of the box by kids, life,etc. cutting off nutrition to the plant. I tried to “cut” off down below the squished part of the stem, but they just didn’t seem to be re-growing. So the ones that got broke, I just decided to plant the seeds again! And this is a week old squash plant! According to the growing cycle, these should be fine, although started later in the season, to be harvested before our first fall frost. They are also 1 per sq. foot and will grow up a trellis as well when they get big enough to climb!
And then I did start roma tomatoes in the house and they are doing very well after transplanting! I did buy tomato plants from the garden store (only $2 per mature plant …. we will be harvesting tomatoes starting in the next week or two!) and they are all doing well…. despite some very violent wind storms in our area! They are the tallest plants at this point and I am surprised the wind hasn’t ripped them out of the box. If anything, they are probably stronger!
Finally, I didn’t get pictures this time ( I will for the next update), but we planted the following fruits too:
- 1 Johnathan Apple Tree (self-pollinating)
- 1 Red Delicious Apple Tree (pollinated by another apple tree – like the one above)
- 1 Bartlett Pear Tree (self-pollinating)
- 1 Plum Tree (we already had one mature, fruit producing plum tree and this will pollinate the plum tree)
- 1 Elbert Peach Tree (which should be pollinated by the plum tree according to the gardener at the nursery!)
We also transplanted 7 strawberry starts from our neighbors patch. She needed them thinned out and so we gladly did that for her! They seem to be in a bit of shock, but hoping they will start producing next year!
Finally, we have planted 2 Goji berry bushes, 1 golden raspberry (we want more red raspberries, but it’s too late now this year!) and 1 green grape vine. Plus, we cannot grow blueberries in our soil….. but I am trying a container blueberry bush on the back patio! I don’t know if it will work, but the bush I bought was a complete kit intended for container growing in areas that have the wrong soil.
Since most fruits take a couple of years or more to bear fruit, I can’t say if they are doing well yet, but they look good – so I am hopeful! Our current plum tree that is about 8-years old grows tons of plums each year and does well…. so I am hopeful!
This is by far the biggest and most we have planted in one year. We have been working hard to try and have a self-sustaining produce market in our backyard!
AND… I will tell you….. I LOVE the square foot gardens. There are really no weeds, the food seems to be very happy so far and it is very easy to maintain! I can’t wait to start digging into our food!
Next year, I am going to add 3 more sq. foot garden boxes, I am also planning to finish planting fruit (from purchased plants/trees) like an apricot and cherry tree and more grapes and raspberries. I also want to grow blue potatoes and sweet potatoes in a tire container! More about all of this in the future! But my dream is too have this totally fruitful and plentiful backyard that will supply us with future food and seeds galore! I hope I can really work on my green thumb as it is far from green…. but doing what I can!
This is the EXACT book we used and seriously we read and researched on a Friday night and was done by Saturday afternoon building the boxes ourselves!
How is your garden going?
LOVE LOVE LOVE sq ft gardening! Happened on the book at the library last fall, this year our weed mess (garden area) is empty and I have boxes by the house. So much easier to keep free of weeds! Also we have problems with deer eating everything we plant but a few boxes, some pvc pipe and a roll of netting has kept my garden safe.
Awesome! I love the idea on how to keep pests out. We haven’t had problems like that yet. I also want to try to make them a “greenhouse” out of plastic and PVC pipe to be able to garden many more months out of the year!
Going to try it this fall when we inevitably get one or two really cold nights weeks before it stays that way. Have an old roll of plastic so will just switch out the netting.
Anyone have ideas on how to keep tomato worms out and rabbits! rabbits eat everything and what they don’t the tomato worms get (they look like huge green caterpillars and are disgusting, yuck!!). I even get them in potted plants on the deck. I really want to garden on my own, but all the pests make it an expensive endeavor when you get nothing from your garden…
Hmmmmm – I am not sure about the tomato worms. We have so far been able to keep pests away… but we don’t have any small animals (or big ones) around and we live in the middle of a suburb. I have friends that have rabbits and chickens and they use chicken wire around their garden to keep both out and it seems to work well.
I will see if I can do some research on the tomato worms….
Wow! I had forgotten that I introduced you to Sq Ft gardening! Makes me so happy to see your beautiful, productive garden and that amazing soil!
As for broccoli, if you cut the main head, you should be able to get a few smaller heads afterwards. Also, there are some types that produce more than one head, so look into those. I love Territorial Seeds for that info and for unusual seeds. There are some types made for intensive gardening that take up less room and produce more per plant, but smaller heads.
I’m just grinning ear to ear thinking that I encouraged you to this–you guys did such an amazing job! Congratulations, and happy eating!!!
I am so glad that you said something too! I really was amazed at how simple, bountiful and beautiful it would be! I am going to look into the broccoli options for the future. What I want to do next year is make sure to have all Heirloom seeds and harvest my own seeds. Plus add three more boxes! We love broccoli and cauliflower and so I would love to find a way to grow more in those areas. I will check out the Territorial Seeds (as I assume that they probably only offer the heirloom ones) and start my collection of heirloom seeds for next year and beyond. I learn many new things each year and this is my third year and thus far the easiest, least amount of work and hoping for the biggest yield so far! As you can tell, I make many mistakes along the way and I do not have a green thumb, even though I am trying! But this option certainly solved a lot of my problems 🙂
Sq. Foot gardening was not on my radar at all until you mentioned it, so THANK YOU again!
We have been transplanting corn for years in the foothills of Idaho. The growing season is so short and the only way we can grow our own sweetcorn is to transplant it. We plant a couple hundred seeds in 6 pk containers and the plants are 6″ plus when we transplant them in early June. The days have been so hot they have grown fast and tassled over the 4th of July.
For tomato worms (my nemesis is the cabbage worm) is a vinegar water solution and spray the worms. Bunny problem can be controlled by sprinkling dried blood around the plants.
I’ve been square foot gardening for the last 3-4 years and I’ve loved it as well. One thing that I’ve had trouble with is over watering my tomatoes. I don’t have very good drainage under my boxes (my husband put a piece of ply wood under each of my gardens to prevent weeds and grass from coming through). So even though the soil seems dry on top, the water must pool down below. I’ve ruined a few tomato plants by overwatering. Also, you need to add fertilizer to your soil every season because even though the soil is good, the plants will deplete the nutrients quickly. Love my gardens and you will too!
We too put plywood under them so that we can move them and give ourselves a lot more versatility with them, but we drilled holes in the bottom – like 30 or so (about 2 per square foot) and we haven’t seemed to have a problem with that yet. Do you have holes in the bottom or yours?
We too put plywood on the bottom of our boxes so that we can move them and have a lot more versatility with them. However, we drilled drainage holes in the bottom -like over 30 (about 2 per sq. foot). We haven’t noticed any pooling problems yet. Do you have drainage holes?
You have to check out onehundreddollarsamonth.com. You will love her site. She does SFG and pallet gardening along with traditional and chickens etc. I love her site as much as yours! She feeds her family on $100 a month!
I plant garlic under my tomatoes. (Learned about companion planting in a book called “Tomatoes Love Garlic”–I think Territorial carries it, but might be on Amazon as well!). They feed one another, but also the garlic deters many of the bugs that like tomatoes but do not like garlic!
What is the name and author of the square foot gardening book you read?
I bought Mel’s first book but it seemed too complicated. I kept it and continued to read, hoping to understand it well enough to try it. Then, later I found the website and saw there was a revised version., bought it, loved it. This is my first year of square foot gardening but I cannot imagine going back to row gardening.
I can almost HEAR my garden growing day to day. The cukes are the only thing I’ve been disappointed with and I’ve started everything except the peppers from seed. My tomato plants look better than the ones I’m seeing at garden stores! My first group of radishes will soon be ready to munch on. The snow peas are blooming their little heads off and the okra is racing the radishes for height.
What will I do differently next year? (1) Build another 4 x 4, (2) start seedlings earlier, (3) keep records, and (4) take pics. By next year, my compost pile should be available for adding to the boxes.