Friday, March 8, 2013

Square Foot Gardening on the Gulf Coast: Grids, building and pricing




One of the main requirements of square foot gardening seems to be the grid system. The grids should be carefully measured so that each opening is as close as possible to a square foot. Seed spacing later on will depend on having adequate space, soil, and water. Also, the grids will make it easy to identify what should be growing in each foot sized space, and what is a weed. I suppose this would help with plant control. Part of the square foot ideal is to grow less plant but produce more vegetables.

So our grids were pieces of untreated 1" x 2"s. They were 8', and we cut them in half. The pieces were .82 each and we bought 14. We had a real problem deciding how to cheaply tie the grids together. They also needed to be easy to store during the off season.




My solution was to drill two holes about 14" apart and in the middle of the boards. I secured the boards together with tent stakes from the sporting goods store. The cost at our store was $2.50 for 4. They hold well and the grids are also anchored into the dirt. At the end of the season I can pull everything up and store it as a stack of 4' boards and a bag of tent stakes.




I ran ribbon hoses before I placed the grids. The book "All New Square Foot Gardening" recommends watering a cupful at a time which really isn't an option, summer around here gets busy with kid's activities.

Eventually, when we have healthy young plants, the beds and hoses will be covered in a layer of mulch to help with weeds and grass.



A disclaimer to anyone following along: These blog entries are mostly my own records to help with my recollection for next year's garden. I am making it public just in case anyone's trying the same thing and wants to see how it works. I am no horticultural expert, just a woman with a book and a yard. Enjoy the blog, and I will try to help and answer questions as I am able.



Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Square Foot Gardening on the Gulf Coast: Trellis's go up


Today I constructed the trellis system in hopes of training some of the vining vegetables into vertical crops. The construction technique I used is mostly identical to Mel Bartholemew's method.



I went to Lowes home improvement store and purchased 1/2 conduit and had them cut it to appropriate lengths with their pipe cutting machine. They were a little reluctant and told me it was going to scratch the conduit, I said it didn't matter because it was destined for the garden. My advice is not to take no for an answer on the cutting, I had two denials before I convinced someone to do it.

I needed 4 trellis, so I bought:
1/2 conduit cut into 8 5' pieces, and 4 42" pieces.
8 screw on elbow conduit connectors
8 pieces of 3/8" 24" rebar
2 nylon vegetable nets, 5'x8', they were in the greenhouse section by the bamboo stakes.
A roll of twisty tie with an attached cutter

I drove the rebar 12" into the ground and fitted the assembled trellis on the rebar. I tied the nets and then used the twisty ties to secure my ties since the nylon seemed slick and I didn't want the trellis coming unknotted while full of plants.



Our soil here is very soft so I also drove some wooden stakes that I had lying around into the ground beside the trellis. I tied the stakes to the trellis and felt like the whole system was much more secure. I would guess guide wires might work as well.




On a side note, I was working through noon and noticed that my two older beds were mostly shaded. So even when the sun was the brightest, those beds got partial sun to shade. I had done most of my gardening in the afternoon and I'd totally missed this fact!

No wonder my tomatoes and peppers struggled, my lettuce and herbs did well, and I guess okra could grow under a barrel on the moon, because it had prospered in that spot as well.

This will have a huge bearing on how I decide to plant this year. I am planning on following that old saw, "If you eat it's leaves, plant in the shade, if its for fruit or root, full sun."

A disclaimer to anyone following along: These blog entries are mostly my own records to help with my recollection for next year's garden. I am making it public just in case anyone's trying the same thing and wants to see how it works. I am no horticultural expert, just a woman with a book and a yard. Enjoy the blog, and I will try to help and answer questions as I am able.
Posted using BlogPress from my iPad



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Square Foot Gardening on the Gulf Coast: Dirt and Cost Shock

We put the soil in our boxes today and sadly we had to cut a few corners and take a detour from the wise advice of the book, "All New Square Foot Gardening". The recommendation for the soil mix is 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost from several sources. But when we got to the garden center it was pretty clear this was out of the question.

We decided to add a yard of topsoil to our mix so we could cost effectively fill the boxes. Here is a breakdown of what we spent today:

Yard of topsoil - $40
2 cubic bags of peat moss (3 cu ft each) - $20
6 large bags of various composts - $24
2 large bags of vermiculite - $45

So about $130 to fill 8 3x3 boxes at a depth of 6 inches.




Mixing the components in the truck before we wagoned them to the boxes.

Here are some things I should have considered:
- It takes a lot more dirt to fill boxes than you might imagine.
- as you add the fluffy soil and wet it, it compresses.

What effect will this substitution have? Time will tell. My biggest worry is weeds. The topsoil is supposed to be clean so hopefully we won't have a run away weed patch by June. I am also a little concerned about the compact nature of the sq ft system. So many plants so close together are going to have much larger nutrient needs than a simple row garden. I hope we still have a worthwhile harvest.



The garden boxes are full of nice looking soil and one step closer to growing!

A disclaimer to anyone following along: These blog entries are mostly my own records to help with my recollection for next year's garden. I am making it public just in case anyone's trying the same thing and wants to see how it works. I am no horticultural expert, just a woman with a book and a yard. Enjoy the blog, and I will try to help and answer questions as I am able.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad