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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

In the past couple years, I’ve heard a lot about square foot gardening. It keeps coming up in Google searches and the 500 Gardens program we’re part of recommends it to all of the new gardeners in Madisonville.

Our garden grid made out of old blinds.

Our garden grid made out of old blinds.

So what is square foot gardening? It’s a method that lets you grow more in a smaller space and is great for small gardens. We’ve half-tried this in the past and decided this year to go for it (almost) all the way.

The essence is breaking your garden bed into grids — one square foot at a time — and planting one to 16 plants per square foot. How do you decide? It’s all based on the plant spacing recommended on the seed packet or transplant tag: 3 inch spacing is 16 per square; 4 inch spacing is 9 per square, and so on. This has a good explanation of spacing as well as which plants typically work in which spacing plan.

This is what happened to our grid after a storm. It was easy to fix and put back together.

This is what happened to our grid after a storm. It was easy to fix.

It also helps to have a grid to better visualize where you’re planting everything and the Mel Bartholomew book says you need a grid to be “a true square foot garden.” Even though I think a grid drawn in the dirt would suffice, we decided to make a real grid this year.

Our gridlines are actually slats from old blinds that the cats have previously destroyed and they worked out really well. They are “secured” with a nail through the holes already in the slats.

An errant onion in a totally different bed. Squirrels probably dug it up

An errant onion in a  different bed. Squirrels probably dug it up

I will say the grids helped already.

When I was checking on our plants, I noticed a couple of onions weren’t poking through (we had nine per square). I was able to find a few where they were supposed to be but a couple of bulbs were missing. One I found in the next bed over, lying by the garlic. I suspect squirrels are responsible.

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We’re now in mid-April and all our early spring crops are looking good! I’m kind of amazed at how much we have planted so far.

There are peas (sugar snap and snow), spinach, radishes, carrots, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and onions all doing really well, along with the garlic planted in the fall and chives that come back every year. Most of those are repeats from previous years, except the onions.

We decided to grow onions on a whim this year, even though they’re cheap to buy at the grocery store. After successfully growing garlic last season and learning how much better the homegrown variety was, we suspect onions will be the same. I found a bag of onion sets (they look like tiny, slender onions) that had red, yellow and white onions so we’re trying each variety. There are also a few squares we’ll use for onion seeds to have another later harvest (and for green onions).

We have tons of broccoli this year because the cell packs I bought had nine plants each instead of six, and I decided to try two different varieties. Some are planted in the garden beds and others in containers; same idea with the Brussels sprouts, which we can move around to find the ideal conditions/area for them to grow.

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Here are the final two of our “mystery plants” found in the garden. I really have no idea what either of these are but with some searching I have a best guess — borage and carrots.

MysteryPlantsThe borage makes sense because we did have that in several beds so it’s very likely a seed or two were dropped somewhere else. But carrots? We didn’t grow any carrots last year, although we are trying them this year.

My only theory for how a carrot could possibly have gotten to our garden is our in-bed composting from this year. And maybe that’s what’s responsible for our other “mystery plants”

It’s quite possible that I cut of an end of carrot, tossed it in the compost bin and never thought of it again until this spring.

If that really is what happened — again, we’ll never know — I think that’s amazing! It shows you how resilient plants can be, and if we get a few random plants from the compost, well, that’s fine by me.

 

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Last week when I finally decided to get myself out of bed, I walked sleepy-eyed toward the stairs and looked out the window, as is typical of every morning. To my surprise, there were two large deer just hanging out in our neighbor’s yard. It’s not that we haven’t seen deer in our neighborhood — we actually see them fairly often, sometimes just walking down the middle of the street.

They bolted not even a minute after I woke up and jumped over the fence to go … well, wherever they went. It actually made me think of Tripod/Bruce who used to come around a lot. We haven’t seen him in a while, so I hope he’s OK.

After grabbing my cup of coffee, I walked into our office to check my email and on the way to my desk I noticed a big, fat rabbit hanging out in our backyard. He (or she) was happily chewing away at our grass.

Luckily though, it didn’t get to any of our vegetables and everything looked fine when I went outside to check later. All of our plants are doing really well, especially the broccoli, which last year got chewed by slugs and cabbage butterfly larvae. I was a bit surprised there weren’t more than a couple holes in the leaves and it makes me think the garlic we have planted next to it and in two other beds are doing a fantastic job keeping our garden safe.

The rabbit eventually hopped back into our woods (really, just a patch of honeysuckle) and disappeared. It stayed for a while and provided a great morning show for these two. You know something big is happening outside when they’re this close together (they get along fine, but aren’t the best of friends).

 

Meera, left, and Rajah watching the rabbit.

Meera, left, and Rajah watching the rabbit.

We are getting used to seeing (and hearing) all sorts of wildlife, but it is still strange sometimes, especially living in city limits.

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When I was checking on the garden last week, I noticed something that looked of place. It was too big to be a weed, but the leaves didn’t look familiar. I let it go and a few days later “it” actually turned out to be six separate plants, all bunched together.

Last year we had cucumbers, radishes and peppers in that bed, along with some borage and nasturtium. But these leaves didn’t look like any of those. After searching for seedling pictures of everything we grew last year, I think I stumbled upon an answer.

They look like Brandywine tomatoes to us. If that’s the case, I’m thrilled. However, we showed the picture to another gardener and they thought it was a potato, but we didn’t grow any potatoes last year.

 

Either way, we’ll let them grow a little bigger until we transplant them to a different bed or to large pots.

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Since we put everything in the ground, there’s not much to report and most of it seems to be doing well. I think the rain and warm, but not too hot, temperatures helped the plants along.

The broccoli has big healthy leaves, and a couple of plants are starting to form heads. The peas have sprouted and are starting to grow tendrils, and the row of radishes did so well it really needs to be thinned. Our lettuce is forming nice little leaves, and even the spinach has stopped looking like grass and grown its “true leaves.”

I keep waiting for the garlic to sprout its scapes, but so far it hasn’t happened yet. The four elephant garlic that survived are huge! They come all the way up to my hip, and I can’t imagine how big these bulbs will be, but we’re excited to find out!

We’re also discovering some mystery plants, and I’ll share those pictures later. If they are what I think then we’re going to be stocked on seedlings this year!

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I just learned about a brand new initiative in our neighborhood, and I had to share. It’s called 500 Gardens. Here’s a little more about it from their website:

Madisonville is a neighborhood of Cincinnati that has a lot going for it, especially for a gardening project.  There are large lots, generations of garden tradition, active community partners in the Madisonville Community Council, the Madisonville Community Urban Redevelopment Council, and local churches, and we have two years of partnership with Lighthouse Community School and success in building gardens on the school parking lot and nearby vacant lot with the students.  The neighborhood has a vibrant mixture of ages, ethnicities, incomes, and family origins, and carries a USDA Food Desert designation.

In this project we plan to:

• Recruit, organize, and teach volunteers.

• Recruit, teach, and coach mentors.

• Organize, promote, and teach on- going classes and workshops.

• Develop and disseminate educational materials.

• Acquire and organize lumber and soil.  Manage use and distribution.

• Schedule garden building, coordinate volunteers and homeowners.

• Host monthly Gardener Gatherings during the growing season.

I’m really excited about this and hope it is tremendously successful!

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