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How Does My Garden Grow?

This is my second year of Square Foot Gardening, and it just gets better and better!  I’m so excited! For the first time in 30+ years of growing a family garden, we are actually eating it every single day:  lettuce, spinach, carrots, green beans, cilantro, parsley, basil, eggplant, potatoes, onions, swiss chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, collards, kale, raspberries, and more!  I haven’t used a shovel or rake for two years now, as the soil is so loose and light that most of the work I can do easily with my hands.  Even pulling a carrot out is easy to do with my fingers. Gone are the days of shoveling out a carrot, snapping it in two in the process!

This year we built and planted even more square foot box/beds, and I even planted one of them into a flower garden box for fun.  It is so nice to have a fresh bouquet on the table along with the fresh produce—it’s food for the senses!

Last year we planted half of our garden space the traditional way and the other half the Square Foot Gardening way.  This year, we took that half that was planted in a traditional dirt/rows garden and covered it with all completely with black plastic after laying down a water dripper system. We put a strip of old carpet down every 4 feet to form a pathway so we weren’t walking on the black plastic.  Then we cut an “x”shaped slit to create holes for our tomato seedlings as well as all the melon and squash seedlings.

When the sun got hot, we could almost see these plants grow right before our eyes!  We also planted some tomatoes and melons in our square foot garden beds, just for comparison purposes.  The tomatoes that I planted in my square foot garden beds are doing about the same as those under black plastic, and they actually ripened earlier.  But the melons and squash planted in black plastic are 10x bigger and more lush than the ones in my square foot garden. In fact, I have about 15 cantaloupes and watermelons just lying on the plastic, getting plumper day by day!  Cucumbers like the black plastic better too, as do peppers.  I didn’t try eggplant in black plastic, but I will next year, because they love the heat so much.  The benefits of black plastic:  No weeding.  No overhead watering.  Water doesn’t evaporate off.  Bugs that live in the soil have a rougher time of finding your plants.

I like the black plastic method for sprawling plants that are put in the ground as seedlings. Square foot gardening is ideal for small plants sown from seed, such as herbs, lettuce, carrots, etc.

I also experimented this year with growing potatoes in a plastic barrel cut in half (bottom removed for drainage).  I laid the cut seed potatoes down on the old carpet on which the barrel was set.  Then I topped them with square foot gardening recommended soil.  Potatoes like lots of water, so I supplied that. As they sprouted and grew green stalks, I added another layer of soil.  Just as soon as they grew up through that, more soil got dumped on top until the barrel was full of soil and thick with potato foilage.  The logic is that potatoes will form along the stem as it grows up through the soil, filling the barrel full of potatoes. The results are not in yet, but when I harvest (by tipping the barrel over, or fishing down in the loose soil with my hands),  there should be loads of big potatoes that I didn’t even have to turn a shovelful to get to. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Potato blossoms are so pretty!

I love the taste of this garden produce. It feels like it is oozing with vitamins and minerals!  It is easy to see how vibrant health could come from eating this everyday!  I sneak a few leaves of  kale, collards, chard and parsley into every salad, soup or casserole.  Umm . . . isn’t this the very best time of year?!

My daughter Louisa (14) and I work together in our garden

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