Thursday, May 13, 2010

Square Foot Gardening: Is it the Answer to our Vegetable Garden Prayers?

We plant a vegetable garden every year. The first year we were off to a great start. We had a nice sunny location. The cucumber plants in the center of the garden grew so tall that we built a second level of trellising and watched those babies head for the stars. We thought we were going to climb those vines like Jack did. A week later a big wind storm blew through.  The cucumbers came crashing down committing suicide and killing everything underneath it.

The next year we had to relocate the garden. We built it up against the fence in the backyard. It seemed like a good spot. There was a sturdy fence for the vining plants to climb. The danger of another Cucumber Massacre was eliminated. So was the majority of the sun. The plants grew. They would flower. But the flowers would die off before any vegetables would emerge.

For two more years, we planted a garden in that spot. For two more years, we barely got past the flowering stage. When a tomato would finally make it we'd check it daily until it grew plump. "One more day!" we'd squeal.  We'd go to sleep dreaming of the Caprese salad we'd make with the juicy, red tomato and fresh basil picked from our very own garden. But we weren't the only ones watching that prize.

The next morning, as we walked the path from the deck to the garden, we'd find it. Our precious tomato lying on the ground a foot away. A carcass sucked dry. The squirrels (or birds) had beat us to it. Over and over we'd play out this same scene with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers.

This year we stared out at our overgrown, dilapidated garden box. Ready to hang up our gardening gloves. It seemed pointless. Unless we wanted to become rosemary farmers. Rosemary had become our only friend in the vegetable garden.
But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't quit. I love watching the garden grow. I love making my salad with my own homegrown cucumbers. There had to be a better way.

And there is! 

I read a comment on my friend, Fawn's blog, about Square Foot Gardening. I checked the book out of the library and decided to give it a try. We found a new sunny location, built a new box, hunted down the ingredients to make "Mel's Mix" special soil, and planted our first seeds and plants on April 11th. And the results have been amazing compared to past years.

The zucchini plant was only 2 tiny leaves when I added it to the garden one month ago. Here it is today. It's already a monster!

The green beans planted from seeds are already finding their way up the poles.

The super cancer-busting Swiss Chard also planted from seeds look practically ready to eat.

We've already picked three strawberries!

And everything else seems to be thriving with the exception of the lettuce. Not sure what I did wrong there.
Some of the squares appear empty because they were only just planted with seeds this week. I decided to add in some flowers for cutting. We'll see how they fare. 

We seem to have solved two out of our three problems. We haven't done anything to keep the squirrels and the birds away, but we've taken away the fence the squirrels used for easy access. If need be, I'll read up on Mel's section about enclosures.  This is going to be the year we break our losing streak.

I can't wait for the vines to grow up and shake hands with their new friend!

How about you? Is anybody else growing vegetables this year? Any tips you'd like to pass along would be greatly appreciated!


Cathy M~(checkitoff) said...

This looks like great progress to me! Keep up the good work~I will bet that it will be very successful this year {And there are always great veggie stands in the area}

Anonymous said...

Yay, you! I'm so jealous. My thumbs are black, not green. I can't even keep a hanging plant alive on my deck.

Beautiful pictures, too.

Gotta run. Off to go pay $7.99 for a tin of pesticide-laden strawberries and $5.99 for Dole's salad in a bag.

Jen said...

Hi! Found you over at Checkitoff! Love your blog! We are hoping to go strawberry picking this weekend. We will grow tomatoes again in pots this year. We do not have enough sun in our yard to have a garden of any size. Nice to meet you. I'll be following so I can come back often. Happy Weekend!
:) Jen

Jess said...

wow!!! we have had a raised garden for a couple of years...some good, some bad! your garden looks amazing...i'll have to check out that book! i am thinking you are in a much warmer climate then i am...we are still freezing here at night, making growing anything near impossible right now...i planted early but now i have to tarp the garden every night! great work on the garden!!!

psagecreations said...

Wow! Your garden is looking great! I have a friend that used the square foot gardening technique and it worked great for them.
Our growing season in the mountains is so short. We have trouble growing squashes, tomatoes, and peppers. Last year was our first try. We will try again this year. If we are still not successful I might check out the square foot gardening idea. Good luck to you :)Cant't wait to see how it all turns out.

Kim said...

Cathy- Luckily, there is a nice produce stand nearby. After all those failed garden years, I know just where it is. :(

SS- Yep! That's me too. But not anymore...baahaahhaaa! Come over and I'll make you a FRESH salad.

Jen - Thanks for the kind words! So glad to meet you. We thought we had no good sun until it finally dawned on us that we had this sunny landing strip along the one side of our house we never use.

Jess- We are in a much warmer climate. We're in Virginia. Neighbors started with tarps before me and their plants are about twice the size of mine.

Psage - Good luck this year. Don't give up! We have been at this for about 5 years now. I'm hoping this year is the year we succeed!

Bringing Pretty Back said...

That looks perfect for me! YES! I really need to check out the square foot garden! Thank you for letting me know about this! also- so excited you stopped by my blog! THANK YOU!

sloan said...

i have garden envy for sure ... looks really great, congrats!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Looks great! I'm going to have to start taking lessons from you. Buying tomato and pepper plants is on my to-do list today, that way our squirrels won't go hungry...

liz said...

Yahoo!!! You'll do it; this'll be the year! Your garden makes mine look so sad. I'm impressed!

1 Funky Woman said...

Your strawberry bed looks great! I don't think we did beans this year! When I was a kid we had the biggest garden and we didn't buy any veggies all summer. Now my father specializes in Italian Heirloom Vegetables and has his own farm and a stand at the Farmers market and sells to the University in Lincoln Ne! I'm so proud of him! I just wish I didn't live in Iowa so I could taste his veggies!