Pretty little green beans

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Our spring garden has sprung. We had only moderate success with fall so we were not too hopeful about spring , but here they are, the prettiest little pole beans I ever did see. Charlotte picked them from the vine and gobbled them up. Joys of summer are upon us.

Square Foot Gardening Adventure: Selecting Fall Plants

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Selecting plants is definitely the most nerve wracking/awesomely fun part of the process. We had a general idea of what was recomended for fall and went from there. We went for a combination of seeds and transplants and it came to about $40. We definitely could have fit more transplants into the squares, but didn’t want to spend a fortune. (More on this below.) If you, like us, are at a loss with where to start, here are a few great steps that can lead you in the right direction.

First: check your hardiness zone. It is based on the average low temperature. When your location goes below freezing and for how long will be the greatest guide on what to plant.

Second: check the first and last frost date in your area. It will make a very large difference in what you can plant

Third: Check out the handy chart of fall planting dates for common veggies. Select your top choices that will fit in your square foot garden. Think smaller varietals.

Fourth: Go to a plant nursery. If you have a local one, even better. Garden Guides has a directory to help you find one. Local nurseries really know your area and can lead you in the best choices. Honestly, you could just do this step and things would probably turn out great.

Lastly: Decide on transplants vs seed. Some plants only come in seed, so those you will have no choice in. The transplants that are available will save you time, weeks to months in fact, but not any money. One transplant cost us $1.50-2.50 and an entire packet of seeds often cost that (for hundreds of seeds.) So we went the seed route on most items, but got transplants for herbs because we want to use them as soon as humanly possible. Fresh herbs are a fortune at the grocery store, especially when you need three different types for a recipe.

 

Good luck! Let me know how your garden is growing!

 

 

Square Foot Gardening Adventure: Garden Soil vs Mel’s Mix

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I checked out the All New Square Foot Gardening book by Mel Bartholomew and I loved it. What a wonderful resource for novice gardeners like myself. The only sticking point about his system is the cost of the Mel’s Mix “soil.”

1/3 vermiculite
1/3 peat moss
1/3 compost

When I called to price this at our local organic, and absolutely wonderful nursery, The Natural Gardener, they said they have a premixed mel’s mix bag for $25 a bag, and I would need 4 bags for a 6 inch depth bed, so $100 for soil. (Cough, cough) If we eventually upgraded to 12 inch beds down the line, or added a bed, it would then cost us twice that. Wow. Then they mentioned that they did a season long study of their planting beds with mel’s mix  in one square foot garden and their top notch hill country garden soil in another bed and saw NO noticeable difference in results. You can bag your own soil there, on site for $3 a bag. So that’s what we did.

Now, I am relatively sure your local nursery will also have soil available for a fraction of the cost of mel’s mix. Or, you may decide the cost is worth it, but that is the decision we made for our little garden and our pocketbook. Of course, we will keep you posted on how things are looking in the garden as they grow. But, somehow I assume if anything does go wrong, it most likely will be user error, not Hill Country Garden Soil. Ah, the joys of being new at something.

Square Foot Gardening Adventure: Building a 4×4 Square Foot Garden Frame (or Sandbox!)

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Quick note: The following instructions are for a garden bed, but follow all directions and fill with sand instead and you have a $25 sandbox frame.

So you want a little garden in your life, but think it’ll cost you a fortune and take ages to set up? Yea we thought so too. A while ago, there was a living social deal where, for $200, someone would come to your house and set you up with a 2×4 square foot garden including plants, seeds and soil. We didn’t have the cash at the time so we passed. I’m really happy we did. We set up our little 4×4 happy garden for $80 for everything, $35 for the frame itself. Your climate will effect a planting a fall garden, but there are always things to plant in fall, even if they won’t emerge until spring. In a future post, I will go over our willy nilly process of selecting plants. (Probably not advised!)

Now, on to the first step- building your square foot garden frame. We got our lumber from Lowes. Untreated cedar and pine are both recommended by my local organic garden center. The pine will fall apart a little sooner than the cedar, but the cedar costs more. Your choice there. Our frame is six inches high, which we were told was fine for the smaller varietal of just about anything- smaller carrots, new potatoes, etc.

Our lumber was labeled “white wood” (I think it’s pine…) and it was the least expensive option there. It was a little under $10 for a 2x8x6 (2 feet by 8 feet by 6 inches.) We needed two of these, cut in half by the fine people at Lowes, to make four 2x4x6 pieces to make up our frame. We also used landscape cloth, but cardboard boxes are said to drain great and block weeds very effectively if you have them around. The landscape cloth was about $10 and the deck screws were $5, totaling $35 for the frame. For future boxes, we will already have the cloth and extra screws we found after the fact so we will only have to buy lumber.

Build Your Own 4×4 Square Foot Garden Frame

Gather
2 pieces of 2x8x6 pine or cedar, cut in half (Or one 2x16x6 cut into four pieces)
8 Deck screws
16 square feet landscape cloth or cardboard
Drill

Make
Line up two pieces so that the end of the first is inside and flush with the second.IMG_3034

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Drill two starter holes equal distance apart.

Drill deck screws into holes. Repeat with other 3 sides.

Lay down landscape cloth so that it fills the entire space, with a little to spare on all sides.
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Voila! You have a square foot garden frame! This could also be used as a sandbox!