Sunday, May 2, 2010

Herbs and Strawberries and Beans...OH MY!!!

After watching the weather forecast all week, it appeared that we were going to have a mid-summeresque weekend, with a nice warm week to follow, so, I decided to get my herbs and beans in a week early. Why not try to take advantage of the weather and get an extra week in the growing season??

I also finally made up my mind that I was going to build a smaller 2x2 foot box for strawberries. I had been mulling it over since day one, and decided to take the plunge.

During my lunch break at work yesterday, I went to a local nursery and picked up my herbs (parsley, rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme). I also picked up my bush bean seeds as well.

After I got home from work, Tony and I went to Home Depot and picked up the materials for my strawberry box. We decided to go with 6" deep in this box. I also needed the materials to make a removable cage to keep the birds out of my baby berries. Plus some more ingredients for Mel's mix. And, oh yeah, some strawberry plants.

I had decided I wanted to go with an everbearing or day-neutral variety of plant. I decided against the June-bearing for a couple of reasons. One, they only produce a harvest once a year and two, they tend to send out a lot of runners. Not something you necessarily want in a raised bed that is only going to be four square feet.

According to Mel Bartholomew's New Square Foot Gardening book (yes, I picked it up yesterday morning before work), I could plant four everbearing strawberries per square foot.

We ended up getting Quintal strawberries at Home Depot. That was what they had. I had to google them while standing in the aisle, cause I had no idea what type of berry they are. They're everbearing, and I read a lot of good reviews on them online when we got home.

After all of that running around, I was done for the day. It was hot, I was tired, and I decided to get up and take advantage of the cool morning today for all of my hard construction and planting.
Got up about 7:00 a.m. today had a cup of coffee and hit the garden. It was still relatively cool (only 66 degrees...LOL). I got my herbs and beans into the SFG. Then I had to come back inside to get a break from the damn blackflies. They were eating me alive.....again. I need to invest in some bug repellent.


Oregano and Thyme

Parsley and Rosemary

My parsley looks a little droopy in the picture, but it was already starting to perk up some this afternoon. I probably will take off some of the longer stalks in a couple of days to allow it to "bush out" more.

After my second coffe break, it was time to start the construction phase of today. I needed Tony's help for this part, some of it was a two person job, and some of it required tools I didn't know how to use.

We started by putting the strawberry box together. We had decided to go with 2x6 boards for this box and make it 2'x2'. We had the boards cut while we were at Home Depot yesterday. The box went together quickly. Then we started working on the removeable cage. This was trickier than we had anticipated. We put together the base of it with 1x2 boards screwed together to form a square. That was the easy part.

The next step was to wrap chicken wire around the circumference of the base and secure it to the base. This was not easy. What we had bought was called "Hardware Cloth," and was on a roll 24" high by 5' long. It was vinyl covered wire with 1/2" opening in the wire. It was a bitch. It was hard to unroll and hold in place, it kept wanting to roll back up. We started out stapleing the fencing to the base, but that was not working great, so we went with zip-ties. Things started going much easier from there.

Before we started wrapping the base, we cut off a two foot length to create the top for the cage. While at Home Depot yesterday we had calculated we would need 10 feet. Eight feet around the base, and two feet for the top. So....we bought two rolls.

Ummm....yeah...that didn't really work out.....

Notice the gap in my "cage." That's not really going to keep the birds out!

Tony volunteered to run to Home Depot to pick up another roll, while I got the weed block attached to the bottom of the box, got the Mel's mixed up, and got the strawberries planted.

The timing worked out just about perfect, I was just finishing up the planting when he got home from Home Depot and the grocery store. He brought me more wire, more zip-ties, and a pair of wire snips!! That man knows the way to a girl's heart!

Finally got everything done about one o'clock. I'm very pleased with the results!

Strawberry box with cage off.

Strawberry box with cage on.

The strawberries had been sold with three plants to a pot, so we picked up 5 pots. That gave us 15 plants. Two of them looked mostly dead. Although their roots were underdeveloped, they still seemed alive, so I planted them anyway. I figure the worst that'll happen is they won't take and I'll just get rid of them then.

Ok, so now for the money spent yesterday and today:

2x6 board, 8 foot length for box: $4.82

1x2 board, 8 foot length for cage: $1.97

Hardware Cloth (3 rolls...grrrr): $29.94

Zip-ties: $8.20

Peat moss (2 cu. ft.): $8.97

Compost (0.75 cu. ft.): $2.47

Perlite (they didn't have vermiculite):$3.97

Total: $60.34

Herbs and bean seeds: $33.41

Strawberries: $17.40

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Square Foot Construction Costs's a couple of days late, but it's been miserable cold and rainy here in MA and I just wasn't feeling the blog thing the past couple of days. Anyway, here's the breakdown of what I spent on the construction material and start-up costs on my SFG:

2"x10" pine boards for box frame: $19.24
3/4" x 1/4" pine lathe for grid: $12.15
3'x5' weed mat: $9.92
6 cu. ft. peat moss: $17.92
32 qt. perlite: $15.88
4.5 cu. ft. organic cow compost: $14.82
64 qt. vermiculite: $31.76
Box construction total: $121.69

White onion set: $1.68
Beet seeds: $1.50
Lettuce seeds: $1.50
Carrot seeds: $1.00
Plant totals so far: $5.68

Because I was in such a hurry to get my box built and planted with the stuff that I was running late on, I only picked up the seeds that I absolutely needed to get started. Over the next week, I'll pick up the rest of the seeds that I need. Next weekend I'll start shopping for the plants that will need to go in.

With all of this cold weather I've been kind of fretting about the poor little seeds I planted on Monday. I have to keep reminding myself that the stuff I put in was scheduled to go in before the last frost, so it should be just fine. I need to learn to trust in the process.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Can You Cure a Black Thumb?

I guess we'll find out.

Saturday I came across the website: and was hooked. I love the concept. You build 4'x4' boxes, place a grid inside it that breaks it into square foot blocks, and plant.

It seems so easy that even a caveman could do it.

Or someone that has repeatedly failed at any and all attempts to grow something green.

So...I spent all day Saturday obsessing over the details of what I would plant. When it should be planted, and if I was starting "too late." Turns out in's almost never too late.

Yesterday, I went shopping for the necessary ingredients to build my first square foot garden (SFG). When I got home, I was going to assemble the box, but apparantly there are rules in this house prohibiting me from using power tools. So, Tony built the box for me. I think it came out nice.

This is the bottom side of the box. Tony added the corner braces for extra support. We used 2x10 boards that I had cut at Lowe's to the appropriate length.

This morning it was supposed to rain, but it didn't, so I managed to move forward with my SFG plan.

I took weed block mat and attached it in two layers to the bottom of the box. While I was at Lowe's I heard the siren song of combination staple/nail gun. It came home with me. And, no bleeding occurred.


Bottom side of the box with the weed mat attached

Box flipped over and in place in the yard

The next step was creating the "Mel's mix." Mel Bartholomew is the originator of the square foot gardening concept, and despite selling a book and offering classes, offers an ENORMOUS amount of information on the website. Enough that even a newbie like me could figure out the basics and get started. I have every intention of buying his book, "The New Sqare Foot Garden," just because I feel like I should support his efforts.

Anyway, Mel's mix is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite (by the way, vermiculite is apparantly garden-speak for "gold in a bag. That stuff is expensive!).

From reading the forums on the website and hitting up a few other blogs online, I decided to mix it up in the box. I'm not sure if this was easier or not since my arms are so sore I can barely lift them. I tried using the garden rake for this process but it really was easier to just go in up to my elbows and do it by hand. Here's a pic of my box with my Mel's mix mixed and smoothed out.

The final step before planting was to build a grid that would separate my box into 16 square (each equalled one foot square....for the math impaired). Here's my SFG with my grid in place and ready to plant.

During my obsessive hunting for information on SFG I came across Here was another person who was sharing an enormous amount of information. Emily has gathered a great reference source on her website. She's now selling some organizers on her site that I am also adding to my "to buy" list.

So, based on my 2010 SFG plan, today I planted onions (one square, 9 to the square), carrots (one square, 16 to the square), beets (one square, 9 to the square), and lettuce (one square 4 to the square). More will be planted in the upcoming weeks as they come "due."

Tomorrow, I'll post what the amounts were that I spent on the marterials and plants so far. After that I'll be updating as things actually occur in the garden.