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Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Little Garden

As I posted last, gardening was something I had been missing. That feeling of getting down on ones knees on the earth. The sense of groundedness (no pun intended) that you have when working in the soil. The connection that you have, albeit unknowingly for some, with the greater spirit of the past and our ancestors.

Before I get too far off the deep end I will go into my first garden in New York state.

Wyoming was one of the most difficult areas I had ever lived for gardening. There was no soil! the wind parched the ground and blew the top layer off into Colorado somewhere. The lucky people of that state got to partake of the Wyoming nutrients. For Free! Then, one day as I was shelving books at the local Barnes and Noble, I picked up a book to put on the shelf and it was the first edition of "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. It was love at first read. I put together a couple of boxes and went to town. We had vegies coming out of our ears and the neighbors beating down our door to find out how we did it.

Now, in New York, I am doing the same gardening technique. Not because of the lack of soil or water, but because of the ease of planting and care of the garden - for I am a lazy sort and have more to do than tend a garden. Mel now has a web site that I have been reading with interest as I longed for my plot at the community garden

I couldn't wait for the plot to be ready.

I took over my contained mulch area that had been a dog run and was actually large enough for a rather nice garden area! This is what I started with this morning. The leaf pile was contained within a 12x16 foot pen, fully enclosed, in the sunniest part of the yard. I had been sitting for months wondering where I could put a garden amongst all the shade and pavement and trees, when it was right there! Right there waiting for me to recognize the potential. It wasn't until this morning that I did. It was like one of the "Ah HA" moments. A slap upside the head. Now it is mine and I can give my community plot to someone who needs it.

This is the front corner of the compost pen. It was relatively clear of leaves and other composting mater. So I got the old rake out and began clearing a section large enough for my first Square Foot box. It needed to be a bit larger than 4x4 feet, which didn't take long!

Before I could finish my little corner of the area, the Boyfriend was moving right on in! Not that I minded of course. His pots, very large pots, made ready for his hops, found their way to one side of the plot. That is cool. You always need your organic hops to make your organic beer. Right?

It was starting to look more like a garden. Two large pots, large enough for a good sized oak tree right next to my little spot for my little square foot box.

The spot was ready, so first came the box, placed carefully over a double layer of weed guard, landscaping cloth. I know it doesn't look like much yet. But I painted it a happy Bumblebee yellow so the little seeds would begin to think spring and be ready to come out of hiding. Sure, I know, too many gardening fairy tales as a child. But back to the box. It is a simple box built from a 2"x6"x16' board purchased at Lowe's. The nice man in the lumber department even cut it into 4" sections for me. Cost of lumber? $7.98 plus tax. The yellow paint I already had at home so that was a previously absorbed cost. The landscape cloth I purchased at Wally World - 3'x330' for $12.00. (lots of little square foot gardens there!) Now, I usually staple the fabric to the box, but the staple gun was still hiding from our move.

With the box in place, the next thing was to fill it with gardening medium. No, not dirt, not
soil...medium! Very important use of words here. I went from store to store and purchase different brands of compost and a large bag of vermiculite. The vermiculite was the most expensive part of the entire process. If it wouldn't insult Mel, I would find a less expensive "medium" to use in my planters. Maybe ordinary potting soil...hmmm.

Anyway, I mixed all of this stuff together in the box. Using a rake it is easy...just make sure the tines are facing up so you don't puncture your landscape fabric. Silly but true. As I was mixing my compost, I noticed that the local bag had some free worms in it. Yay! the little worms will enjoy thier new home, I am sure.
Now that the box had the planing mix in it, it was time to make it a "Square Foot" garden.

The section pieces were still needing to be installed. I always do this last because I mix my "medium" in the box rather than on a tarp and then dump. Once the medium is in the box it is a simple matter of nailing the wood to the top of the box. I used strips of wood that was in the garage when we bought the house. Although a bit thicker than I would have liked - lath works great - it was free. Free is a good thing!

Now my first little garden box was ready. Time to gather the tools of the "Square Foot Gardening" trade. One of the reasons I love this method of gardening is its "sandbox" quality. All you need is a pail, a shovel (trowel), a bucket, a pencil and a cup. I keep all of them right there in the garden. The pail is left to catch rain water or to fill with water to keep at ambient temperature, the trowel for digging, the cup for watering each square. But a pencil? No, I don't graffiti the cross strips. It is for planting. You use it to poke holes in the soil to place your seeds in. So, not only is this method of gardening easy and practically labor free, it is tool free as well. I bought the trowel and bucket at the local dollar store, stole the cup from my son, cuz he wasn't home for the weekend and the pencil was in his room too. How economical is that?

What good is a garden unless you plant something in it? Not much! I had been using the stolen cup to soak some sugar snap pea in and was now ready to plant them. This is a pic of one square foot of the back row, which is along the fence line. In each square foot I planted 8 little peas. Yes, 8. The medium is so nutrient loaded and moisture retaining that it can handle this amount. So along the back of the box are 32 potential sugar snap plants. If all goes as planned, there should be about 5 pounds of these sweet little morsels of vegetarian candy headed to my table!

There is the beginning of my little garden. Soon there will be more boxes. I shall have one for just salad goodies, one for larger crops like cabbage and broccoli and even one for my cut flowers. I love this method of gardening! If you want to know more about it, go to your local library and check out his book. He has come out with another one that takes this method to the next level and does so much more with 4 square feet. Over the summer I will be spending more time in my little garden and less time in my little room. Hey, it is spring, time to start thinking outside the box!


Strange said...

Ha ha! That's so cool! Keep posting pics, I can't wait to see how this turns out. I'm getting ready to start an herb garden. Got a friend who's going to give me some of her already started plants so as to get a leg up on it this year. Then it's off to the containers outside for the growing season.

Sigrun said...

Did you check the moon's phase before planting?

I'm a bit jealous, because here at my place I'll be lucky if I can get the rototiller into my 60x80' garden. I have garden tools galore, yet only use a couple of favorite ones. I hate seeding, but love weeding, as long as the weeds don't get way ahead of me. I'll post the progress of my "little" garden, too. Any time for knitting? Decorating?

Ali P said...

Yes how are the wondrous knits that you produce coming along? Will you be at Rhinebeck this year?
Thanks for the Mel Bartholemew link.