Fall Gardening

Last week, the north key­hole gar­den got filled with com­post and peat moss, strings were laid out and a square foot gar­den was cre­ated. Lots of ter­mi­nol­ogy there for the unini­ti­ated so lets dis­cuss. I’ve men­tioned the key­hole gar­den sev­eral times in other posts but it is essen­tially a way to con­stantly feed a gar­den space by build­ing a com­post pile into the gar­den itself. I read about them in our elec­tric coop mag­a­zine a few years ago and built one out of cedar planks. It hasn’t really been uti­lized much until now and was actu­ally under­filled because I ran out of gar­den related funds when it was built. The most recent pic­ture of mine is below. It stands about 30 inches tall, is 6x6 feet and has a built in com­post pile in chicken wire in the mid­dle, the the­ory being, for those not inter­ested enough in my life to go read the arti­cle I went to the trou­ble to link above, that com­post mate­ri­als will break down and be con­sumed by bac­te­ria and worms in the soil who will travel back into the rest of the gar­den which is a good thing.

A square foot gar­den is exactly what it sounds like and is based on the asso­ci­ated the­ory and book by Mel Bartholomew. It is sup­posed to greatly increase yield while greatly decreas­ing the amount of work, specif­i­cally weed­ing. Because most seeds you buy have a 99% ger­mi­na­tion rate, it is silly to fol­low pack­age direc­tions plant­ing twice as many seeds only to come back when they are 4 inches tall and then them to the approved spac­ing. It is equally silly to plant in rows with 3–4 times the plant spac­ing just so you can walk up and down to weed. Far bet­ter is to build square gar­dens, 4x4 to 6x6, plant seeds accord­ing to the final spac­ing and avoid weed­ing entirely.

For exam­ple, most let­tuce advice says to plant the let­tuce a quar­ter inch deep in rows eigh­teen inches apart and then them to four inches between plants. If you’ve never seen a let­tuce seed, don’t be wor­ried, nei­ther have I and I’ve planted a bunch of let­tuce. Let­tuce seeds are TINY. So it’s easy to plant to many and then you just end up culling a bunch. Square foot gar­den­ing fixes this prob­lem because you can just plant nine let­tuce plants (not head­ing kinds but those suck any­way because they are mostly all water and sun­shine. Plant leaf vari­eties. Trust me) in a square foot based on the pre­scribed spac­ing.

This is my first year to do a true square foot gar­den. My key­hole gar­den has 30 squares in it because the key­hole takes out six of them. So last week­end, I planted six squares of sugar snap peas (48 plants), four squares of swiss chard (16 plants), one square of cherry belle radish (16 radishes), two squares of pars­ley (8 plants), two squares each of beets and turnips (18 each), two squares each of let­tuce and spinach (8 each). Next week, I’ll plant the remain­ing squares with more root veg­eta­bles to extend the har­vest instead of hav­ing 36 beets and turnips all ready at the same time.

In other gar­den­ing news, the fall toma­toes look to be feast or famine. I planted 10 plants and had two come up vol­un­teer. Of the ten trans­plants, only five look rea­son­ably healthy, two have died com­pletely and three look sickly and unlikely to pro­duce any fruit. The two vol­un­teer cherry toma­toes that came up are pro­duc­ing nicely which is a pleas­ant surprise.

The okra con­tin­ues to pour forth as it always does. It takes up a lot of room but if you like okra, a cou­ple of rows will always pro­vide enough for a fam­ily of 3–4. I’m pick­ing pods every day and can’t eat it all. Sev­eral pep­per plants are still going well. The cow­peas that were planted August 18th are cov­ered in peas so that looks to be a suc­cess. The green beans have been a big dis­ap­point­ment but the lima beans are really start­ing to come in.

Also today, I seeded leeks, kale, spinach and more chard in 4 inch pots. I have planted col­lard seeds in five or six places and had zero luck. I’m not sure if that’s a bad seed pack­age or just bad luck. Hope­fully the trans­plants of kale and oth­ers will be more suc­cess­ful. I will prob­a­bly swing by North Haven Gar­dens tomor­row to see if they have col­lards and pos­si­bly cab­bage. Because none of the col­lards have ger­mi­nated and so many of the toma­toes died, I should have room for more stuff.

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