Saturday, May 9, 2009

Introduction: Spring Awakening

Today is the day we assemble our first square foot gardens (SFG). I am itching to get outside this morning, but it rained last night and everything is soaking wet. The sun is out and I am waiting for it to dry things up a bit. Learn more about Square Foot Gardening here.

Here in Maine, we usually plant out around Memorial Day. We have a small traditional garden that I have used for the past 7 years since I have owned this property. I usually have great results and enough veggies to feed the two of us. I even did some canning last year and would like to double that this year. But the relentless battle with grass and weeds is discouraging and I know I can get more yields for my efforts if my veggies didn’t have to battle with the weeds for water and nutrients.

Last year, I just couldn’t keep up with the weeding, so I decided that this year I was going to do two things differently: Use a plastic mulch in the traditional garden and try the square foot gardening method.

For the SFG, we are starting with three 4x4-foot boxes made from 2x6 boards. We built these about a month ago and then searched for the components of Mel’s Mix to fill the boxes: 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost. For 3 4x4-foot boxes this equals about 8 cubic feet of each. Peat moss was the easiest to find as every place we shopped carried it.

Vermiculite was the most difficult to find. We started visiting various gardening centers and nurseries. No luck. Then we tried calling around to other local nurseries, pool supply companies, and florists. We finally located some at Paris Farmer’s Union in Auburn, Maine.

Surprisingly, locating five different sources of compost was also challenging. Each place seemed to carry one or two types. I had to settle for three sources, seashell, cow manure, and a mixture of leaves and other forest products. The more diverse your compost, the more nutrients will be available for your plants. Normally the SFG shouldn’t even need fertilizer. However, because I don’t have a variety of compost, I will have to keep an eye on the plants as they grow for any nutrient deficiencies and add fertilizer if necessary.

Now let me show you what I am dealing with in the rest of my garden already:

Yup, grass and weeds IN the garden. THIS is my battle each year. Now keep in mind about a month ago, we still had ice and snow covering this area of the yard. However this grass has popped up quickly in the last week or so. That’s how fast it grows.

I have started digging up the clumps by hand as you can see in the bottom picture. Once cleared, I'll till the garden and cover the entire garden with Solar Mulch from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Then poke holes and plant my seeds and transplants. This is the solar mulch I am using.

My inspiration came from this GardenWeb discussion. Scroll down and take a look at Dale’s (thepodpiper) beautiful garden using plastic mulch. I will also use Dennis’ (denninmi) advice about drilling holes in the plastic:
BEFORE I put it down, I take my drill and a bit about 1/8th of an inch in diameter, and I drill numerous holes down to the cardboard core of the roll of plastic, right through the box. I try to drill a couple of rows of holes about three inches apart on EACH side of the box, so that, when unrolled, the plastic has little holes about every 3 inches. This allows virtually all of the rainwater to go through it. After I put it down and it rains the first time, if there are some puddles, I go out there with a nail taped to an old broomstick and poke some holes where the puddles are

The sun has been out for a while now. So it is time to get to work on the SFGs. More later.

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