Category Archives: Garden and Landscape Projects

Garden and Landscape Projects

Fall garden update

It’s the later part of fall but warm weather has let us keep going on a few crops. We still have a few cherry tomatoes clinging to life ad we discovered a pepper plant that had been hidden under a moonflower plant with a ripe pepper today.
I’ve switched over to some crops that can get the last productivity out of re garden here depending on how mild the winter stays. I put in some cabbage, kale and herbs (mid sized plants from the garden center) today and we have a new round of spinach sprouts coming up (seedlings that sprouted a few days back) So hopefully we’ll have some greens going well into winter.
We had some great success with sweet potatoes this year, here’s a shot of the final harvest.

July Garden Update

It’s mid-July. I’m back from Bbworld and ready to do some weeding. Sometimes projects come on and we are forced to let things go by themselves. Still it’s been an amazing harvest so far this year with beets, spinach and broccoli coming in at good intervals giving us a good supply of fresh vegetables.
The tomatoes are not doing as well as I’d like, nor are the peppers, but I’m putting blood meal on them and they perked up a but this week. Finally in the non-container regular garden it looks like we will actually have some real corn for the first time. Our secret this year was to put in a fence as also to do a mounding strategy instead of going for the classic rows. By going with mounds and treating the corn like planting a fountain grass I seem to getting some good results.

Garden Update

Things are sprouting fast in the garden. We’re jumping ahead of the frost free date and taking a gamble that we’ll be able to cover those tomatoes and other early plantings in the event of danger. The peas are up and we expect to get some nice pods any day now. The broccoli is blooming and the asparagus is up (no harvest on the asparagus until at least next year though). The potatoes I put in the sq foot garden have been a bit of a failure, but some I’ve planted in the ground elsewhere have come up fine (though I think the lack of a potato bin will really hinder how much we really get out of it this year). Our strawberries continue to be a great success, though we need to mulch some more around them to keep the slime down. I’ve put in a lot of tomatoes in box #4 but need to actually find the specific variety; I failed on my record keeping there.

Box #1 (8’x2’x6″)

Lavender (4) — moving later Cosmos
Spinach(8)
Spinach (8)
Spinach (8)

Box #2 (8’x2’x12″)

Beet (4) Carrot(16)
Carrot(16) Beet(4)
Beet(4); Carrot(16)
Baking PotatoBeet(4) Baking PotatoBeet(4)
Baking PotatoOkra Baking PotatoOkra
Baking PotatoCarrots Baking PotatoCarrots
Red PotatoCarrots Red PotatoCarrots
Red PotatoOkra Red PotatoOrka

Box 3 (2’x8’x6″)

peas(2) peas(2) peas(2) peas(2) peas(2) peas(2) peas(2) peas(2)
Squash Watermelon

Box 4 (4×4)

Garden planning

I did yet more gardening this weekend. Most of the colder weather crops are in. Here is a quick overview of the garden plan as it is taking shape. I still have a number of sections (each is 1 sq foot) that are bare, but these will be planted up as more crops come online.
This is the first planting there will be subsequent plantings as we move past the frost free date (May 15)

Box #1 (8’x2’x6″)

   
Lavender (4) — moving later Cosmos
   
   
   
  Spinach(8)
  Spinach (8)
  Spinach (8)

Box #2 (8’x2’x12″)

Beet (4) Carrot(16)
Carrot(16) Beet(4)
Beet(4); Carrot(16)
Baking Potato Baking Potato
Baking Potato Baking Potato
Baking Potato Baking Potato
Red Potato Red Potato
Red Potato Red Potato

I’m still tempted to build a potato bin and go for the maximum harvest this fall; but I’m holding back.

Box 3 (2’x8’x6″)

          peas(2) peas(2) peas(2)
               

As the summer heat moves on, I will be shifting to beans from peas in this box. I also have reserved the front row for some arugula and a squash, watermelon and pumpkin (each separated out to flow out into the wild part of the garden where I have broccoli going right now. I started the arugula indoors to get it going, but will transplant it outside this weekend.
My tomatoes are growing in doors at the moment and hopefully will be ready to go outside in late may. I’ve got an entire 4’x4′ plot set aside for them. I’m also planning to start some red and green bell peppers this week (inside). My plan is to add more carrots and spinach on two week intervals to ensure a continuous harvest as the summer moves along.
My goal this first year in the squarefoot garden is to see what I can successfully grow, harvest and store. As the year progresses I will be working to plan next years campaign based on knowledge gained this year. Over a 3-5 year timeframe I hope to optimize my garden to be providing maximum return for labor in terms of fresh vegetables consumed and food storage created vs. crops and planting schedule.

Squarefoot Garden Part 2: Garden Box Construction

This is my first year at this. Thanks to the many folks who sent me tips after my inagural posting. I spent this weekend building the boxes. I’ve built three different types of boxes. The first is a typical 4 ft x 4 ft garden box with a 6 inch depth.

I’m putting this box in the back of our already productive strawberry bed over where some mint and fennel has been a bit to aggressive. The bottom of the bed is lined with landscape cloth and I did work the soil a bit to level underneath it. There shouldn’t be much of a problem with weeds coming up.

The other boxes I’ve created are 2 ft x 8 ft boxes. These will also provide 16 square feet for planting purposes. I’m going with 2×8 beds because I’m going place them in the side yard which gets a lot of sun but isn’t wide enough to accommodate the 4×4 configuration. One of the boxes has been made double height (one foot height) for purposes of planting potatoes, beets and carrots and other deeper growing vegetables.

Construction of the boxes was very simple. I purchased 5/4″ x 6″ x8′ boards and used scrap 2x4s to make the corners. 2″ decking screws are used to put everything together. I lined the insides with landscape cloth and stapled it in place. The idea of using raised beds with a specially engineered soil is to maximize plant density and avoid having to dig up parts of the yard. Since the beds are lined on the bottom with landscape cloth you can simply set them on the ground and fill them up. I will admit some digging was required to level the beds, but this is substantially less than the typical sod removal, tilling, etc that the rest of the garden has required.

I have scaled back the square foot garden beds to 64 square feet from my original plan of 128 square feet. This is because after calculating the costs of soil mix ingredients I was going to go broke growing my vegetables (baring a massive surge in commodity prices). Also while I know this will probably come back to haunt me, I’ve been convinced that I can use perlite instead of vermiculite. This is a source of much controversy on various gardening forums, but vermiculite was quite difficult and expensive to come by while the garden center folks I talked to assured me that perlite would be just fine provided I used a little extra compost instead of the pure 1/3 parts each (compost, peat, vermiculite) mentioned in the book. Time will tell. I’m also planning to get some plastic planters from home depot for the tomato plants and possibly some other plants. We have some very sunny places on our mostly south facing deck and it seems a waste not to use them to maximize the growing potential. I’ve always had pretty good luck with tomato plants and freezing the sauce makes for great eating year round.

In addition to the newly abundant bed space which will be getting some plantings this week, I have my more traditional garden beds underway as well. The strawberries seem to have survived the winter. Last year we had a bit of a wet period after the fruit started coming on strong, so our yield was lower than anticipated, but we still got a few jars of jam. We also have returning blueberry plants, and I hope that the blackberry bush that I planted two years ago will finally get to the size where it fruits. I also hope to get some of the grapes this year (most were taken by the birds last year. Finally I’ve got spinach, broccoli and peas coming up. I’ve also started an asparagus bed, but we won’t get any to eat until next year at the earliest :-(.

For my next post I’m hoping to share my garden plan including a week x week planting and harvest plan.

Planting Peas and Planning the Spring Garden

St. Patrick’s Day is here, which is the traditional planting date for peas and a few other early vegetables that will wilt when summer comes on strong. I planted an ambitious amount of broccoli Sunday (18 plants) some spinach (10 plants), two blackberry bushes and 3 more blueberry bushes. This is in addition to the carrots, beets and spinach already growing in the cold frame (stuff is sprouting in there, but I’m not feeling that it has been really successful yet) and the seedlings going inside the house.

My little burst of planting this weekend in various existing beds though is nothing compared for my plans in the coming weeks. I’ve been reading the I’ve been reading the Squarefoot Gardening Book in preparation for a massive harvest this year.

My plans call for several 4’x4′ boxes which will each contain 16 separate growing areas. Currently planning on having 4 in the front yard and another 4 in the back. This should mean a total of 128 planting areas. I’m going to grow a tomatoes, spinach, beats, carrots, potatoes squash, and beans. Based on food consumption patterns at the Fontaine household this should stock our pantry with lots of vegetables.

This ambitious planting plan may wilt under the relentless biting of the mosquitoes, the heat of Virginia summer sun and my general neglect of weeding, but hopes are high. Frankly 128 plots is a lot of stuff to fill up. I’ve got some broad ideas, but I’d love some suggestions particularly for specialty seeds.

Improvised Greenhouse

I had some scrap lumber and 4 mil plastic sheeting lying around and decided to build a small green house. My craving for fresh vegetables as we settle into late winter. This is fairly experiemental and done without too much research or bothering to do all the maths. I’ve planted some beets, broccoli and argugula with the hope of harvesting in early spring. As we approach warmer days the house is portable and can be pulled off. To create some thermal mass I’ve put some gallon jugs full of water and created a black plastic 2 gallon bag suspended on the early morning side to get heat all day. I am going to get a thermometer with a high low setting using a Home Depot gift card and try to avoid overheating or freezing. My oldest daughter is very interested in the greenhouse so hopefully this will be a good project for learning together which is always best. Comments and advice welcome.