Tag Archives: square foot gardening

A fumble and a save

About three weeks ago the ground became “workable”, I rushed to the garden with a few packets of seeds that clearly indicated “sow outside as soon as the ground is workable”. I planted bean, pea, carrot, beet, radish and lettuce seeds. As excited as I was to start planting, I must admit it was not a happy or even productive time. I recall how I was still wearing a down jacket then, and how my fingers froze from exposure. I spilled some seeds as I trembled, and hurriedly marked the squares where I had sowed seeds with orange flagging tied onto a small bamboo stick that I pushed into the ground.
Fast forward to today, I have seedlings coming out in all of the squares, some lined up in neat square foot gardening patterns, others growing all over like what they probably are, weeds.

These are all lined up neatly, maybe beets or radishes

Since I had committed to memory the identity of the seeds and the planting density in each square, it is almost impossible to know which seedlings are keepers and which are junk. The only possible solution was to turn the soil over wherever I was unsure of what was coming out and start the process all over again.
I am now fully aware of my memory shortcomings, so I decided to plan my work ahead of time. I had seen a friend of mine use cheap disposable cutlery to mark her seedling trays, so I replaced the flagging bamboo sticks with cutlery left over from an already forgotten event (funny how you always run out of forks but end up with plenty of unused knives and spoons). To further simplify my work I wrote on each utensil the name and the recommended planting density per square foot. I did all this on my kitchen counter to avoid fumbling with sheets of paper that always want to take flight when you are outside, and to stick to the master plan on how many squares of each type I am planning on growing this year.

Easier to plan ahead and avoid getting carried away
Got my work cut out

By planning ahead, it  allowed me to share the planting with Beth, and carry on a real and totally unrelated conversation in the process without having to answer or guess “how many of these should I put here?” at every square.

My new markers in action. The orange flagging marks a square where seedlings are already coming out in a predetermined pattern, I just don’t know what they are

I am thinking this may be a nice way to involve young children when planting a garden. The cutlery provides specific instructions on what to do, and is a great visual cue as to the progress of the work… once they are all used up our job is done.

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On Your Mark…

We have reached mid winter, and there is plenty of snow outside to prove it. The view of our garden from my office window today is stunning all dressed in the white powder we got last night. This has been an interesting season for us on Long Island. We have had our fair share of days with mild temperature, already forgotten by most, framed by bone chilling temperatures brought by the now famous Polar Vortex.


I admit I am somewhat impulsive.   I usually dedicated a couple of weeks to planning my garden just before tilling and planting, and most of the thinking is done while looking at seedling flats at the garden centers. Nonetheless, 2013 was a great year for us, we had many abundant crops, we met and visited many fellow gardeners, and learned a lot by interacting and sharing with you, the readers of this blog. So for 2014 I decided to do things in a little more organized manner.

Just before it got too cold to work outside comfortably, I started building a few raised beds which I plan to finish  in the spring. The decision to use raised beds this year is just because I want to experiment with square foot gardening. The idea is very interesting and the methodology seem simple and allows me to space production to lengthen the gardening season to suit our needs.


Nonetheless, I still have about 500 sqft of ground garden space where I plan to grow sweet potatoes, corn, and perhaps some perennial fruit or berry bushes, which I have left mulched and covered with straw. Since I completed that work, I have dedicated some time to thinking what other things I really want to try this year. I have not only decided what plants to grow, but also decided I will be experimenting with vermiculture and more intensive composting as a means to improve our production and crop quality.

As I become more involved with gardening I have come to realize it is not just a late spring and summer thing. Many tasks have to be completed at specific times while it is still cold out, specially if you intend on avoiding buying seedlings at the garden centers. In order to organize myself through the early planting process, I compiled a chart from information available from online garden sites, seed catalogs and gardening books. The chart originally had specific dates when I needed to start seeds, whether indoors or outdoors, or when to bring the seedlings out based on where we live. However, as soon as I had finished it I realized it was of little use to anyone outside our county, so I modified it so it can be used by anyone in a temperate area as long as you know the expected date of last freeze-frost in your particular area. My current Spring Planting Guide can be viewed by clicking the bold links.

The guide designates the week after date of last frost, which is when I would put most veggies in the ground in most areas, as Week 0 (zero). The weeks leading to Week 0 are designated increasingly from Week -12 through Week -1. Subsequently, the weeks after Week 0 are also designated increasingly from Week 1 onwards.

By studying this guide and knowing the last freeze date in your particular area (there are many sites that give you this information, but I found this one to be on target for the US http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/ ), anyone can plug in the information in a calendar to display specific week or date by when to start seeds indoors or outdoors, or by when to transfer seedlings to the garden.

IMG_2497 IMG_2498

Since I am working this year with the square foot garden method, my guide also included suggested density per square foot section, whether a trellis or cage support is needed, as well as some other useful reminders and information.

I hope this guide reaches you in time to be of use in your area. I know it will be useful to me to keep me on track with my gardening tasks, but I am also sure this may not be the last version I compile. I welcome all constructive criticism and advice on how to improve it. I am sorry it may not be of much use to people in tropical and subtropical areas, but you guys do not have to deal with snow and our short growing seasons.