Category Archives: Square Foot Garden

Spring again… happy me!

3March 26, 2017 (26)

Tiny Pink and White French Breakfast Radishes

Every year about this time, the daffodils bloom, the birds sing during the day and the frogs party by the light of the moon. We survived another winter. It’s good to be alive.

2february-25-2017-1 I have a couple of garden projects I like to start in January and February, but those are mostly to scratch what starts to itch with the first seed catalog. My Gardening starts to get honest when the peas and first potatoes go into the cold, wet soil.

3March 26, 2017 (21) I planted a lot of pea seeds, Tall Alderman, a French Heirloom sno pea, Sugar Snaps and a row of Green Arrow peas. I could show you pictures of those but right now they look a whole lot like clean dirt, wood chips and a nice structure Ray made for them to climb. These peas (a big pot of Cascade Snap Peas and another of Maestro) I started on Presidents Day. They seem to like it outside.

3March 26, 2017 (27) Potatoes: These were started in February. I’ve planted Vikings (Purple, Gold, Fight Fight) Yellow Bananas, and some kind of yellow that I saved from last year. I still have some Russet Burbanks and another fingerling still to put out. We do not have a lot of room for lots of potatoes, but we do what we can. A man once said that if I haven’t had a fresh from the dirt potato then you really do not know what a potato tastes like. He was right.

There is more to spring then peas and potatoes. I had a walk-about  this morning to see whats happening. Here is a small selection.

3March 26, 2017 (20)

The Herb Garden …chives are looking good

3March 26, 2017 (17)

Comfrey coming up in the Raspberry bed. It won’t be long until I’m pulling up big bundles of this daily for the chickens and all my medicinal needs.

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Two years ago I planted some very expensive flowering broccoli (a kale-brussels sprout hybrid). It comes back, or maybe better, it doesn’t die. Every year it sends up a new stem and makes a new branch of kale flowers. I guess it was worth the price of the seed. My hens sure like it.

3March 26, 2017 (5)

There is still a lot of work to do but we are enjoying every moment.

3March 26, 2017 (18) That’s my Rudy Valentine standing in my new strawberry bed. It was supposed to be an asparagus bed but they didn’t take. So all of the strawberries that I pulled out of the herb bed went upstairs into my new strawberry bed. I think these are called Pacific Reliant. I bought two or three plants last spring and now they are everywhere… well they were everywhere, now they’ve moved to this bed. In front of Rudy is a stand of Fever Few, the tea from the flowers does everything an aspirin does without eating away your stomach. The echinacea (cone flower) is just coming up all burgundy and fresh. If I’m not careful where I step, the scent of peppermint fills the air. It’s nice. Welcome back Spring!

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A Garden Journal for March

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Perhaps the most anticipated month of the season, March is when things start getting real. The tomatoes that we all fuss over all year long are started. Actual outdoor gardening begins.

March the 17th, sleep the 18th has long been my personal motto. Not for the reason you may think. On St. Patrick’s day, after putting on a creamy green soup and popping soda bread on a cooling rack, I head outside to plant peas, potatoes and onions. Some years it is with a slicker and golishes (an old word for rubber boots), other years it is in shirt sleeves and tenny runners. Both give me joy under the Worm Moon.

Vivi at Vivie’s Kitchen Garden Adds a tray of celery to the list. That sounds good to me! On it.

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Twenty-eight Packages of Tomato Seed

One 8 x 4 Tomato garden. august-6-6-copy

Maybe there is enough room on our little urban farm. We start the season intending to give plants away, but we always have too many. By the time we are ready to part with our Toy Box Tomatoes, our friends and fellow teachers have already bought plants from different places. We end up tucking them EVERYWHERE

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Soil Blocks and Tomato Seed  Twenty eight packets of different tomato seeds. Twenty-six of them are either OP (Open Pollinated) or heirloom. All of them are beloved.

It starts every year , right around the 2nd weekend in March. I used to start in December when the catalogs would come. I am easily seduced.

march-21-tomatoes

Every year they do what they were created to do. I’m such a sap, each season I get VERY excited …from the moment their little green leaves arch up, to the time when they are big enough to up-pot, and up-pot again… until they start spending their days out on the deck. That is when the work begins. We have jumped out of bed, Wrapped up in an old robe and sloggers when we hear the rain on the window, remembering that we forgot to bring in the seedlings!

april-1-2016-5-tomato Early in the season Ray and I carry trays of seedlings, including at least two trays of tomatoes, out for natural sunlight. We do not use heat mats or artificial lights. We get our best results without them. Everett, Washington is not tomato country. The sooner they adjust to our chilly maritime climate, the better they produce.

 

may-24-2015-12-rudy-lettuce-tomato Planting day is a big deal. We used to be SFG’s (Square Foot Garden) but are transitioning to BTE (Back To Eden). The tomatoes go into a 4’x8′ foot SFG that is in transition to BTE. In early April I like to plant a salad grid. Different types of lettuce go in width-wise every twelve inches and radishes go in length wise to make a boundary. Tomatoes are planted in the squares that have been formed by the lettuce and radishes.

may-24-2015-3-tomatoes This structure (pictured to the left) used to be for pole beans. Ray had already put it in the ground one year when I needed to find more places to plant tomatoes. It is an eight foot 4″x4″ (sunk 2 feet into the ground). On the top it has a cross made of 2×4’s. The cross is attached to the top of the post and comes out like spokes. String or wire is attached to a tent stake, goes up and loops around the end of a 2×4, then comes back down to another tent stake. I can plant eight tomatoes or 16 -ish pole beans. It works great for both… though some modifications need to be made to the string for tomatoes.

tomato-pole-4 A better view of the tomato-bean pole a bit later in the season. This was the first year. Now I spend time tying loops every 18 or so inches in the string when I use the pole for tomatoes. Beans hang onto the string but tomatoes need to be tied on. Without the loops to run the tie tthrough, the weight of ripening tomatoes accordions the vine to the ground.

I am fairly sure that there are tomatoes growing under the cold frame in the lower right of this picture. I get a little excited by 28 packages of tomatoes. It’s like finding a box of color crayons I have not used in a while. I want to try them all… again.

may-24-2015-4-tomatoes Finding more places to put tomatoes. These potted tomatoes were all my determinant (Mostly Siletz) and cherry tomatoes. They actually did quite well. The Black Cherry on the end was not happy until it started weaving itself through the picket fence. The rest were happy with a tomato cage. We save the big pots from buying fruit trees. Ray remembers buying a few of them. We found out that you can get them for free from the recycle at LOWE’s. The lady at the check stand told us they go fast because the growers of medicinal herb use them for their closet growing operations.

may-31-tomatoes-2 We still needed more space… Ray had some extra fence posts and left-over lattice from another project. We would like the lattice to go all the way to the ground, but this was all we had at the time. The 2×4 at the bottom is where I tied string from the board to the lattice. A girl can only keep track of just so many tent stakes. Tomatoes were also tucked into a ceramic pot (yielded a whole batch of tomato sauce… they really like growing in ceramic!) and in a more decorative SFG in the front yard.

august-13-2014-6 The so called “climate change” warmed up Everett’s chilly summer. Our son Chris kept finding canning jars on sale (he works with nurses, they know lots of good information) to help put them all up.

In a normal Everett Summer, I have to grow tomatoes in the Green House if I want a vine Ripe tomato. We plant them in the green house with basil (another plant that is not a fan of Everett) and had ripe tomatoes to the end of October. (the sad looking header picture shows our tomatoes in October)

august-11-2015-1-tomato Cherry tomatoes only needed to be picked once a week. They were like candy on warm days. They come in every color, yellow, red, blue, orange, even white but they all taste like sweet tomatoes. Imagine that!

The full size tomatoes need to be picked every three or so days. For some reason they go from just a bit too green to over ripe in the blink of an eye. The local wild life keeps an eye on our full size tomatoes but ignore the tangled mess of cherry tomatoes.

Last season, for the first time ever, we could have fried green tomatoes every week in September and not make a dent in the tomato harvest. I can hardly wait to see what this season has in store for us.

september-30-2015-2-tomatoes

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Potato Chitting Time

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I just love saying that. Are you chitting potatoes? (another jr high garden joke)  Chitting potatoes is putting them on end (thus the egg carton) Rose-end up (the end of the potato with the most eyes) and letting them sprout. Why? Potatoes are a cool weather crop, but not cold weather. In Everett, WA I put my first potato patch in on March 17th (or there about). Once in the ground, they take their sweet time sprouting unless they have been chitted (or Chit). If you plant a 2nd crop in May you will not need to chit those. They will come up a little faster.

january-24-2016-1-potato-journal Plant your favorite. I like to put in a Russet and a early yellow. Sentinel is my favorite early yellow. I’m told that a Russet, is a Russet, is a Russet. It is true that there is not a lot of difference in taste, texture or storage of popular Russets. There is no better french fry (in our lovely air-fryer… yum!) then a Russet fry. There is however, one important difference between varieties.

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The Potato Tower

Every spring, without fail, someone posts a wonderful new, space saving idea for growing potatoes in a tower. I hope you did not spend any money on this great idea! Potato towers forced me to learn that there are two kinds of potato vines. Like tomatoes they are determinant and indeterminant. Most potato varietys these days are determinant, meaning the vine stops growing at some point and concentrates on finishing potatoes. This is great for machine harvesting. Determinant potatoes will grow in a tower but will not make layers of potatoes. To date, every yellow, peanut (a.k.a banana or fingerling), red and Russet that I have grown in a tower will make a single layer of potatoes even though I carefully cover the leaves at just the right time… except for one type of potato.

potatoes-5-26-3 The first requirement of a potato tower is an indeterminent potato. It is only in the last three or so years that I have been able to find potatoes that are described as determinant or indeterminant. An indeterminant needs to be “hilled” meaning to have soil hoed over them (thus making a hill) The old fashioned Red LaSoda is an indeterminant potato but it made only a single layer of potatoes at the bottom of the tower. Ray and I had to buy potting soil to fill the towers, an added expense that was wasted on LaSoda. Of the different potatoes we have tried, only one (so far) has made more then a single layer of potatoes, the Russet Burbank. But even the Russet Burbank does not make multiple layers of potatoes every year. It seems like a hot summer might be a factor but I am not absolutely sure about that.

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Viking Potatoes, Purple (skin) and Gold (flesh) Ray went to Lake Stevens High School.

Potatoes love water. If you  happen to have a wetter place in the garden, plant your potatoes there. They are not a good choice for aquaponics as far as I know; they do not want to sit in water, they just want to be able to access to as much water as they can get. Young back to Eden gardens with their thick layer of wood chips holding in water are great. Barrels cut in half with just a few drain holes work well, just don’t forget to water them.

april-12-2015-13-potato I hope that is enough to get you started. Today (February 5, 2017, the rest of the world is watching the Super Bowl just to see what crazy thing Lady Gaga will do) there is time to look at catalogs, make your plans, build any structures you may want. My plan is to get out and get dirty with potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, but for now, I’ll be happy Chitting.

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Every season starts with onions

1january-21-2017-2 Tiny onion sprouts. I need to look closely at the container of dirt on the window sill. The morning that they suddenly show themselves my new garden has begun. I am a long way from onion rings or soup, but hope spring up with the onion sprouts.

It is almost obscene how many stony black seeds will be sprinkled on the plastic container of soil. In January I do not need to worry about where I will plant, or what I will do when I discover that I have far too many babies to find homes for. My eagerness to get dirty overcomes any good sense that may have been passed on to me. I will worry about that later. Today I just want to plant something.

1january-21-2017-7-onion-seed Just in case you wonder (and the video titles roll by too fast)

  • Cipollini: a small speciality onion that Ray loves in a roast. The right balance of sweet and pungent. Even these tiny bulbs need a full season.
  • Italian Tropea: or Red Torpedos as most Americans call them. These are somewhat sweet, purple to pink summer onions. They can be used at nearly any stage… and should be since they do not store well. We start using the biggest torpedo in the onion patch about mid June (really they will still be scallion like) and continue to use them until late September when they can get to the size of a small nerf football. Beautiful!
  • Ailsa Craig: A huge sweet onion that we put in everything from Late September to mid November. They are good enough to give as gifts. I no longer bother much with Walla Walla’s AC’s are so good (and do not need to be started in September for best size!) No real store-ability, eat them fast, eat them often.
  • New York Early: The very first storage onion I have had success with (in wet Western Washington) I’ll stick with what works. In a good year we have had New Yorks into March.
  • Ed’s Red Shallots: I do plant cloves of shallots in the fall, but these shallots grown from seed are just as amazing!
  • Leeks: This year they are the Italian Gigantia. Just when your storage onions get scarce, it is time for the garlic of the onion family… make sure you cover them in fall with straw and leaves so that you can still pick them with out a pick-ax from the frozen ground.

That’s it… here’s the 2017 Movie.

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Fava Beans in Fall

Reformation Day (October 31). How do we celebrate? 

I already mentioned that we plant Garlic, We also plant Fava Beans.

fava-beans

On a lazy summer day, Fava Bean Salad is the ultimate slow food. It takes a bit of work to free the nutty goodness from it’s fuzzy pod and thick protective layer, but once you do, you will have one of the delights of early summer!

Prettier that they look in the picture. Fava Beans are easy to handle when your fingers are freezing. We plant some for Reformation Day but if we happen to miss the fall planting day, then we watch for the first crocus to poke its pretty self out in the icy air. When the crocus’ bloom, it is time for spring planting Fava Beans. Honestly, fall planted Favas are only about 10 days earlier to harvest then spring planted. I just like my traditions.

January 30, 2016 (3)

My Garden Journal for February

If you do not have Crocus’ one of your neighbors probably does. The good news is that now (late autumn) is also the time to plant crocus for early spring flowers. You are in Luck!

I have not tried this yet but I watched a video that assured me that I can eat the tender beans shortly after the flower fall off. Something I keep forgetting to try. Apparently the leaves are also good food. I’ll have to ask my chickens.

Ray and I have done fava beans in Square foot gardens and in our Back to Eden garden. We were successful in both. I’m told that both black and green aphids are a problem with fava beans. I hesitate to report that we have not had a problem with either of these. Paul Gautschi of Sequim, Washington (the Back to Eden man) tells us that aphids are a problem in a garden that is too dry. Maybe that’s it. Back to Eden protects soil moisture even in dry years, and it was seriously wet the years we grew them in Square foot gardens. But enough of what can wait until summer. Just get out and get dirty ….plant some Fava Beans.

november-2-2016-jenny-e-il-piccolo After you are done in the garden, if the weather goes chilly and wet, come on over to Rainsong and read today’s post. Amy Carmichael’s Edges of His Ways for November 3. Ray and I went to the funeral of a beloved family friend last night. Today’s post was a source of joy.

The sun is shining brightly in my window this morning, I’m told it will keep shining for at least another day. We have less then ten hours from sunrise to sunset, but there are still nearly 11 hours of actual light if you count twilight… and I do.

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The Raw ingredients

July 29, 2016 (2)Spring planting season was simply a blur. Maybe I am starting to feel my age, or maybe it really was that busy at school. I hardly got anything planted. My potted plants all died of neglect. Ray kept the puppies, the nuggets and fish healthy, but my pots! me oh my oh! Deer took out nearly all the leaves and fruit from the trees in the front garden, and some kind of bug ate the salad out front. Those are what I see everyday. Yesterday, I ventured out a little farther.

In the midst of all the schoolwork I had to bring home to score, I vaguely remember popping a few seeds into the soil on the occasional Sunday night. I am overwhelmed with Joy!

July 29, 2016 (6)Green rows of lush Swiss, Peppermint and Rhubarb ChardThis is Peppermint Chard

July 29, 2016 (9)Volunteer Broccoli. No Idea what kind it is. We grow open-pollinated Thompson’s, Solstice and Umpqua.

July 29, 2016 (11)Joy! I had forgotten that I put in a few rows of snap beans! This is the blossom of a pink podded snap bean, simply called, “Pink” I also see evidence of yellow French beans, Jade, Purple and I think there might be a few Dragon Beans. We like a pretty plate of tender raw beans with a ranch dip.

July 29, 2016 (15)I love seeds! This is a thick row of lush summer lettuce. Most of it is different kinds of Roman (Green, Red and one of our favorites, Flashy Trout’s Back) I’m also seeing Grandpa Admire’s and a butterhead called Divina. They are growing in a bed with some randy snap beans and the peppers that I didn’t think would get so crowded… but I always think that in spring.

July 7, 2016 (24)I also found potatoes ready to harvest, loads of apples, herbs, sweet peas, tomatoes (wow do they need some attention!) garlic and shallots, even a very few summer onions. I just had to get myself past the disaster that is my back porch. Maybe it is time to clean off the porch so that I feel more like a farmer and less like a failure.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;  they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 RSV

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