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suburban garden expirement

Another month has passed in the life of my garden and I am starting to be all but a little disappointed this year. There are certainly some high points so far. Mainly my green beans and peppers which are doing great so far. I have managed to collect around 4 heads of broccoli and quite few green beans. The radishes i planted came and went pretty quick but they were tasty. I have been having problems with my Zucchini this year. It appears my poor soil this year is causing a phenomenon known as blossom end rot. I have unfortunately not had the time to try to rectify this issue so unless just plain old miracle grow will fix it I am probably going to have to chock the zuchini up as a loss this year.

In addition to my failing zucchini harvest I have completely lost my slicing tomato. I don’t know what happened but the thing shriveled up and died pretty damn quick. I will tell myself i bought a bad plant from the store but more likely there was a disease or fungus that was in the soil from the year before that took hold and reeked havoc. I may need to build out a third vegetable bed next year for tomatoes so I can better rotate my crops. My Cherry tomato is like 5 feet tall but starting to show signs of disease. I hope to get a few good handfuls off of it before it also goes the way of the dodo.

In addition to the diseases i have been fighting back a number of pests this year. Most notably has been the infamous cabbage worm. These little green buggers take up shop on your broccoli and eat the crap out of it. The worst part is they get in on the crowns and when you cut a crown off to eat you are surprised by several dozen icky green caterpillars. I treated with Sevin and it seems to have helped but I am not a big fan of dousing everything with poison. On top of the cabbage worms the local bird population has made a mental note of the location of my blueberry bush. Fortunately my harvest has been saved by a Halloween decoration (see the photo below).

I still have some hope for my peaches this year, it is remote but far better than years past. My blackberry crop is looking better everyday. With both wild and cultivated varieties well on their way to becoming edible. My cantaloupe still alive, albeit tiny. Hopefully as the summer months drone on it will continue to grow, and if I am lucky, make me a melon or two.

blueberry bush

Broccoli Side Crown

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It has been just about a month now since I started my garden. I think I have gone wrong in a couple of places but things are moving along pretty well, just not as well as I would probably like. Last year I bought top soil for my garden and I cut it with some compost from the store. This year I further cut it with compost and turned the soil pretty well with a shovel before I planted anything. I most have done something wrong because my dirt gets crusty now after it sits out for a day without rain. I am afraid the crustiness is keeping the dirt from getting the proper amount of nutrients to the roots/seeds and keeping them from being all they can be. I am currently researching organic (i.e. quickly compostable) mulch options for a vegetable garden. It looks like the best bet is to use straw, not HAY, straw. Straw doesn’t contain weed seeds and composts well in the garden. I should be able to just till it into the beds or rake it up for the compost heap at the end of the season.

I have had some additions to my garden layout so I have the updated diagrams below:

Since last month I have added two HOT banana pepper plants, 32 radish plants,an additional 16 carrots, and some onions I got from the neighbor. I am sorely disappointed in my green bean plants. Out of the 24 plants I was hoping for, I only got 6. I am not sure but I think it is because the seeds were around 1 year old. I went out and picked up a new bag of a slightly dffferent kind of bean to try out where I have holes. Radishes are one of my favorite “snack” veggies and it turns out they grow like lightning. Anyone with some dirt and some water can make these babies grow. With only 28 days to harvest it is super fast growing too.

Here is the photo update for this month:

You can sort of see the crusty dirt here on the left garden. The giant leafy things in the middle left are the Broccoli that have started to grow like mad. The front half of the left garden doesn’t look like much because I have had a hard time getting my seeds to start. I think, like my green beans, they were just old seeds. I also only planted one seed in each space so I didn’t exactly increase my chances of success.

On the above left picture you can see the beans on the backside of the left garden. There is one whole square with no bean plants that sprouted, I tried my new seeds there. The other photo is of my cantaloupe plant. I am hoping I can get some nice melons, I have tried to grow a melon before so it will be an experience.

Above left is the zucchini plant, you can see why they say you need 9 square feet to grow it. It is already reaching out of the 1 foot square and it is no where near mature yet. In the upper right you can see some of my blueberries starting to plump up so they can ripen. I have two blueberry bushes, this one is its third full year in the backyard. The other one is a slightly different variety and will be its first full year in my yard. The good thing about having two varieties is one is an earlier bloomer than the other.

I plan on providing these monthly growing/harvest updates as the growing season continues so make sure you subscribe to the RSS feed or follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss out on future updates. Do you have your own garden? Leave me a comment and let me know how yours is doing, or give me some advice on keeping up with mine.

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Some of you may remember my failed attempt at a successful garden from last year. This year I am aiming sites on a good harvest and a better experience all around. This year I am trying out true square foot gardening as outlined in the book All New Square Foot Gardening ($11.69 Amazon). Using the book as a guideline it helps to not only properly space your plants but learn more about how the plants grow and how to use that to your advantage.

Using square foot gardening the general idea is to divide your planting beds into 1sq ft blocks. Within each created block you plant a specific vegetable for flower you are interested in growing. I personally found this method of planting beds to make a lot more sense than the traditional row planting methods. Especially when you are utilizing raised box beds like mine. The book outlines how many of each plant you can comfortably fit in each square foot area so you are certain not to overcrowd your plants. Using these guidelines I created the following layouts for my two 4’X8′ planting beds.

As you can tell from my layouts I still have quite a bit of unused sq ft in the right side bed. I am thinking about adding some bell pepper to mix and maybe trying my hand at canning banana peppers again. I am still not quite sure. The emphasis is obviously on green beans. They are one the most consumed vegetables in my house and I would love to be able to can/freeze my own. The plants in the back of the beds (Green Beans, Cucumber, and Cantaloupe) will all be trained to go up a nylon net trellis. The trellis is going to be tied to the galvanized pipe supports you see in the real life photo below. This will allow me to maximize the room I have to grow while not taking up a lot room in the bed itself. Here are the gardens as they look today, I couldn’t find the lath that the book wanted me to use to divide my boxes, instead I just used some garden twine.

In addition to my two beds I have two Blueberry bushes, a blackberry bush, a thicket of wild blackberry, a single raspberry twig, and two peach trees. I still have yet to receive a single peach from my peach trees, they always fall prey to some tiny worms that eat their way out it seems like. I would like to see a sweet cherry tree added to the mix but it will probably not come until the fall, there is also a distinct possibility for another blueberry bush. I am a sucker for blueberries. As I did last year I will try to provide a monthly update on my gardening progress and hopeful success.

Have you tried out square foot gardening? Tell me how it worked for you.

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