The Wealthy Earth

A square foot gardening blog

August 1, 2015
by Jim
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Getting your square foot gardens ready for winter

carrotsOk, here we go! I like to always think one season ahead. When folks are planting spring, I’m thinking summer. Right now some are getting ready for a fall garden, I’m thinking winter. Of course, there’s many gardeners around who will be content with letting the fall season end their gardens until next spring. They’ve worked hard-well, they’re still working hard. The weeding has become part of the regular weekend choirs for them or their kids. By Labor day weekend they’ve had it. Too much work, too much time to keep up with it, and now it’ll be time to pull it up and let it rest for the winter.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with this.  I’ve got neighbors who only have and want a summer garden. They might let it go as far into the fall as they can to enjoy the remaining tomatoes and letting the squash ripen a little more.

But since a square foot garden is 90% less work than a traditional row garden, I’ve got a bundle of energy left to go all fall and into the winter.  In fact, I think fall and winter are one of the most rewarding of all the growing seasons.  I think it’s a good idea-for those wanting a good fall garden or even a winter garden-to begin planning now.

For example, I know I’ll need about 200 carrots to take me through the winter.  One of our famous and family favorites-carrot au gratin-requires lots of them.  We’ve made it with store bought carrots and they were so tasteless nobody ate them.  I’ve got to have my carrots ready by November 14th, when the daylight hours go below 10 hours a day.  I’ll just be sure to choose a variety(and I’ve got my favorites)that grow in 60-80 days which will take my timing to about mid-October.  Perfect.  If you get caught and haven’t given yourself enough time to grow winter carrots, try Minicor.  They’re ready in about 60 days and can be harvested at any stage with good flavor.

The thing about winter carrots is their sweetness.  You can pull your carrots out of the ground before the hard frost arrives and store them in the right conditions to take you through the winter.  But they don’t have the same flavor as carrots left outside with roots in the soil.  All the carrot starches turn to sugar as a protective mechanism when cold weather arrives, which is the reason winter carrots are so much sweeter than any other time of the season.  As it turns out being in our cold climate of zone 6B gives us advantages that the warmer climates can’t match

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July 30, 2015
by Jim
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Square foot gardening cucumbers

delicious gourmet cucumbdrsI’ve always grown Marketmore 76 cucumbers and they’ve been good. The taste is, well, exactly like any other cucumber, and the yield has been reliable too. But this year I decided to try something new, and I’m glad I did. This variety of cucumber is from Germany. It’s called Iznik and I found them at Cooks Garden. I’ve been very impressed so far. The yield has been good, but the taste!

As I’ve delivered these to the small group of folks that I grow for you can see the surprise on their faces when I tell them about this cuke.  Originating from Germany is a pretty neat thing, but they look like a small, gourmet type of cucumber if you can imagine that.  I’ve heard of gourmet carrots and other things but never cucumbers.  They taste best when only about 4 or 5 inches long are and sold as a container variety. Since I’ve always grown cukes vertically and I knew these would vine, I decided to continue growing them like I always have.

They are very fresh and crisp tasting-much more so than the Marketmore variety.  The other desirable thing about them is their very thin skin.  I’ve had many cucumbers that are to chewy because of their outer skins.  It almost gets in the way of the taste.  Or, you get a mouthful of seeds.  Not so with Iznik.  These are really, really tasty.  For zone 6 or less it’s too late for growing this year, but buy some for next year.  For you other gardeners who don’t have weather to worry about, you should get some now.  You won’t be disappointed

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July 22, 2015
by Jim
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A summer square foot garden

summer green onionsWith some advanced planning you can have delicious scallions to go along with your other salad greens.  Scallions, or green onions, that have been just pulled, like everything else, have an exceptional taste compared to what you’re used to from the store.

I like to grow everything from seed.  There’s  several reasons why I do that. First, I know how they have been taken care of.  Proper growing conditions, consistent watering, and a true organic environment are things you don’t know about when purchasing transplants.  Second, the price of seeds vs. transplants.  I can spend $3 on a packet of scallions and I”ll have enough to grow for 2 years.  For that same price you’ll get 15-20 scallions starts.  The satisfaction of being able to start your own crops and then have them go from garden to table is very rewarding.  The third reason is taste.  These homegrown scallions are much milder and sweeter than store bought.  One other advantage is you can use a dibble to plant your newly starts of scallions a lot deeper than you would by just planting 16 seeds per square foot.  This means that the white part of the scallion can be much taller, which is a good thing.  There’s nothing like having a green onion with a white stem thats 6 plus inches tall rather than the 1 inch ones you buy at the store.

In terms of timing, scallions will take 100 days from seed to harvest.  These were started long ago and are ready for harvest.  Right now is the perfect time to sprout scallions for your fall/winter harvest.  The timing will be perfect.  They will be large enough to either harvest or to keep in the ground to last throughout the winter season.  Give them a try, you’ll be glad you did

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July 9, 2015
by Jim
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Square foot gardening-why it’s so good for you

compost ingredientsWell, any gardening system would be good for you, not just a square foot garden. The only thing that really matters is that you’ve got a garden! We’re so used to heading down to the store to buy whatever we need any time we want. No doubt, it’ve very convenient. And many of the things we buy are perfectly shaped with no blemishes on them, they have no holes chewed out of the salad greens, etc. Have you ever wondered how that happens?

The uniformity of fruits, vegetables, and produce is largely the result of pesticide and/or chemical use. Truly organic gardeners(and even more with farmers because of the acreage involved)work hard at keeping their crops free of pests without the use of chemicals. Is that important? You’ll have to answer that question for yourself.

A few days ago a good friend of mine sent me this interesting video that you should hear.  It’s an experiment about a family that decided to eat only organic food for a period of time. There’s been some recent studies published stating that organic food is no better-nutritionally-than non organic food. There’s comments that say spending the extra money on organic is not worth it. It’s my belief that even if that’s true the taste of just harvested organic food is superior to anything you can buy off the shelf.

But is that the only concern? The thing I like is that I know there has never been a commercial pesticide or fertilizer used on any of my crops. I think the few folks that I grow for think the same way. You can do all the tests you want on any of my crops and you’ll never find any chemical residue on anything. The hard thing for me is trying to figure out the real truth because both sides have a stake in the game. Both sides have something to sell. The easy thing is it doesn’t matter for me. Is it worth it to learn how to grow your own food so you know what’s in it? Better yet, you’ll know whats not on it.

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July 7, 2015
by Jim
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Cucumbers in your square foot garden

Iznik cucumberI pulled my first cucumber last week-the earliest I’ve ever done it. It’s been late summer in past years that I’ve been able to begin harvesting my cuc’s. I did change varieties and that might be the biggest reason for the earlier harvest. In recent years I’ve always grown Marketmore, but this year I went with the Iznik cuc’s after reading very positive reviews.

This particular cucumber tasted really good. The flavor was perfect and the skin was very thin, which is something that’s important to me. I don’t like chewing into a thick skinned cucumber at restaurants. The other thing I dislike is a heavily seeded cuc. These were not issues at all with this particular variety.

The other fun thing to mention about growing cucumbers in the square foot gardening system is the small amount of space you need. In this system all vining crops are grown vertically, and with cucumbers you can grow 2 per square. My needs only require me to use 2 square feet, which means I have 4 cucumber plants growing vertically. You’ll have better air circulation, the fruit is kept off the ground, and it just looks a lot cleaner. This one is laying on the ground but that only because it’s the first one. All others will be up off the soil.

You can find Iznik cucumbers at Cook’s Garden Seed-another one of my favorite places to buy great tasting things

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