Composting

compost ingredients 2014Making your own compost is a very easy thing to do-much like everything else in the square foot garden.  You can make it complicated by using formulas, ratio’s, etc, but it all really boils down to just doing a few things correctly .  Gathering the right kind of material is the first step.  The greater variety of ingredients, the greater the finished product will be.  Looking at this container shows a small sampling of how easy it is to gather compost material from your kitchen.  Here’s what I see: grapes, leeks, banana peels, eggs, tomato tops, apple core, zucchini, and an egg carton.  You can bet there’s more under what we do see, but that’s 8 different things, one of which is counted as a “brown” ingredient-the egg carton.  The way I do it is to simply balance the amount of greens with browns.  Seeing this is mostly green ingredients, I’ll dump this in the compost bin, and then I’ll fill the green container with nothing but brown items-something like shredded paper.  That way you’re assured of a good balance of nitrogen(green)and carbon(brown.)  Then it’s a matter of taking care of the pile-keeping it moist and turning it as often as you can.  The more  frequently you turn it, the faster you’ll get it.  I’ve done it this way now for 15 years and I’ve never had a problem.  I’ve never spent a dime on fertilizer and everything grows in my garden.  If you don’t get the soil right nothing else will really matter.

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Winterized garden box

winter garden 110104This bed has been amended with horse manure, leaves, and then topped with compost.  By February 12th this will be perfect to start planting in-and that’s about the date I begin.  The horse manure isn’t even aged-it’s about 2-3 weeks old.  I’ll remove any pieces I can identify in February and move it into the compost bin.  You can see garlic(top) and turnips(bottom) growing, along with a brussel sprout plant.   I don’t know what to do with it and will probably leave it alone to see what becomes of it.  However, that cold frame?  That’s loaded with little finger carrots that will be ready late March/early April.  And they’ll be sweet as candy.  By the way, I want to invite you over to my Facebook page.  You can find me under the same name-the wealthy earth-where I have different content than my blog.  I hope you enjoy it and can give me a “like” if you do.  Thanks to everyone…Jim

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Red lasoda potatoes

Red lasoda potatoesI tried a few squares of a different variety this year in addition to our all-time favorite-Red Pontiac. These are red lasoda’s and they tasted very good. But they weren’t quite as tender as the red pontiacs. And they didn’t produce as heavy of a yield. I’ve been able to get 6 pounds of potatoes per square in the past but the lasoda’s were just over 4 pounds. Don’t get me wrong-they still tasted better than anything you can buy in the supermarkets. Caesar salad with a plate of steamed potatoes topped with ranch dressing for dinner-good stuff.

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Winter is getting closer!

Winter is getting closerI woke up three times this week to a light frost on the ground. Winter approaches. There’s still a fair amount of lettuce, leeks, chard, and poc-choi. This will be the last week of actual planting in the main garden area and I’ve only got 10 squares remaining. Those will be filled with spinach, radishes, mizuna, and tatsoi. And it’s just about time to use floating row cover, which gives me a few extra degrees of protection for what’s around the corner. From the picture, what do you think we had for dinner last night? Potatoes, leeks, and chives makes the simplest and best tasting potato/leek soup. Add a Caesar salad with homemade croutons and you’re set. Over the period of the next 6 weeks my blog will be undergoing a make-over. Lots of changes, lots of work but I’m hoping to make it an even better place to visit.

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Composting material

compost material 100114I’m often asked what, when, and how to compost in the fall/winter. For me, this is the greatest part of the whole year. Leaves are falling, bushes are being cut back, and there’s a lot of things coming out of the garden. I’ll use anything in our kitchen that isn’t cooked for compost. I’ll begin to bag up the leaves and store them for next year. I put all my bigger items-trimmings from bushes and trees-through a shredder. If you don’t have a shredder try using a lawn mower. In another 2-3 weeks I’ll empty both of my compost unit material in a big tub. This will be covered and stored for use during the winter and to start next spring. I’ll then fill one bin which gets the most sunlight to the very top with all my ingredients. Think lasagna layering: alternating layers of greens and browns. I’ll completely water it in and then I’ll do nothing until spring time. I know some folks continue adding water to their bins in winter if they get a bit dry but I don’t. When I’ve done that in the past it takes a lot longer for them to thaw out come spring. It turns to a huge ice-cube if you keep watering them! The other unit will only have a small layer of leaves and horse manure. This bin will be used to gather compost material all winter long from the kitchen. I won’t add any water but will use this time for just collecting material. By March it will be time to start adding water and turning it. I’ll keep a close eye on the other compost bin that I filled to the top in the fall and will begin to work it. In a matter of a few short weeks I’ll have my first big batch of compost. I’ve done it this way for 14-15 years and it’s always treated me well.

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Planting garlic

garlic 92314Thinking ahead to next summer, how much garlic do you want? I usually don’t grow that much only because it takes up space for a long time. Planting now will get you heads of garlic in 9 months-at least in zone 6. Growing your own garlic turns out a sweeter and more aromatic head than you would otherwise get in stores. I have 3 squares planted for a total of 27 heads of garlic-perfect for us. Right now I’ve got 4 more weeks of planting things to get ready for the winter garden. This year I’m doing something a little different-I’ll be harvesting all winter out of my 4X16′ bed, but I am overwintering my entire 2X16′ bed with only 5 crops. This will give me a great head start come early spring. The remaining 5 boxes will slowly be put away for the winter.

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Fall garden heading into winter

91414 fall gardenThe gardens have been spectacular this year! It’s certainly slowing down but it’s starting to transition to the full winter garden. The main 4X16′ bed will be all I do this winter. Last year I also winter gardened in the 2X16′ next to it. I’ll be using that bed to overwinter 4 or 5 different things to get a quick jump on spring. To date I’ve planted kale, tatsoi, beets, scallions, leeks, spinach, claytonia, cilantro, lettuce, chard, mache, minutina, and turnips for the winter harvest. I’ll be doing a repeat planting of many of those next week. Arugula, mizuna, and radishes will finish off the planting season and will be completed by October 20th. It’s going to be a great winter.

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A look at a variety of summercrisp lettuce

mottistone august 2014This is one of the many varieties of summercrisp lettuce that I grew this summer. We’ve come through the hottest months of the year and now it’s time for us to start eating this delicious lettuce. It’s very difficult to successfully grow lettuce in our hot summers but with a few tricks anybody can do it. My ebook that’s all about this subject-growing lettuce in hot weather-didn’t make it out in time. I finished it but it was too late. I’ll be publishing it in the spring of ‘2015. In the meantime, as you look at this wonderful head of lettuce and think to yourself “I should have planted some of this”-start your fall and/or winter garden right now. Or you’ll be saying the same thing to yourself in another 6 weeks with some of the other things I’ll be growing. I’ll be having my last class of the year in a few weeks. We’ll be discussing low tunnels and other things that will help you have an eventful winter season.

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