The Wealthy Earth

A square foot gardening blog

January 10, 2015
by Jim
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Sprouting carrots

minicor carrot sproutingI’ve got to get some carrots in the ground pretty soon or they won’t be ready when I need them. You can direct seed them in the soil right now and because of the cold weather some of them won’t come up. This seed pack is 5 years old. Maybe some of the seeds are no longer viable. The ones that aren’t certainly wouldn’t grow, but how do you know what seeds are good and which aren’t?

Sprouting is one of the easiest ways to figure that out. Just take your seeds and place them on a dampened paper towel. Lightly spray the seeds, close them up in a zip lock bag and place it in a room. Some will put them in the furnace room. I just put them in an upstairs bedroom. In the case of these carrots you can see they germinated in 4 days. However, one of them didn’t. Whichever seeds sprout are the ones that are good seeds. These then go into a growing medium where they will sit for the next 80-90 days. By that time they’ll be delicious mini-carrots that are full of flavor. If I had planted these directly it would have taken 3-4 weeks before they emerged in the garden soil.

I just cut off about 25 days by doing it this way. And I know what seeds are good to be transplanted to individual cells. And since I know I need about 100 carrots, I’ll sprout 115 on paper towels. This gives me some wiggle room. Then at a certain point they will go into the garden and take up a measly 4 squares. No wasting time, money, space, or seeds in the square foot gardening system. You only plant what you eat.

For the local folks, in a matter of a couple of weeks I’ll be posting dates for SFG classes. Some are free, some aren’t. The free classes cover the basics of the SFG system. The paid version($25 per person)teach not only the basics but also the advanced techniques of the system.

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January 3, 2015
by Jim
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My season has begun

sprouting chive and scallions seeds on January 3, 2015.  Square foot gardening planning for the spring season has begun. I recently had a note from someone informing me this method simply doesn’t work as a way of sprouting seeds.  I’ve had nothing but success doing it this way for a decade.  What could be easier?  If you were to put these seeds in the ground right now who knows how many would come up?  Freezing temperatures, snow, wind, etc.  makes this difficult to pull off by planting outside if you live in a northern climate.

Seeds only need two things to germinate-warmth and moisture.  By putting only a small number of seeds on a paper towel, spraying them lightly with water, and then placing them in a closed ziplock bag, you’ve provided them with one of the essentials-moisture.  All you have left to provide is the warmth.  I just place this on top of a filing cabinet in one of the bedrooms and wait.  In a matter of a few days(depending on the crop)you’ll see them swell and then start to grow a small “tail.”  I’ve posted pictures of what this looks like previously.

Once that happens you now have to provide the last thing for them to start growing-light.  Use a pencil or tweezers to lift your seedlings off the paper towel and into growing cells.  I don’t handle them with my fingers because their too fragile.  Cover them with a fine layer of soil, drop the light source about an inch over the height of the plants and keep the soil moist.  Because there’s no top over the soil it can dry out quicker than you might expect.

The reason I prefer this method is twofold.  First, whatever sprouts will grow.  Planting seeds directly into outside soil at this time is risky.  This takes all the guesswork out of the equation.  The other reason is time.  Depending on what you’re planting outside it might take 3-4 weeks to germinate. With few exceptions, the items I grow germinate in a week or less.  It’s a great shortcut.

My focus now is past the four season garden.  Winter has been a lot of fun but it’s now time to plan my square foot garden.  I’ve got plenty of finished compost left over(and covered)from last year to start doing things outside.  And there are several crops that will germinate even during this part of the year.

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December 26, 2014
by Jim
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Lots more winter coming

square foot garden with four season protection

What a mess!  The days get longer, the snow is coming and it’s just freezing out there!  We awoke to a white Christmas with 5 inches of new snow!  We’ve got more on the way and we’ve also got a few nights dipping into the single digits!  The seed catalogs have arrived and I’ve been marking up every single one of them with all the fancy new things I want to try this upcoming year.

By the way-do you get Johnny’s catalog?  There’s this new item they have-Mexican Sour Gherkins.  They look so cool!  They’re miniature cucumbers that you harvest when 1″ long.  They taste like cucumbers with a citrus and tangy overtone.  Anyone ever tried them?  I noticed Niki Jabbour has talked about them on her Facebook site.  I’m not sure I’ll be growing them but they do look interesting.  I don’t know any neighbor gardeners who’ve grown them and I don’t know any square foot gardeners who’ve tried them.  I’d be interested to know if any of you have?  If so, let me know what you think.  I’m always up for trying new things but they have to be productive. The square foot gardener might not have a lot of room so space is at a premium-at least it is for me.

But the fun can begin right now if you’re ready!  If you’ve got your four season garden protection up there are things that you can plant-right now.  It’s true that many things are impossible to germinate in the winter, but there are 7 crops I’ve been successful with in the winter.  And with the empty spaces that are appearing in the garden because we’ve been eating out of it all winter, it’s time to replant.  And that’s exactly what I did this afternoon.

Don’t let the winter blues get you down.  There’s still much you can do!  Plantings of cold weather crops, collecting material to add to your compost bins,  and gathering seeds for the spring season are all fun activities to get you through the depressing winter months.

And even more, use the winter months to learn all you can about how to be a better gardener.  I ran across this nifty piece on twitter that I thought was informative.  Reading things like this all winter long will do nothing but add to your garden knowledge.  Hope you like it.  Cheers!

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December 17, 2014
by Jim
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4 Season gardening at it’s best

corn salad or mache in the four season garden

compost, 4 season gardening

Things doing well in my winter garden right now.  If you’ve never tried to have a 4 season garden you should reconsider-especially you northern climate gardeners.  It’s one of the most enjoyable times of all.  You end up harvesting crops that you can’t grow in the summer months because it’s too warm for them.  It forces you to eat seasonally.  This is mache, or corn salad depending on where you’re from.  The winter garden-no work.  I’ve begun harvesting this square which will last for a week.  I’ll snip some of this, and maybe some radicchio, and a little tatsoi for a delicious salad.  To increase your chances for success for the winter garden it’s important get the soil right by amending with quality compost and the right crop selection to match the season.

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December 1, 2014
by Jim
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Winter garden lettuce

winter garden lettuceFirst week of December and no garden work to do!  I’m very bored and anxiously awaiting the seed catalogs to show up in the mail.  The winter hasn’t been too bad yet-only a few inches of snow and about 10 days of below freezing temperatures.  This head of lettuce-it’s remained this size for close to a month.  And with the shortened days and colder weather, it won’t grow.  It will sit there and hibernate until it’s ready to be harvested.  My garden becomes a very large refrigerator for our family in the winter.  If you’re able to match the right crops with the right planting schedule, you can eat all winter long.  Four season gardening is very possible in zone 6 and I think it’s the most fun and enjoyable because there’s literally no work.  What could be better than that?

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