Growing potatoes in the square foot garden

IMG_0451Alright-square foot gardeners talk about growing things in only 6″ of soil. That’s true most of the time, but for potatoes not so much.

In Mels book on SFG he talks and shows pictures of his “top-hat” as it’s referred to. This is a simple wood structure that has four side, with no top and no bottom. It can be a 2X4, 2X6, 2X8, etc. Place this top-hat on any square(or squares), fill it with more Mel’s mix, and then you can successfully grow potatoes or any other root vegetable with more soil available.

I make sure that each seed potato has at least 2 eyes, and then I place 5 of them in each square. If it works out, I can count on 6-7 pounds of potatoes per square foot. I don’t bother hilling the potatoes. I just bury them 6-8 inches in the soil, cover them up, water, and then in a matter of weeks they will break the top surface.

Let them grow until the stalks turn brown and start to fall over. Cut back the growth and then reach down to find little gold nuggets. Once you’ve grown your own new potatoes you’ll never want to buy them again.

My favorite potato to grow is Red Pontiac. I grew a purple variety last year and they were okay. Nowhere near as good as the red’s, so I’ll stick mostly to that. Growing different potatoes does give you a contrast in taste and color.

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Square foot gardening-keep growing summer greens!

braising greenIn addition to the many designer lettuces that I love to grow in the summer months I also add some different things-like these braising greens.  Planted 16 per square for a dense harvest, they are delicious and come up quickly.  After 45 days you can either harvest the entire square for a saute, or clip them about an inch above the grown for a cut-and-come again crop.  The second cuttings aren’t as clean looking but they still taste great and grow back quickly.

All week long we’ll have temperatures in the 90’s.  Looks like summer has arrived early.  I’ve begun plantings for summer lettuces in anticipation of a long, dry, and hot summer.  Trying to grow lettuce in this environment is a huge challenge-many gardeners don’t even attempt to do it for that reason alone.  I’ll have an ebook coming out very soon that will teach you how to grow lettuce right through the summer months.  It takes a little more effort, but it is so worth it.  Since nothing can beat the taste of those just harvested off-the-vine summer tomatoes, you might as well have the best tasting lettuce around to go with them.  I’m hoping to finish it in a week.

Writing doesn’t come easy for me.  It’s taken 2 years to put this ebook together.  Much of the material was written in a timely fashion, but it’s all other things that bog me down.  I won’t bother going into it, but I think you’ll be pleased with the information contained  in the book.  Aside from the growing techniques taught, I think the best part is that I’ve actually done what I’ve written about.  And I’ve done it successfully for a long time.  So, keep an eye out.

For folks that live in northern Utah I’ve got a couple of classes being offered in the next couple of months.  If you’re not a square foot gardener but would like to be, there’s a class for you.  If you’re interested in learning how to have a winter garden in our zone, there’s another class for that as well.  Please pass the word along to friends, neighbors,  and family members who would be interested in attending.  Thank you

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Square Foot Gardening-protecting early zucchini

goldmine zucchiniThis is an easy method I use to protect my early sprouting zucchini and beans. There’s been many times in the past when it looks pretty good in the morning but when I came home from work it was no longer there. The culprit? Birds. It’s like filet mignon to them.

Hardware cloth is an excellent and very adaptable thing to have around. For my squares foot garden I have lots of these that can be bent slightly upward to be placed on any square of beans and zucchini or squash. Another nifty thing to do is to make little individual square foot greenhouses. Just cut and bend them large enough to fit over a square and then cover them with plastic. Be sure to vent it as it can get 30 plus degrees warmer under the plastic than it is outside.

Okay, this if for real this year. My new ebook is shortly slated to arrive. It’s been in the works for over a year but life just gets busy. This will be a how-to book. In this case, how to grow lettuce in warm or hot weather, which is a challenge for many at this time of year. I’ve been able to grow lettuce right through our 95+ degree summers with the techniques discussed in the book. It’s a little bit of extra work, but it’s so worth it. There’s nothing better than just harvested cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer lettuce. You’re salads at home will be better than any expensive restaurant you visit. That’s not a knock on restaurants-it’s just a fact that when greens have been harvested 10 minutes ago it will beat anything that’s been out of the ground for a couple of days or in most cases even longer. Keep an eye out for it and I hope you’ll be interested in its content

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Braising greens-something new to try in your square foot garden

braising greens mixLast year I experimented with a brand new crop.  It grew quickly and had quite a different taste.  These are braising greens.  As mentioned they came up in about 45-50 days in the cooler temperatures of spring.  The first couple of squares I harvested were used as a salad mix-in.  The last few squares were used for stir fries with snow peas, garlic, and scallions. I’m not a huge fan of the bitter tasting greens, which these were.  But they weren’t over-the-top bitter.  In fact, they were pretty mild tasting because they were grown in cool soil.  I’m so used to the sweetness of regular salad lettuce greens that this initially took my by surprise.

I’m growing them again this year for customers who enjoyed them last year.  This particular variety has kale, tatsoi, red and green mustard, and hon tsai tai.  They’re planted 16 per square and by harvest time completely fill up the area.  They can be treated as a cut-and-come again variety but my experience was that the 2nd cuttings were not as plentiful or as good looking. They are a one crop cut and out for my gardens.

For any Utah gardeners interested in learning how to have a successful square foot garden-I’m teaching one last class next weekend. With temperatures in the low 80’s it will be the perfect time to begin your summer garden. The class covers all the basics of the SFG system with the added bonus of how to construct a vertical growing structure that will last a lifetime. Classes are only 90 minutes long and you get to see an actual square foot garden in action.

Signing up and registering is easy.  Just click on the Dabble links and they’ll guide you through the enrollment process.  I start promptly at 10:00 AM and we’ll be done at 11:30. Q&A session follows to answer any lingering questions

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This years tomatoes in my square foot garden

IMG_2202It’s been all over the place for temperatures this spring.  We’ve had weekends where it was in the mid-70’s.  We’ve even had a couple of 80 degree days. Like other neighbors I begin to think its time to start planting even though there is still some much cooler temperatures ahead,  along with the possibility of a frost and lots of rain.

My tomato plants were looking pretty good inside so I thought I’d take a chance on them right now.  I hardened the plant off, and then I’ve protected it with a simple empty plastic container.  Some folks might call this a cloche.  I use the cap to moderate the temperature.  If the sun is coming out at all, I remove the cap because it will really heat up.  If it’s raining or generally a cloudy day, I’ll keep the cap on.  The cap is always on at night.

So far, so good.  My tomato plant is thriving nicely.  I’ve got about a dozen more started inside that will be hardened off this weekend.  By Mothers Day they’ll be in the ground.  All this work in an effort for the first tomatoes in the neighborhood-it really doesn’t matter too much.  Even if you got out and buy a large tomato plant with yellow blossoms on it, we all seem to get our tomatoes within the same 2 week period of time.

The varieties I’m growing this year are all my favorites: san marzano, sun gold, red cherry, rainbow cherry, 5 star grape, sun sugar, new girl, and rose.  Paste tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and slicing tomatoes-each only taking up 1 square foot of space.  It’s a great way to garden

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