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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Square foot gardening classes and herbs

chivesIt sure is nice to have fresh chives available at this time of year.  They’ve been under wraps all winter and were planted last fall and I’ve already begun to cut them back because they’re such heavy producers.  They’re also a perennial crop-every year they’ll come up without hardly any work on your part.  That presents a bit of a problem if you don’t keep them trimmed back because they will invade other areas of your square foot garden.  For me, I keep them in place for 2 years and then I dig them out and plant something entirely different in that square.  And now is the perfect time to start your herbs inside in preparation for planting out mid-May.

I’ve been planting lots of lettuce and other salad greens directly into the garden the past few weeks.  Everything is already up and in a few weeks I’ll begin harvesting great lettuces for daily salads.  I’ve mentioned some of my favorites-Green Ice, EZ Serve, Four Seasons,  and Simpson Elite are some of the varieties I’ve been busy with.  You can buy these from Burpee and you’ve still got 3 more days to order seed packs with free shipping.

If you’re a northern Utah gardener and are interested in learning how to be a successful square foot gardener, I’m holding my second class of the season.  You can read about it here.  These are classes that teach the basic fundamentals with the addition of learning how to build a tomato tower, or vertical support structure.

If you’re interested in learning how to make compost better than you could ever buy in the nurseries, then I have an entirely different class which you can read about here.  Lots of fun things coming up this gardening season

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Lettuce, lettuce, and more lettuce!

multi-leaf lettuce in the square foot gardenThis is the best time of year to start planting lettuce like crazy!  The soil is cool-which it likes, and the days are getting longer.  I usually plant a couple of squares every 5 days or so, but that number will probably increase to 4 or 5 squares every 5-7 days.  There’s nothing like spring lettuce.  Well, fall lettuce is a pretty good rival, but it doesn’t beat spring.  This cooler, damp weather of spring is the perfect time to start.

I’ve been asked what other things I start at this time of year.  Though I start all my lettuces directly into the soil, I will plant a few things indoors in preparation for early summer starts.  Thinks like tomatoes, peppers, cantaloupe, leeks, and cucumbers have all been sprouted and are now in little pot maker cups.  In just a couple of days they will begin to poke through the soil and it will be time to place them under lights.

One of the lettuces I’ve had a lot of success with is something called EZ Cut by Burpee. It’s a multi-leaf lettuce, meaning that if you cut it at the base all the leaves will be nearly all the identical size.  That’s different than other lettuces where the outer leaves are much larger than the inner cored leaves.  There’s another variety from Johnny’s(Salanova) and one from Jungs(multi-leaf) that I’ve also had experience with. You ought to give these a try.  Johnny’s has gotten to be a little to pricey for me, but the others from Burpee and Jungs are good.

If you need to buy seeds you should check out Burpee’s .99 shipping which is good until the end of this month.  It’s for any sized order and the promotional code is listed in the links on my blog.  It is not listed on the Burpee site. There’s so many fun things to check out this year.  Order a catalog or look through it online to see some of the new varieties available.

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