Vertical gardening-a few thoughts

In 6-7 weeks it will be time to put tomato plants and other vining crops into the garden in our location. I always like to think one season ahead. It’s spring now, but I need to keep summer in mind. As I will be putting up my vertical towers soon, I need to have the squares where those towers are placed emptied out. If I wait even as little as a week and start planting any crop that takes longer than 50 days, those squares won’t be available to put in my tomato plants.

If you’ve got short term crops to put in, such as radishes or bigger scallion starts, you might still have enough time to clear out squares in time for squashes, tomatoes, etc. I’ve tried to illustrate this by the picture. The back row is completely planted and will be ready for clearing out in about 4-5 weeks. All my vining crops will be ready for planting in time for a great summer season. This takes some advanced planning but helps to make your square foot garden as efficient as it can be.

This lesson, taught to me years ago, has had to be reinforced a few times. I started my tomato seeds inside during the first week of April. When the danger of frost had passed and the time arrived for putting tomatoes out-the 2nd or 3rd week of May, those squares still had crops in them which needed another 2-3 weeks to finish growing. I could either wait until they were done, which would really put me behind, or I had to put my vertical towers in another location which were not the best. I chose the latter but had to put up with shading in the later months.

The take home lesson? Figure out where your vertical towers will be placed and fill those squares up as early as possible for them to be cleared out in time for your vining crops

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Square Foot Gardening: The only way to go

As spring arrives across the U.S. gardeners are spending money and time at all the nurseries and big box stores. There’s a beehive of activity and it’s a great time of year. For many, it’s going be business as usually. Add some amending material to the soil, lay out your rows, and start planting. For most, the results of their garden will be what its always been: lots of work, weeding, and watering, and below expectations for the harvest.

Well, how about a gardening system that involves no heavy work or digging, no weeding, and no thinning? How about minimizing your gardening area to 20% of what you currently have? What about saving 90% of your water utilization? How about making gardening fun again?

Thats been my experience with the square foot garden. It’s so easy that anyone can do it, regardless of any previous garden experience. You don’t have to be an expert to have a great and productive garden. Along the way you’ll learn a few tricks to make gardening even more enjoyable. Tricks like this picture shows: where beginning seeds have no resistance to break through the soil. I learned this while interning with Mel Bartholomew 16 or 17 years ago. I sure miss my old friend.

I’ll have classes coming up in the next several weeks if you’re interested in learning the basics of the square foot gardening system. I’ll also be teaching an upcoming microgreens class, which is such a fun hobby, especially in the winter months when gardeners have nothing to do but watch everything turn brown and snow.

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Baby arugula coming up

Now is the time in zone 6! There’s no thinning in the square foot gardening system, and this is an example of that. Nine baby arugula plants up and going planted 10 days ago! I like to package these up to customers separately so they can choose whether to use them in a salad green mix, or if they want to use it by itself. This variety is milder than many others, especially when picked small, and especially when grown in cooler weather.

And now for my new ebook. You’ve seen it on my blog. Releasing a book about growing lettuce in warm weather during January didnt make much sense. But it was finished and I wanted to get it out. Don’t wait too long to buy it if you’re interested! If you do, by the time summer gets here you’ll find yourself hunting around for certain varieties of lettuce seeds that will have been sold out

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Over-wintered carrots

For those here locally, if you had the chance to come out to one of my fall classes last year you’d be harvesting these right now! I’ve got about 150 of them back there ready to pull, and I was able to use many during the winter months.

The name of this variety is Negovia. They are delicious! I’ve normally grown Mokum and Napoli for winter storage but came across this variety with a special that Johnny’s was running last year. This may be my new go-to winter carrot. Chop off the tops and shoulders, cut off the bottom roots and dip in salad dressing! I gave some of these to a neighbor and who wanted to know what variety it was. She apparently put some in her daughters lunch the next day and when the daughter came home from school, she said: “mom, where did you get those carrots? They tasted better than any others carrot you’ve ever given me.”

While your here, check out a few classes I have coming up in the area. One on composting and one on growing your own microgreens at home. And also, check out my newest ebook! It might seem like a long way off, but you’ll want to be buying your lettuce seeds right now for the summer season before all the right varieties are gone for the year. Don’t let the summer pass you buy-learn how to grow the best tasting lettuces right though the warmest months of the year

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Early spring planted crops

Many folks are always asking the question: when do I start planting and what? That will depend on your zone. I’m  6B in northern Utah where winters can be harsh; complete with lots of snow, fierce winds, and low temperatures. Its not as bad as some locations to grow but it surely has its challenges.

After doing this for over 30 years you get a feel for things. Some of my first plantings have already been direct seeded into the garden. Others have been started indoors and will go into the “sun box” in another 2-3 weeks.  See previous posts that discuss the sun box. This picture is tatsoi-a great and frost hardy Asian green that’s delicious as a salad mix-in. The other is black seeded simpson elite. There’s some reason why elite is supposed to be better than regular black seeded simpson, I just haven’t been able to figure out what the difference is.

For those who need a little extra guidance, try this garden planner by Burpee. You can even download an app on your device to give you reminders of when to do things. I’ve found it pretty handy, especially when I just get too busy and forget to plant something.

For you northern Utah folks interested in learning how to make compost, see my class coming up, as well as one on growing microgreens at home. Today is the last day for you to order 1 pack of seeds from Burpee and get another one free. I ordered a pack of San Marzano tomatoes and a pack of Fortex pole beans. Spring is here for me.

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