I was looking forward to my radishes but the first one I pulled this afternoon didn’t look very appetising. It was pretty small and the roots were actually growing out of the eatable bit. Not sure why it did this – maybe it wasn’t buried in the ground deep enough? The basil is coming on (and has now reached the height of the cage) along with the pepper and corn so tomorrow night I’ll be swapping the cage for a fence.
I’m pretty disappointed with the vegetables that I’ve pulled up. The carrot in the picture below is less than the width of a normal pencil and I’m sure that the radish is not meant to be that size (about two pencils thick) with a deformed tail and roots growing out of it.
On a lighter note, the corn stalks still seem to be holding up, as do the peppers and basil, but the rest of the plants did not make it through the hotter days we had a couple of weeks ago.
Tomorrow is the 1 month anniversary of starting the square foot garden and it looks like it is doing well. The pictures are in the Square Foot Garden Flickr stream (as usual). I think I may even be able to get some lettuce and some radishes tomorrow and this weekend I’ll probably plant the remaining squares with some more seeds to keep them busy. The corn is now reaching the top of the cage so I’ll have to change the cage size too.
The cage is actually getting to be a pain as it brushes against the plants as I take it up and down to water the plants. And it is going to prevent me putting the rebar and netting up as well as the cage will get in the way. I can put up a chicken wire fence around the patch to stop the various ground based critters coming in, but it wouldn’t stop the birds getting into the patch 🙁 I’m not sure of how much a problem this will be though.
I’m surprised how big the Basil has grown and how much greenery there is to the radishes – I really didn’t think there was that much waste to a radish plant!
Small pictures below, click on them to see the large pictures.
One of the three main ingredients in Mel’s mix is compost. As I didn’t have any, I purchased some from the local garden centre but it would have been nicer to make my own. However, everything I’ve read seems to suggest that you have a 1 cubic metre compost heap at a minimum. My question is how do you start a compost heap? A lot of the documentation online seems to imagine that you already have the ingredients to fill the compost heap half way up – but where do you get this stuff from (or store it?). At the moment I have access to the lawn clippings from the grass and the few food scraps that we have left over and later in the year I will have LOADS of leaves. However, currently the volume of waste doesn’t seem to be sufficient to create a compost heap – so any ideas?
As the buds surprised me by coming up this early I needed to get a cage in place before the birds, squirrels and chipmunks got to the food. It was one of the projects I had to do and I was hoping to do it this weekend but the seeds had other ideas. So this afternoon after work I went out and cut my legs and arms to pieces with chicken wire whilst making the cage. For anyone else doing this, don’t wear shorts and a t-shirt and do it outside so you don’t get blood on the carpet!
It was actually quite pleasant outside whilst I built the cage, very hot – I was sweating just standing still but nice and peaceful and my hay fever didn’t kick in until after I had finished which made the whole experience a lot more pleasant. I cut a piece from the roll about 8.5′ long to give a 4′ top and 2′ high with the overlap to let me staple the sides to the underneath and outside edges of the frame. I then cut two more 2′ long pieces and stapled those to the side of the frame. The mesh came tied up with a long piece of wire to hold it together so I was able to use this wire to twist it through the mesh on each side like a bread bag tie, snip the edge off and then repeat for every 2nd hole on the sides. The top edges didn’t need extra wire as I could loop the cut edges around the solid edge from the longer piece. (This sounds complicated but should be obvious when the cage is built). The end result is a fairly sturdy (yet flexible) cage.
There are a couple of drawbacks with this method – the first is that the pieces don’t fit exactly over the box due to the initial box not being cut at exactly 4′ square but the gap is pretty small. Also, because the laths are screwed on top of the base box, there are gaps between the cage and the base unit – hopefully not big enough for a chipmunk to get in – I know that Bruce and Sheila the rabbits won’t be able to get in, nor the squirrels – or at least I hope not.
The other drawback is that the cage needs to be removed for the evening water which is a bit of a pain but not too much of a hassle. I’m also not sure how this is going to work when I put the main vine frame up too as that will be bigger than the cage. I’ll have to see if anyone else has some ideas.
Mike asked me for a shopping list for my square foot garden so here is the details so far. I’ll try to put prices in where I can remember them or have details. The hardware was purchased at Lowes, the Mel’s mix and plants at Oakland Nursery (ON) and the mulch at OhioMulch. Prices are approx when I can’t remember the exact price and it is too late to go looking for the receipts.
For the Garden bed
- 8′ * 4′ 15/16 plywood for the base. Lowes will cut this (roughly) in half so you will have half left for another project (or another bed) – this is optional but it will do a better job at preventing weeds growing through the bottom and also makes the whole thing portable (if you can lift that much dirt!) I have seen some people attached wheels to their base to move it around. $11
- 2 times 8′ * 6″ for the sides. Again Lowes cut this in half for me. The one thing you have to watch is that the pieces of wood are either longer than 4′ OR my 8′ board wasn’t quite 8′ as the sides are slightly longer than the base and therefore the base doesn’t quite cover the bottom – there’s a tiny gap left but I didn’t realise this until after I had screwed the sides together. $7 (approx)
- Laths for the grid – these were more expensive than in the book but I think this is mainly because I couldn’t find anything really suitable in Lowes and ended up having to get a pack of 10 6′ laths,- $5.88
- 12 screws to hold the sides together, about 20 screws to attach the base to the sides. Use as many as you think are necessary. I already had a bulk pack from previous woodworking projects so these were “free”, 21 screws for the laths – make sure you drill the pilot holes first for these!
For Mel’s mix
- 1 large bag of Vermiculite from Oakland Nursery. They didn’t have coarse, so the medium was used instead – $19
- 1 3.8 cubic feet bag of peat moss from Oakland Nursery. The “recipe” actually only calls for 2.6 cubic so again there is plenty left over – $10
- To make the compost I used 1 40lb bag of cow manure, 1 40lb bag of organic compost. However as the recipe for Mel’s wasn’t sufficient in quantity I also added 1 40lb bag of Potting soil – $7.70
- The recipe calls for a third vermiculite, third peat moss, third compost – I ended up with the following for a 8 cubic foot bed – 3.9cf vermiculite, 3.9cf peat moss, 1.3cf manure, 1.3cf compost. The quantities were multiples of 1.3 as that was the size of the cardboard box I was using to get a rough measure. I still have plenty left in the bags to make top up mix and also for any seedlings that I grow indoors.
- 9 packs of seeds from Oakland. They were having a discount sale for a third off (I think) so $9.50
- 2 rebars for vertical supports from Lowes
- 1 10′ electrical conduit piping cut in half and threaded at Lowes, 1 4′ piece and 2 elbow joints to make the supports for the vine plants.
- I also purchased a 50′ * 4′ roll of chicken wire (politically correct – poultry fence) to make cages to put over the base unit to stop the birds, squirrels and chipmunks eating the veggies. The 4′ roll was slightly more expensive but it will make life easier when making the cage sections. $25 but will also be used to make a compost pile – but thats another blog post.
- 4 times 8′ * 1″ * 2″ posts, cut in half at lowes to make the base for the 2 cages that I’ll put on (varying heights) $9
- Support netting for the vine plants – I’ve yet to purchase that.
All in all, I’m not sure how much it came to -about $120-$130 from a rough estimate its a lot to spend all in one go but I think of it more as a fun project and a hobby to enjoy as well as a learning experience rather than just comparing it to the cost of shopping at Giant Eagle comparison, and lets be honest – anything that keeps me out of Giant Eagle of Kroger is worth every penny.
Don’t be put off by these prices – you could do it for less, with no base board and no poultry fence, especially if you can scrounge some old lumber from somewhere and some wooden pallets.
Update Prices updated as I found my receipts. I also got $15 off the prices at Oaklands as there was a $10 gift card for filling out a Scott’s lawn questionaire and a $5 coupon for a spend over $40 (and my total was originally $41)
I went out to water the plants this afternoon when I got home from work and I’m not sure whether to be excited, nervous or worried. Two of the boxes looked like they had seedlings poking through the soil already – and I only planted them yesterday! That means I either planted them to shallow, weeds are growing VERY quickly or I’ve got superduper plants. I didn’t take a photo, but maybe I’ll do that tomorrow when I water them again.
Planted the seeds this afternoon – peas, pepper, pepper, corn (subsequently I realised I should have left one of the pepper spaces for the tomatoes – oops! Lettuce, radish, carrots, blank, onions, lemon basil, blank blank, and the last row just lettuce in the bottom right corner.