Square Foot Garden Update #9

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on July 18, 2009

sfg9

Here’s a broader view of the garden!  And some helpful information…

The Planters

We made 2 4’x4′ patio planters using plywood and 6 inch tall boards. I had all the wood cut at the store and just had to bring it home and screw it all together. The total I spent on the wood and screws was approximately $60. I had saved a gift card from my birthday (6 months earlier!!!) to use for making the wood and dirt purchases…so we were fortunate to not have to pay much for the garden out of our own pocket!

The Dirt

I followed the directions in the Square Foot Gardening book to a “T”! I bought 3 huge bags of peat moss (sorry I don’t remember the exact number of cubic feet) for $10 a piece, 2 large pags of perlite ($5 a piece) and 1 bag of lime for ($4). I used the lime to make the dirt near the tomatoes more acidic. I also added in manure that was given to us by a friend, as the fertilizer. So the rough total for the cost of the dirt was $44. I will need to get a bag of mulch and a bale of hay when it comes time to winterize that. So add another $10 for those 2 items…Total $54.

The Seeds and Plants

I started some of the plants by seed and bought other plants already started from the garden center.  I bought about $12 worth of seeds (and will use the same seeds again next year, as I did not use them all!) and $25 worth of plants…tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, rosemary, basil and marigold.

The Fencing and Trellises

I did go back to the store to get trellises and the fencing to keep out the pesky animals in our yard (although that chipmunk still likes to hang out and dig holes…he hasn’t done much damage thus far!)  The total cost for those items was about $50.

Total Spent on the Garden

$201

We spent out of pocket (-$100 gift card): $101

Most of these costs were one time initial costs…the planters, dirt, fencing, etc.  I plan to take care of these items so that we will have them for several years! I think the initial investment is well worth the cost!

Shortcuts

A few “shortcuts” that I took when making the garden.  I used masking tape to divide off the squares.  It worked just fine!  I used sticks from our stick pile to hold up the plants (like eggplant and hot peppers) that started to fall over from their increasing height and the weight of the growing peppers and eggplants.  I used string/twine that we had on hand for the peas and beans to grow up.

Watering

I give the garden a small bath daily!  Unless, of course, it rains.  This is terrible, but I use my basil plant as an indicator!  If it looks droopy and thristy, then I’ll give the whole garden a little shower.  If the basil is thirsty, chances are the rest of the plants are too.  That rule has worked well for me this year!

That’s it from me this week!…Let me know if you have any questions!  But, remember, I am just a NOVICE gardener…this is my first year doing all this…and I have much to learn. 

I am so thankful for this year’s garden success and LOVE preparing food with the harvest!

(And I’ll let you know about my plans for next year’s garden soon…)

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Alea July 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

We save our gift cards to buy gardening supplies too! Our relatives think it is odd, but we derive pleasure from our garden 6 – 8 months out of the year, so it makes sense to us.

I love your masking tape idea. I just eyeball it, which has mixed results. :-) I think I will try tape next time.

Here is my latest update: http://premeditatedleftovers.blogspot.com/2009/07/gardening-in-high-desert.html

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Fairy Dust July 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

you’ve done a beautiful job!! I’m curious what all you will do to winterize it once the harvesting is all done. I was just going to unscrew my planks and spread the dirt out then sort of start over next spring – LOL! But if I can keep the whole thing intact and winterize instead, that probably makes more financial sense.

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Jerilyn July 18, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Definitely an investment that will pay off! You seem to have so much energy. I haven’t had energy at all this pregnancy… oh wait, I did when I planted my tiny pot garden on my porch, but then lost all energy to take care of it and water it. lol.

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Gayle@GroceryCartChallenge July 18, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Great job Erin! I love the cost breakdown. It’s so fun to see the reality of garden costs and really… how frugal it can be to garden.

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Kandi July 18, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Have you had any issues with squirrels stealing your ripe or unripe veggies? I have a fence up around our garden (we do one in a plot in the backyard) and it (they) still get in and steal stuff. Last night it was my first ripe tomato. I found it half eaten in the front yard. They have stolen peppers, tomatoes, onions and squash flowers….any ideas would be wonderful!!!

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Suzanne B. (Crunchy Green Mom) July 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Great job! I am looking at ideas for getting this set up this fall, so it’s all ready for the spring. Colorado winters are not very conducive to planting/growing.

I plan on having 2-3 of these in the back yard so it’s great to have ideas, etc.

Thanks for the tips and the pictures!

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Theresa July 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm

From your picture it appears you placed your garden on top of a patio? Is your dirt really only 6 inches deep and on top of a patio or are there just patio pavers around the 4X4 square? I am looking into doing this soon since gardening in Florida begins fairly soon so I would love to know what book you used! Thanks!

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Erin July 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Just 6 inches deep and in a wooden patio planter. There is a large 4′ x 4′ piece of plywood under the dirt, so no dirt is directly on the bricks. It is self-contained.

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew is the name of the book I have been using and referencing!

Erin

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Bethany July 19, 2009 at 5:07 am

Love your garden! To winterize my garden this year, I am using an old pool tarp (plastic). You can also buy this stuff by the roll at Lowe’s. I’m using an old one that got holes in it. Hated to throw it out. Cut it to the size of each of my raised beds and lay it on the dirt (I have 4 beds). This will keep it from getting winter weeds. Next year I can pull it off, roll it up and reuse it. I will have minimal work to get started.
Also, I purchased a plastic garbage can to put near my garden. My husband drilled holes in the bottom of it and I use it for composting. Everything from coffee grounds to cucumber peels. Dead grass etc. I use it for weeds that crop up too. I use this all year. This is my 3rd year gardening and I absolutely love the fresh veggies and fruits coming out of it. I am in the process of enlarging it for next year. I didn’t realize how big summer squash plants got and it took over one of my beds completely. Must be the coffee grounds and tea bags.

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Sara A. July 19, 2009 at 8:15 am

Re: Squirrels stealing. Dilute cayenne pepper in water and spray on your plants and fruit. Make sure to rinse your produce well before you eat it yourself.

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cassie-b July 19, 2009 at 9:32 am

Your garden looks great. And I’ll remember the hint about the basil plant! Thanks

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Diane Erichsen July 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Hi Everyone!
I have a question that I hope you can answer…I live in Colorado as well as Suzanne. I have not done the square foot gardening concept yet, I have the book, just got too busy to do that this year. However, I have a raised garden vegetable box that I copied from Sunset magazine. Ours is the same size as Erin’s just deeper by a foot.

Here’s my problem: All of my plants, tomatos, zucchinis, pickling cukes, tomatillos, green and hot peppers are thriving away. I have some baby zucs and cukes going but nothing for my tomato plants and pumpkin. They are healthy, beautiful, huge, growing like, tomatillos have gorgeous yellow flowers as the same with my tomatoes and pumpkins but so far not a fruit growing yet. Now this is my second year in Colorado and I have had victory gardens from NY to LA to NC and we have always had lots of veggies be it the raised bed style (our soil is hardcore gravel, grey clay stuff here in Castle Rock, south of Denver, so I made the Mel mix). Is it the lack of bees? One year in West LA we had tomato plants galore growing in 15 containers and had about 10 tomatoes out of all those plants, no bees. I don’t see alot of bees here. Can you buy bees to polinate?

Any ideas anyone? Many thanks…

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Erin July 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

That is a distinct possibility Diane! I have had to help my squash plants pollenate, but have recently seen more bees around! I’m totally a novice and can’t help much…anyone else???

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Michele July 19, 2009 at 3:19 pm

It looks great! You told us how much you spent. How much have you saved?

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Erin July 19, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I plan to do a “total harvest” and “total savings” at the end of the summer! Stay tuned…

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Alea July 19, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Short term solution: Google how to hand polinate_____ (insert the name of plant). Youwill find specific instructions for hand polinating that plant.

Long term solution: Buy Mason Bees. They are not as agressive as honey bees, but they also don’t make honey.

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LizG July 20, 2009 at 1:50 am

WOW! I’m astonished at how much you’ve squeezed into such a small space, and how high your plants have grown in such a shallow garden. I love the great info, thank you! This year marks my first attempt as a Bumbling Gardener and I’m having a ball, learning lots, and eating lots of great, fresh veggies. I am tending a backyard garden at a friend’s place and have just gotten a plot in my local community garden, too. Check out pics at http://www.localdelicious.com.

Keep the great info coming!
liz@localdelicious.com

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LizG July 20, 2009 at 1:53 am

PS: I used coconut coir in lieu of peat moss for my box garden — peat moss is a non-renewable resource so I thought I’d try the alternative. Any thoughts on whether it works as well as peat?

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LizG July 20, 2009 at 2:21 am

On the watering end of things, using your “grey water” — water that’s been used once for something non-toxic like washing dishes — is a great way to conserve/recycle/reuse. My grandmother and mother always washed supper dishes in a plastic basin set in the sink, then carried the water out to the garden. That way the garden got some water every day, and was never forgotten. I’m carrying on the tradition with my balcony garden. (Use biodegradable dish soap for best results.)

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Robin July 20, 2009 at 7:50 am

This is also my first year with the SFG method. We built four 2×6 foot boxes along the sides of our chain link fence. Tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and snow peas climb the fence for support and offer a little privacy. I checked with my neighbors before doing this and they had no problem with it since they know they’ll be given some of the overabundance of veggies. It has worked out great for us and we are going to expand it next year.

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Christina Baita July 23, 2009 at 5:02 am

The credit card company slogan goes perfectly here…
the results are indeed priceless! Thanks for this post because for some reason I didn’t realize that it was built right on top of a patio. I thought this was in the ground (more than 6in) so now, I am even more encourages and impressed. We have a smaller garder growing in pots on our balcony. Condo downtown in Cincinnati. I learned more about the dirt combo too.
Thanks again and have a great day!

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Reba K Stanfield October 11, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I enjoy hearing from and about you, your family and garden. You seem to be blessed with a green thumb, which I wasn’t. Just as well as allergies has kept me from working in a garden or yard. But now I am 77+ and a widow and enjoy reading a lot.
As a transplanted Oklahoman (to Texas) I get to see my younger son and his family and celebrate birthdays, etc.There’s a Great Grand baby due in May.
He or she will join 2 others, one of them live in Austin, 22 months old and the other lives in California, soon will be 3 months old. They are grandchildren of my older son and his wife.
God has blessed us that both of the Sons are Christians as are their wives. The 4 grandchildren , 2 boys and 2 girls and their spouses are also.
My husband died little over a year after we moved here. We had sold our Dairy farm a few years earlier.
God bless you. Reba K Stanfield
The pictures of your Boys are cute!!

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Megan March 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Your tomatoes look so wonderful compared to mine. I’ve read about pruning off the sucker shoots to help the plants produce, did you do anything like that?

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

@Megan,

I didn’t Megan…the plants just took over!!!

Erin

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