My Veggie Garden

Well I posted once here, but I never officially delurked. So hi!
I just started doing square foot gardening a little while ago. Have always been a plant person (mostly bonsai) but never did veggies.
Well I went and build this thing, 4X4 6" tall, squared it off with string, put in 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, 1/3 compost. I threw in some seeds and the thing just started growing like crazy. Holy! It doesn't even get the best light, or at least I didn't think it did. It's an experiment in progress.
Anyway here are my questions:
I planted some butternut squash seeds from a squash a bought, actually nothing coming up in that area, no sprouts at all. That was really just an experiment, so I won't be real disappointed if nothing happens but should I be seeing something by now? It has been about 3 weeks.
Chives - They sprouted rather quickly but now are pretty much just sitting there about an inch high and very thin. I would really like for these to grow. Spent $5.00 for chives at the grocery store. ugh! I've been putting in small amounts of compost but don't want to put to much in at a time because I don't want to smoosh the little guys.
Green beans - These sprouted in a few days and the sprouts were HUGE. Do I need some kind of cage for them, like a tomato cage?
Cherry tomatoes - Bought some plants and stuck them in. I am probably not getting as much as 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. The plants look fine as of now, but can I expect anything? Are cherry tomatoes as difficult as regular tomatoes?
Elephant garlic - I don't buy this stuff but my last roomate had left some in the cupboard. I thought and I separated the bulbs and planted them just the other day. Otherwise I don't know a thing about growing it. Anything I should know?
Everything else I planted is sprouting like mad, can't wait to dig in. Mesclun, brussel sprouts, some other kinds of lettuce...
All that and I still have 4 squares left....
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On Sat, 22 May 2004 16:21:59 -0400, David Kotschessa

Yes. Most squash seeds germinate within 10-15 days.

Chives like light. They're not particularly heavy feeders, and grow in "average" soil. I think 'be patient' is called for here. They are perennials, so as long as they're healthy, they have all the time in the world.

Depends. Beans can be 'bush' or 'pole' varieties. The names tell the story. Bush beans don't need support. Pole beans need something to climb on -- a trellis, netting, poles, teepees, whatever.

Tomatoes aren't difficult. :-) They *do* like lots of sun and heat, regular watering, and some fertilizer. I can't tell you what to "expect" of your plants, but I've never grown a tomato plant that didn't produce *some* fruit.

There are garlic experts here who can better answer your question. Garlic is generally planted in the fall or early spring, I believe.

Ermm. Where are you located? Lettuce and sprouts are cool weather crops.
Enjoy your experiments. :-)
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On Sun, 23 May 2004, Frogleg wrote:

Ok, just wanted to make sure I wasn't neglecting some need they had. I can wait. (though I'll still hate buying chives...)

Then I guess I will see!

I have sort of been under the impression that tomatoes, or at least Good Tomatoes, were sort of the holy grail of vegetable gardening. Not necessarily that they are difficult, but they do need ideal conditions, which I don't think I have.

I am in pennsylvania. The garden I made is almost half in shade, half not. So I planted that stuff on the "shady side." Lately the weather here (in case you don't know) has been basically hot and rainy. Everything seems to be doing great though.

Thanks! It's been fun.
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On Sun, 23 May 2004 08:17:57 -0400, David Kotschessa

With me it's dill. $5 for a tiny jar of dried stuff that has all the flavor of grass clippings. Less, in fact.

It sounds as if sun is the vital element you're missing. Perhaps you got the idea that tomatoes are hard to grow because everybody grows 'em and consequently there's a lot of chat about every phase of growth, possible diseases, to de-sucker or not, to cage or stake, etc., etc. Actually, I think this indicates they're *easy* to grow, since everyone's favorite method seems to work. :-)

Good. Note: 'cool weather' doesn't really mean 'shade'. While it *is* cooler in the shade (unless, like now, the dewpoint is around 75), most of these veg need sun, too. But if shade is working for you, feel free to let the plants keep growing. :-)
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On Sun, 23 May 2004, Frogleg wrote:

Yeah, I have dill that came with a spice rack with a bunch of similarly tasteless spices with it. I haven't even used it yet. Been wanting to make stuffed grape leaves though... (would have to buy leaves..that's another post!)

Maybe that's it. I was in the gardening section of a local bookstore and I saw a book dedicated to tomatoes. That kind of got me worried!

I really would like to somehow take inventory of just how much light I'm getting where. Some parts get direct light, others don't. I'm thinking maybe of going out one day and checking it every hour and making a note where the light is... still thinking about it. anyway, something is certainly growing!
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On Sun, 23 May 2004 16:11:32 -0400, David Kotschessa

Nahh. Just guess like everyone else. :-) Actually, I expect this would be an excellent idea. We often think of a spot as 'sunny' because it enjoys a lot of indirect light, or at least isn't in deep shade most of the time. 'Sunny', to plants, isn't just light enough to read by.
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Piggy backing here.. It's been too cool to plant squash or melons in my area zone 6.. it was really warm extra hot eve, then cooled down, but still too cool at night to get the ground warm enough and consistently warm to not just rot.
Try it again now. Although, if you like sweet dry flesh try butter Cup squash, in my opinion they're MUCH better than butternuts, unless you're fond of that off whang they have ;-) Buttercups are actually sweet enough to eat with just salt if your season is long enough and they get RIPE. They like SUN, and a lighter well fertilized soil, that's well watered, but well drained .. hence the lighter soils. Melons will grow well and actually get sweet in my "used to be a driveway" area, it's sandy/gravely and hot. It isn't watered by flood irrigation so I have to hose the area, but it also means I can control the moisture and know when to withdraw it to get the stuff to ripen. If they were in the main part of the garden, they'd be insipid and rot so sow again, pick your warmest area.
Although it seems your area is humid too.. talk to others around there who grow what you want to grow for advice.

They're growing roots.. they'll take off eventually if you don't have them over in too dark of shade. 6 hour minimum sun is the usual key for most garden plants. Might be able to grow some lettuce in the area that's slightly less sun but is bright shade when it gets HOT.

Do you know what you planted? bush or pole?

Some cherry tomatoes are so prolific that if you don't pick up most of the fallen fruit, they'll come up like a matt the next year! ;-)

Takes a couple years to form a head. First year they grow into a "round" the round splits up into a "head" of garlic with cloves. But, I don't know what it will do over this season..Probably form a smaller "round" than if it was planted in the fall.

yup there are lots of garlic folks here.

If you are bothered by slugs in your area, plant your lettuce in containers, and not in patches or rows like they often tell you.. as the slugs love it and plants often don't grow well from being too crowded. I start them and set them out as transplants. Or just drop 2 or 3 seeds in an area, thin out the weaker plants. That makes for nice big lettuce heads (be they loose head or crisp head etc) like you'd buy in the store, rather than scraggly leaves infested with more dirt and slug stuff and worm stuff that's too dirty to mess with, which is what I always ended up with until I started using newspaper rings in containers and dropping a seed into a few, and then as soon as they got a leaf or two, I'd just pop them in here and there. I was mighty impressed with the results, plus they were picture perfect if I weeded them a couple times like I should ;-) Very pretty when they're reds and speckled and pale greens growing with one another. So pretty, hated to eat 'em. But I did! and they were GOOD!
Just avoid overcrowding, particularly if you're in a humid area, air movement is as important as the sun in those conditions.
Zone 6 in Idaho is a whole lot different than Zone 6 in Mississippi or Missouri.. can't remember which state that is there, or Zone 6 in Boston. Boise is in a High Desert area, our humidity is low, rainfall is low, so we have to water a lot more than someone in an area where there is frequent rainfall, and where the humidity is higher. Also, our winters are dryer than Boston, and probably most any area east of the rockies. Our soil is more alkaline as a general rule, and I always wondered why all those garden books were telling me to Lime my soil! LOL NOT!! We need some acid stuff in our compost so the advice I'd read to NEVER put oak leaves in my compost because they are too acid, so I figured for me..they would be excellent, too bad there aren't any growing nearby! LOL
Have fun with your garden!!
Janice
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I'm also new to sfg this year, and like you, I won't be terribly upset if things fail. I'm basically trying to see what I can & can't get away with in a 4'x8' bed. From your description of weather in PA that's "basically hot and rainy", it sounds like you're not too far from me, so I'd be curious to hear how your sfg fairs over the course of the season. Do you have Mel's book?
My bed is mostly in sun all day, although one end gets shade in the middle of the day. So far I've sown swiss chard, carrots, cukes, cantalope, wax beans (bush variety), limas, okra, corn, and 1 squash. Everything's coming up fine except for the squash, which I'm going to re-sow. I also planted a hot pepper, basil, parsley, and 2 cherry tomatoes, which I'm planning on vining. These things are also doing quite well. At some point in late summer, I want to try sowing some broccoli, peas, and spinach for fall crops, although these will have to go in squares in which the summer crops are finished.
I didn't put any bush tomatoes in because I wanted to try as many different crops as possible. So my plum tomatoes (along with bell peppers) are in pots. I'm also trying the upside-down-tomato-in-a-bucket trick with an heirloom variety ("Hillbilly").
My biggest concern has been keeping the bunnies away from the seedlings. I ordered some fermented salmon from Coast of Maine, and it's so stinky it'll keep anything away, including nosy neighbors! Between that and letting my cats out while I'm home, I've not seen the first nibble.
Well, good luck, and enjoy!
Jacqueline Carmichaels PA

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On Sun, 23 May 2004, Jacqueline wrote:

Not yet. Would you believe my credit is so bad I can't get a library card? :) Actually I have to update my driver's license with my current address, or they won't give me one. Silly. But I'm trying not to BUY anymore books. Soon!

Yes, my squash hasn't done squat either. I just planted some seeds from one that I bought.

Oh, I haven't heard of that trick. I bought a tomato cage at franks for $2.00 so it's not much of a big deal.

So far I have been lucky with animals. I am planning on creating an area with some catnip and oat grass and such to distract the local cats (actually my landlord's cats) from my garden.

Thanks! I'm near philly, so I guess you're about 300 miles from me, but same lattitude? Does that matter? oh well, keep me posted, climates shouldn't be that different. :)
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On Sun, 23 May 2004 12:37:35 -0400, David Kotschessa

You *should* update your license, but libraries will often accept 'official' mail (utility bill, for example) as proof of residence.
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Well, David, I am a SFG instructor here in San Luis Obispo, CA, and I would like to respond to your post. I have been practiciing SFG since the book came out in 1981, and have become a certified instructor, trained by Mel.
First of all, it is not usually a good idea to use seeds from produce you get at a grocery store. Most of those are going to be for commercial varieties, which may be hybrids, or may have some sort of condition that is normally controlled by chemicals on the farm. For instance, there may be a blight of some sort that affects a particular tomato plant, but it may be able to provide fruit for a limited time before it is destroyed. You should purchase or trade seeds that are certified to be quality, such as the ones you buy in your nursery. Also, they may not have the flavor of home grown, such as iceberg lettuce, which is grown in giant size commercially, but has much more flavor in home varieties. Therefore, I would not worry about squash seeds, however, once you have established plants, save the seeds from those plants. You should dry the squash seeds prior to planting.
Mel has made many changes to his system, including the string. He found that the string was not as strong a placement incentive, so now he recommends using slats for dividers. 4' lattice strips or venetian blinds, etc., make a find divider, and you wont have the nails sticking up from your string. Also, once the string breaks, you have to replace it. I suggest you try the lattice. It is also more attractive, and will get you attention from everyone that sees it. It will set you apart as a SFGardener, rather than just a box gardener lol.
Your chives may not be responding well because of nourishment. What compost did you use? You should use a blend of composts, as each compost is simply the byproduct of an industry. Manure compost is a byproduct of dairies, wood chip compost is a byproduct of the lumber industry, chicken compost a byproduct of the mushroom growers, rice hull compost from Uncle Ben lol. You get the idea. You want a green compost, animal waste compost (not domestic animals), and plant compost such as kitchen scraps (no meat, dairy, or bakery goods). Don't use sludge, either, nor compost produced by your city. There is no telling what may be in that pile lol.
You do not need cages for the beans, they should support themselves, but you can use stakes and tie them to the stakes, if you like. Just use a string to loosely fasten them, but you should be okay without it. Cherry tomatoes should be very hardy and easy to grow, and be aware that if you have any other tomatoes in the area, they will be germinated by the cherry tomato plant, and may produce smaller fruit. Apparently, the pollen of the cherry tomato will be dominant. Again, with the elephant garlic, you can't be sure you will get anything, but planting cloves is the right way to do it. Once it gets going, you'll be able to figure it out lol. I would plant 4 per square foot, but no more than 9.
Lastly, for the other squares, I recommend greens, like lettuce, or maybe radishes and carrots. You can use companion planting, as well, if you want to grow some radishes and spinach etc.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes...

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