Sunday, March 29, 2009

Third salad

Another salad for lunch today - 2 romaine, 3 spinach and some onion tops. All three of these veggies began inside and were planted in the sq foot garden cold frame. The salad was delicious. Now that a bunch of stuff is popping up, I am more willing to harvest my meager little seedlings.

What is doing well?
  1. Beets in the planter are doing excellent. The beet leaves which I have harvested twice already, are big and vibrant. If I would have taken the time to check on them this afternoon, I certainly could have had a bigger salad.
  2. Aspargus - We counted 21 spears poking up now. The largest is about 4 inches tall. I bet we will have our first aspargus harvest next weekend. They are growing about 4 inches a week.
  3. Spinach - all over the garden little spinach seedlings are emerging. The seedlings that are planted in the cold frames are growing quite well and are about 8 leaves per plant.
  4. Peas in the sun garden - These are popping up everywhere and very thick. These peas are kicking the holy crap out of the peas that I planted in the cold frame. Those are really spotty despite the fact that I planted about 100 of them, I bet only 20 seeds have emerged yet.
After my harvest, I replaced the lettuce and spinach with 4 small seed savers lettuce seedlings. These were started on 3/9. They aren't huge, but big enough to survive I hope. I also replaced a dead geranium in sq foot garden #2 with 4 swiss chard seedlings.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Barrels and Drawings

Yesterday was compost day and today was rain barrel day. I finally got the two remaining rain barrels water tight and attached to the gutters. I also completed one barrell to deliver to a work friend of mine. We are now rolling with 4 working rain barrels and 230 gallons of water. I still have one more barrel to work up to complete my barrel collection. On my downspouts I use a device called a water saver (clean air gardening $30). It diverts the water from the downspout to the barrel through a rubber hose. When the barrel is full, the backpressure in the hose sends the water back down the downspout. It is about an hour job for each downspout requiring some hacksawing and tin snipping, but for the most part is pretty easy. The extra work is worth it because the water saver automatically shuts off the water flow to the barrel when it is full. That little device saves me the pain of hooking up some silly looking overflow devices on each barrel and cursing an swearing every time I trip over them or they leak. The water saver is about $30. I'd recommend it.

That double stacked barrel in one of the photos is a new experiment for us this year. These barrels are closest to our main garden, so it saves us a long walk with the watering can. It puts almost 100 gallons right where we need it. There is also the hope that the additional height provided by the top barrel will give me enough pressure to water with a hose. We'll see if it works. I tested the water-sharing mechanism today and it worked fine. The bottom spigot on the top barrel is connected to a top spigot on the bottom barrel by a laundry hose. Both these spigots are continually left open. The water enters the top barrel from the downspout. When it reaches the height of the spigot, it drains into the bottom barrel. When the water in the bottom barrel reaches the height of it's top spigot, the water has no where to go, so it doesn't drain down and fills the top barrel. Pretty neat little system. I don't think I invented it - I'm sure I read about it on-line somewhere.

The other photo here is Sarah's drawing of our back yard. She is teaching herself to do landscape art drawings. They are very helpful to our planning and also quite pretty. I have always liked architectural drawings and pencil sketches as art. These drawings have a little of both.

Friday, March 27, 2009


You got yourself a whole mess of compost pictures and videos here today. It was a nice afternoon , so I cut out of work a little early and headed home to play in the dirt. Quinn and I stirred, turned, chopped and piled the compost. It was absolutely amazing. All the books told me not to use leaves and not to use wood chips in my compost. Well this pile is just about nothing but leaves and wood chips - layered with mushroom manure. Let me tell you it couldn't have been cooking hotter. Steam was just cascading off the pile as I dug and turned it. The whole pile looks beautiful. Keep in mind this contains an entire winter's worth of cardboard boxes, paper bags, rope, banana peels, avacodo cores, apple cores, jimmy johns cups, and even two "compostable plastic cups" (see photo). Just about everything was broken down. Even the compostable cups are well on their way to decomposition.

This isn't my first foray into composting. I have had a couple smallish piles for years, but these two 25 cubic foot bins are an operation unlike any that I have ever had before. First off the quantity is astounding. After my work this afternoon, I have one completely full bin. Inside this bin are 2 full truck loads of wood chips, two full truckloads of mushroom manure, an entire fall worth of raked leaves and an entire winter worth of kitchen scraps. That is an amazingly big pile! I actually think we are going to have enough compost this year. The other astounding thing is how quickly this stuff is breaking down. Keep in mind these piles sat dormant and frozen for most of the winter. Only three weeks ago on 3/7 did I activate them for the first time by layering in manure and stirring them. Now on 3/27 they are just burning up, and breaking down. It is utterly amazing. I said in my last post that I thought we would have compost by June. Well that seems ridiculous to say today. Heck we can start pulling compost out of this finished pile in a couple weeks if we need it. All we need to do is wait for it to cool down a little. Check out the video above of the steam coming off of the compost pile.

I did some planting today also...
  1. buttercrunch lettuce seeds approx 30 in chimney garden
  2. romaine lettuce seeds approx 30 in traditional cold frame
  3. spinach - approx 15 transplants, and 10 seeds in cold frame
  4. 5 red cabbage transplants in cold frame
  5. 3 buttercrunch lettuce transplants in cold frame
  6. 2 brocolli transplants in cold frame
  7. 14 onion transplants in cold frame
I also fashioned ribs for the cold frame out of some 1/2 pvc piping that I had laying around the basement. These ribs should help allow the rain to cascade off of the cold frame and not puddle. They also give the plants a little more room as they start to grow.

A little later in the evening I did some indoor seed starting...
  1. 12 california wonder (shumway 2008) bell peppers
  2. 12 serano hot peppers
  3. about 10 aneheim chili peppers started in wet paper towel and plastic bag to see if they have any life to them at all.
  4. transplanted one delphium to a larger pot
  5. transplanted one foxglove to a larger pot


The plastic drop cloth approach to making lids to the cold frames isn't very good. They don't hold up very well to the rain. The water pools on them and smushes the plants. We had a lot of rain the last couple of days. I might have lost some broccoli, lettuce and onions because of the smushing. When I am off for the baby this summer, I am going to build some permanent lids for the big frame.

The rain barrels are full. Both compost piles are letting off a ton of heat. That mushroom manure certainly is the key to getting those things fired up.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Second Harvest

We had another small salad for dinner last night. I harvested 2 small heads of romaine, three heads of spinach, about 5 beet leaves, and about 6 radish seedlings. The romaine harvest cleared out one of my squares in sq ft garden #1 (cold frame). I replanted this square with 5 more lettuce seeds (seed savers variety). The spinach harvest kicked our fall spinach that successfully wintered over. That was a nice little surprise. We certainly could not have made these two early salads without the spinach. You couldn't even taste the radishes.

The compost is hot, hot, hot. I can't wait to really dig in and turn it this weekend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


A picture says a thousand words...

I couldn't sleep last night (so excited about asparagus), so I woke at 4:30 and worked the compost piles. In the new "green" pile, I layered the leaves and twigs "brown carbon" with a fresh pile of mushroom manure "nitrogen". I got this pile about 16 inches high. Until now it hadn't had enough nitro to activate it and get it burning. I hope this mornings activity will fire it up. I also began the process of turning the older pile over onto the new pile. This older pile isn't ancient by any stretch. It has only been burning for about a month - a cold month at that. But I did dig down far enough to feel the burn. It was hot enough in the spot I touched to have to quickly pull back my hand. That made me smile. This pile was very, very heavy with twigs, leaves and wood chips. I did layer it with manure as well, but I was concerned that it might not heat up. Once I finish this project, I should have another empty bin and a very, very full hot bin. I'm hoping and guesstimating that I will be able to pull some compost out of this bin in early June. Might not be perfect, but passable.

With harvest already sort of begun, I took a look at our freezer a couple of days ago and tried to imagine how the heck we were going to eat all those hot peppers. We still have about 3 large freezer bags full of them. They are too hot for standard cooking. I've put them on pizzas and in soups and it really overpowers everything. The best way we have found to eat them is to can them with vinegar. That softens them up and gives them a really nice flavor. The vinegar thing got me thinking - maybe I could turn them into hot sauce. I cooked a bag of them with vinegar on the stove top for about 10 minutes. Then I put them in the blender with a little water. You know what? It looks like hot sauce. It tastes like hot sauce. I made some pretty good hot sauce! By the way - I eat hot sauce on everything. Remember the character from Forrest Gump who ate shrimp with every meal? Shrimp scampi, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp po boy? Well that is me with hot sauce.

Pepper Frustration

Let's talk about indoor seeds for a little bit. For the most part my indoor seed starting has been going well this year. I'm not going to talk so much about the stuff that is doing well - instead here are the things that are not doing so well...
  1. Peppers - I did indoor plantings of various peppers on 3/9 & 3/11. I did about 30 seeds total. I planted 3 kinds (California Bell, Serano Hot, and Aneheim Chili). All these seeds were at least one year old and the Seranos and Aneheims were two years old. So far I only have 6 seedlings spouting. They are all from the 3/9 planting. The best I can tell is five of the six sprouted seedlings are California wonder Bells from Shumway 2008 seeds). I may have one serano chili (2007 seeds) up as well. I read this morning that peppers sometimes take 21 days to germinate and that they need heat. Well it hasn't been 21 days yet, and it certainly ain't hot in our house! I'll give it another couple of weeks before I pull out the seed starter mix again and fire up another batch. If I do, I'll likely only use 2008 seeds, which will limit my variety this year.
  2. Delphinium and foxglove - I had to go back to the old three ring binder to figure out when I started these seeds. Looks like these were a new years project - started in a wet paper towel on Jan 3rd. Here it is almost three months later and the results are pretty disappointing. The delphs are about 1 inch to 2 inches tall with three leaves min each, but they are yellow and certainly aren't thriving. The foxglove are even worse. None are bigger than an 1/8 inch and although they have 4 leaves they are so small you can barely see them. These seeds have been growing under grow lights in an east facing window sill forever. Last year we tried delphs as well and had only one successful transplant. It went in the ground at about the same size as our current batch. Sarah thinks she saw it yesterday - it is still alive.
  3. Moulin Rouge sunflower and leeks - These were both planted on 3/9. The other sunflowers that were planted the same day are about 3 inches tall already. I got these seeds in an exchange, so am not sure how old they are or weather they were saved or not. The leeks I also got in an exchange, but they came in packet from seed savers. I think they were 2008 seeds. I think they will eventually emerge. I've never grown leeks before so I don't know how long I should expect them to take to germinate.
  4. impatiens - besides being super small, only about 1/2 of these seeds germinated. We planted two and 1/2 flats - probably about 200 seeds total and I think we'll be lucky to wind up with 75 plants. Right now they are about 1/2 tall. I started these on feb 2nd. Last year we had limited success with these as well. We transplanted them to their garden homes at no bigger than 1/4 inch, but all those that lived turned into fine mature impatiens with tons of flowers. So even if these are painful to watch struggle inside - I think it is worth it. Two $2 seed packs will give me 75 fine annuals. That is much cheaper than nursery stock.
I planted approx 50 red onion transplants from Chapons yesterday evening. It is 25 degrees again this morning, and these aren't protected by a cold frame. I hope they made it through the night. I am having my struggles with onions so far this year.

Today's photos are various pea planting paraphanalia - including the fabulous tepee. One is also a shot of the onions I planted.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Well I did it. I ventured out into the 20 degree chill, opened the cold frames and harvested a salad for later today. It was 30 degrees inside the frames and the leaves were borderline frozen when I harvested them. I hope that doesn't ruin my plan for a nice taste of summer on the first weekend of spring. Anyway I harvested...

1. Chives from a six inch pot inside on a southern windowsill
2. Beet leaves from a 12 inch pot that has 5 beets in it. I took most of the usable leaves leaving about three young leaves per beet
3. Spinach - two full plants left over from a fall planting. They are small, but much bigger than any of the seedlings I have planted this year.
4. Romaine Lettuce - two small heads from seedlings started inside in Jan and planted outside in early March.

I can probably build two more salads of the same size and ingredients before I have wiped out the first seedlings of my succession plan. At this point it is hard for me to imagine the second wave of lettuce/spinach/beets will be harvestable (I love making up words) when the first wave is spent. There will probably be a long lapse between this salad and the next.

I will finish out the salad with some dried cranberries and nuts of some variety. Can't wait.

PM update: The salad turned out great. We each had a small one.

Later in the day we did some minor garden duties. Mainly I hauled two truckloads of rock (from the torn out herb planter) to my friend's "clean fill wanted pile". Then I built two Pea climbing apparati. One in the sun garden and one in the tepee garden. I used natural logs from various trees that I have cut down over the years. In each section, I built a frame with two posts and a crossbar. The peas will climb twine hanging down from the cross bar. Another pea popped up in the sun garden - makes two total. We haven't had any material rain yet this spring, so I filled the compost tea barrel with water from the hose.

Sarah spent a good deal of time outside while I watched the Pitt game. She helped load the rocks and watered all our new grass and various plantings.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Onions and Sidewalks

Today started late as it was 20 degrees at 8 am this morning. So we went to Chapons (Our favorite Pittsburgh nursery) early and worked late. At Chapons we bought some Walla Walla sweet and Red onion transplants (100 total), and some shallots. Both the shallots and the onions were super cheap at 1.99. Chapons also sells seed potatoes, but we didn't buy any. We also got some Greensand to add potasium to the soil. At noon I got to work. I began by doing some planting. In Sq. foot garden #2 I planted five more squares...
  1. 15 shallots from Chapons
  2. 9 spinach seeds
  3. 16 green onion seeds
  4. 5 Romaine seeds
  5. 9 beet seeds
The most noteworthy planting was the beets. I removed all the soil from the square to a depth of about 18 inches. Then I loosened the bottom soil with a fork. I added back the top soil/compost mix by screening it through our wire lath screen. The beets should love this nice soft, loose home. The rhubarb and geranium are just about dead. If I wind up tossing those two, I have 4 squares left to plant in this garden.

Next I planted sugar snap peas. I planted these in the tepee garden. I worked the soil (it looks nice) and innoculated the peas. I bet I put about 100 in the ground. I put them all along the back of the tepee and along the house wall below the window. There are three rows covering about 15 linear feet total. If I am good about my climbing apparatus we may even be able to pick peas from inside the house by opening up the window.

My last planting for the day was to put 50 of the walla walla transplants in the sun garden. I have to admit I was getting a little worried about my seed onion transplants. They are so darn skinny, that I am losing confidence that they will amount to anything more than green onions for us. The 4 bucks spent on onion transplants was hopefully well-spent. Although this went against one of my garden goals (Buy no nursery stock).

When Sarah joined me outside (no kids - nap time and quiet play inside - that was nice), we removed the flagstone sidewalk leading to the barbeque. I pulled up the stones and Sarah spread new soil and sod. I also repositioned the flagstone sidewalk along the herb garden. I gave it a steeper curve and moved it out a couple of feet to give us more herb garden. This also gets my head a little farther away from the wisteria, which had become a headknocker for me. By consolidating and reusing the best flagstones, the remaining path has a much cleaner look. We will also really enjoy the extra herb space. This new and improved herb garden really looks nice.

A couple notables: I saw the first pea sprout poking through in the sun garden. That pea was planted exactly 14 days ago on 3/7. Wow that was fast. Those peas are not likely to be much behind the peas that were planted in the cold frame. But I need to remember that the ones planted in the sq. foot garden cold frame are a different variety. That may account for some of the difference.

Friday, March 20, 2009

No subject

I did a little digging in the dirt yesterday when I got home from work. I cleared a path in the sun garden and tossed a few green manure seeds on the other paths. The green manure that I planted a couple of weeks ago is coming up on the paths pretty well. I hope that works well this year. I am excited to try something new and different with my garden paths, and the nitrogen in the soil and compost pile will be much appreciated. It will be nice to have the whole garden green. My big concern is that the clover and alfalfa won't hold up well to the foot traffic, and will just become a sloppy green wet mess - we'll see.

The inside seeds that we started on 3/11 are now popping up pretty consistently. I saw the first of the black romas hit the surface yesterday. Sarah's cumin and cupids dart also surfaced. The sunflowers we planted on 3/10 are doing well, except the moulin rouge ones that we got from Ryan and Kate. No sign of those yet. I hope those do well. A huge splash of red poking out of the garden would just be so exciting. Even the kids sunflowers that they just planted last week at church are starting to surface.

I am thinking about harvesting this weekend. I could nab enough lettuce, beet leaves and spinach for a small salad. I am struggling with my urge to begin harvesting or to let stuff grow longer. I keep telling myself that I should not protect these young plants, I have done a good job of planting a whole bunch in succession, so I should feel no guilt with an early harvest. When the first 8 lettuce and 9 spinach and 5 beets are all harvested (probably about 6 small salads later), there should be plenty ready to take their place on my dinner table. Anyway - the fact that I'm even thinking about a mid-March harvest is pretty amazing. We'll see this weekend whether I actually had the cohones to harvest my little seedlings.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


That little green thing in the center of this photo is our first pea. I saw about 4 of them popping up in the square foot cold frame this morning. These were planted on 2/28. That is 19 days to sprout. Last year I planted our first peas on 3/20 and noticed the first sprout on 4/11 (22 days). So we are almost a full month earlier to first sprout. Hopefully that will translate into a full month more of tasty peas - one of our favorite garden vegetables. I also noticed beets popping up in the sq foot garden cold frame. These seeds were planted on 3/1, so 18 days for them. Radishes are popping up everywhere - including several places in our sun garden. This is the first growth in the sun garden. Now that we have peas coming up, I may do another small planting of them this weekend. I also need to establish some sort of climbing apparatus for them. The broccoli and lettuce I transplanted yesterday seems to have survived the heat (70 and sunny yesterday) and is doing fairly well. It rained last night, but not much - the rain barrels are still only about 1/3 full.

Rain Barrel Factory

I have a dilemma. All my gardening friends know I have rain barrels and they want one. I can find them for free in the river and I am happy to turn this riverbank garbage into something usable. The dilemma is that I am not very good at making them. The barrel in this photo is one of perhaps two barrels that I have successfully made that don't leak. I have always tried the easy and cheap approach to rain barrel construction - drill one hole, screw in a hose bib, caulk heavily with silicone. I think this approach can work if the hole is the perfect size, but as time and use of the rain barrel adds up, the hose bib sometimes loosens and the barrel begins to leak. I have tried every hardware store to find a 3/4 pvc hose bib thinking I would glue it with PVC cement. I can't find one anywhere. Last week I bought $15 of silly little fittings and stuff from Eilers in the hope of jimmy rigging a pvc bib. I think I'm going to return them. Too many fittings cost too much, look too silly and would probably leak anyway. The one thing I think I may have to do to ensure a good tight fit is to put some rubber washers and nuts on the inside of the barrel. The only way to do that is to be able to reach down in. The only way to do that is to cut a hole in the top. That complicates everything. Now we have to worry about screens and drowning critters and babies. I'll keep searching the internet. Some internet entreprenuer has a magic elixir somewhere, I just know it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Foggy Bottom Boys

Besides being the single best name of a band in the history of the world, that title does a pretty good job of describing this morning. It is about 35 with a heavy, heavy fog. You feel it when you breathe. I have had a flat of broccoli and lettuce hardening off in the traditional cold frame for about a week. This morning I decided to plant some of it. I removed some old, spent kale, worked the soil with my deep tined fork (best gardening tool ever invented), added about 4 buckets of compost and a scoop of bone meal. Then I planted 15 broccoli and about 10 buttercrunch lettuce. The broc are about 12 inches apart and the lettuce I just scattered in between. These seedlings were started indoors 2/24. They are about 3 inches tall. The roots were good - full, but not yet being hampered by the small six packs. I watered them with compost tea.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What a great weekend

It often happens when Sarah and I
are chatting someone up about how much we love gardening - they ask us "how much time do you spend out there?" We are always temped to answer "not much." Well that would be a lie. I think I logged at least 14 hours this weekend. But boy was it fun. It is so great to have the whole family outside again.

Today I stayed away from the seed packets (for the most part). Before church I took about 40 minutes to attack a weedy section between the two wall gardens along our steps leading up to the house. This section is about 20 inches wide and has never been planted. It is a weed factory. My plan this year is to plant it with a couple rows of that corn that gets to be 9 feet tall. It will look cool from the street and will be a visual and actual fence keeping us from falling off the wall. I weeded the heck out of it, scraped weedy roots out with the big digging fork and spread about 5 buckets each of garden soil and compost. The corn will go in the ground in about a month, so this should be great by then.

We even gardened a little at church this morning. We brought sunflower seeds and planted little pots with the kids at the nursery.

After church we spent the whole rest of the day in the yard as a family. I worked on some deferred garden prep projects. I stayed away from the soil, so I wouldn't be tempted to sow seeds. I am trying to keep to my succession planting plans, which require smaller plantings every couple of weeks. Yesterday's planting is enough for a while. Instead of planting, I attacked the raised herb garden at the edge of porch that Sarah and I have always wanted to tear out.

Next up was the trellis work on the porch for the wisteria. Our wisteria is heading into year #3. We have never had a real plan for it - other than we were looking for it to create some privacy for us. With the carport gone, I had some free trellis from the former grape arbor. I used three sections of trellis to close in two "walls" of our porch. The South wall, which faces some weedy scrubby unclaimed space between our yard and our neighbors, will now be hidden. We also got some privacy screen on 1/2 of the east wall. This is an important screen because it is right where we eat our meals out in the summer, and shields us from our neighbor to the east. Both Sarah and I are super excited about these screens. The porch has always been such a missed opportunity for us. I think these trellis and this more mature wisteria have us heading in the right direction.

We had some more seeds pop up today. Beets are now up in traditional cold frame. Green onions popped up in sq foot garden #1, as did brocoli #2.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

To Do List

It's Saturday and the weather is promising (30 degrees now - 51 high), so today will certainly spent digging in the dirt. It is too early right now to go out and wake up the neighborhood, so here is my to-do list for the day.

  1. Build second sq. foot garden. The wood is cut, I just need to fit it together and fill it up with dirt.
  2. Work soil in West half of sun garden. Make paths, add compost, remove green manure.
  3. Plant potatoes. They came in the mail last week. I need to get them in the ground.
  4. Prep soil in traditional cold frame, bring out various seedlings for hardening off - Pansys, mesculin pots, cabbage, brocolli flat
  5. Plant various in cold frame and sq. foot garden #2.
I could say a million more things that are on my garden mind, but realistically I think that is all I can likely accomplish today. I'll check back this evening to see how I did.

End of day update: Well I actually did everything on this list - whopee!

Sq foot garden #2 was the first thing I worked on. It is 4ft by 6ft just like its brother. I conditioned the soil with bone meal, lime and compost. I planted all the squares but 7. Here is what I put in it.
  1. Leek seed - one square
  2. Spinach 18 seeds - two squares
  3. Swiss chard - 9 seeds - one square
  4. Seed saver lettuce - 5 seeds - one square
  5. Beets - 18 seeds - two squares
  6. Buttercrunch lettuce - 5 seeds - one square
  7. Radish - 16 seeds - one square
  8. Broccoli - 2 seeds - two squares
  9. Carrots - 16 seeds - one square
  10. Green onions - 16 seeds - one square
  11. Red Cabbage - 2 seeds - two squares
  12. Rhubarb seedling
  13. Geranium seedling
The rhubarb seedling appeared to die almost immediately. Guess they aren't fans of cooler weather. I do not intend to cover this garden in plastic, since I didn't do many seedlings. I am fully prepared to lose the rhubarb and geranium.

Next project was in the sun garden. I also mixed bone meal in this section. I had previously mixed lime and compost. I created the main sunken path at approx 24 inches wide and one side path (north one). This gave me access to the north west raised bed for my potatoes. To prepared the soil, I took the dirt that I removed from the sunken path and threw it on top of the raised be area which had a smattering of green manure and compost laying on top. I worked it modestly with my fork and rake, but mostly just pulled large chunky stuff and green manure out with my hands. Then I dug 25 8 inch holes. I put the potatoe chunks in the bottom of the holes and buried them with about 2 inches of dirt. These were red norland potatoes from shumway. The plan is to continue to bury them as the sprouts break the surface. One book I read last night says I should spread one inch of chunky compost on top of them and then mulch them with apprx 6 inches of straw. I may do just that - if I can find straw around here. I am told to expect between 6 and 8 potatoes per plant, and that they can be eaten at almost any stage of maturity, since they are red.

The soil in the far west side of this section (grew corn and a fall planting of peas last year) looked absolutely wonderful. The rest of the soil was pretty rocky (from my paths last year), and had big sticks and chunks from my not so finished compost. But for the most part it looked nice and loamy. I did have to pull out another couple of concrete block chunks left over from the pond that I tore out last year.

Cold frame update: While I was prepping the soil in the sun garden, I transplanted 3 spinach plants that had survived the winter and are starting to green back up. I put them in the traditional cold frame and hit them with compost tea. I also watered everything that had previously been planted with compost tea. It is a nice light brown color coming out of the rain barrell. I wonder if I need to change the bag of compost at the bottom of the barrel from time to time.

Seed update: I saw a lot of new seedlings popping up today. SQ foot garden #1 now has the radishes growing in full force. I also saw two new spinach seedlings and one brocoli seedling popping up. I may have seen some buttercrunch lettuce popping up, but this may be a weed - still too soon to tell. In the traditional cold frame the spinach seeds are turning to seedlings, I saw some pak choi hit the surface, and I may have seen some kale. The geraniums I planted as seedlings in this cold frame about a week ago are certainly dead.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's Alive

Yesterday we finally had some seeds sprout outside and in the cold frames. The radishes that were planted on 2/27 outside (chimney garden, no cold frame) sprouted. I saw two of them poke above the surface. I also saw one of them sprout inside the sq foot garden cold frame (planted 3/2). Inside the traditional cold frame, we have about 4 spinach sprouts poking up (planted 2/26). As you might imagine, I am very excited for these developments. That is about two weeks from seed to sprout for radishes and spinach. I took a look at last year's book just for comparison. Our fist outdoor planting last year was on 3/20 (no cold frame - peas, spinach and lettuce). It took last year's peas 22 days to poke above the surface. The lettuce and spinach came up a little sooner than that, but I didn't mark the exact day.

One of my garden goals this year was to extend the season. I think I am making strides in that area. Here are some random comparisons 2008 to 2009.

  • Peas - Planted 3/20/08 vs 3/2/09
  • Spinach - Planted seeds 3/20/08 vs. seedlings (cold frame) 3/1/09 these were started indoors as seeds on 1/24. Direct sowed seeds (cold frame) 2/26/09
  • Radishes - Only fall crop last year vs. 2/26
  • Lettuce - 3/20/08 vs seedlings (cold frame) 3/1/09 and seeds 3/1/09
  • Beets - 4/11/08 vs 1/11/09 - I started beet seeds inside in January, transplanted them to a large planter in mid February, and moved them outside under the traditional cold frame on March 6th. They are absolutely thriving.
  • Carrots - same as beets. The only difference is that a little critter played around with them and killed about 1/3 of the pot.
  • Green Onions - 4/11/08 vs 3/7/09
  • Broccoli - 4/6/08 (lowes nursery stock) vs. 3/6/09
  • Cabbage, Pak Choi, onions are all new spring plantings for us. We either didn't grow these in the past of did them only as fall crops.
  • Tomatoes, Peppers 4/11/08 (seed starting indoors) vs. 3/9/09 (indoors)

So basically across the board I am one month earlier on average with my plantings. If it all works that is certainly successful season extension - thanks to the cold-frames. Much of the thanks also must go to the fact that we have so many more planting areas ready to go this year. Last year we didn't have any of the soil "shovel ready" to steal a recovery funds phrase.

Another goal this year is successful succession planting to keep the harvest slow and steady. One example of my attempt at this is by looking at my various spinach plantings.

Spinach - first seeds started indoors 1/24. Seedlings planted in cold frame 3/1/09. Seeds started in cold frame 3/1/09. Seeds started in sun garden 3/7/09. Another indoor planting started 2/24. Another cold frame row of seeds started 2/26. So this is a lot of spinach planted both as seeds and seedlings, in various places at various times in small little plantings. I'll probably just get in the habit of dropping a few seeds in the ground every weekend throughout the season. As spring turns to summer, I'll make my plantings in the shade of other vegetables or intersperse them with some flower plantings on the north side of the house. My fall plantings will be back in the cold frame to gear up for a winter harvest. Spinach is a great crop to succession plant because it can grow in cold weather, doesn't take up much room, can be eaten when still small, and freezes well.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

cooling off

It is 28 degrees at 5:30 am. High supposed to be in the mid 30s today. Both cold frames yesterday were at 60 when I came home from work. There are some little seedlings popping up in the cold frames, but so far nothing can be confirmed as a seed. Most of them look like weeds. It is possible that I saw two radish seedlings appear in a patch that I sowed outside on 2/26. I'll confirm later. While the cold frames have kept stuff alive (for the most part), things certainly aren't moving quickly inside of those mini greenhouses. All the seedlings that I planted look basically the same as the day I planted them. There isn't a whole lot of distinguishable new growth - and no new seeds. I think the real value of a cold frame is in extending the harvest in the fall and winter by covering already mature plants. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations from the late winter/early spring plantings.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Team Stacy

This morning I got a little company for my seed starting. Sarah and I rose at 5:20 and worked together on our little project. She did flowers. I did veggies. I even invited Aimee Mann and Norah Jones into my Pandora music mix to make her stay:) Here is what we did...

  1. 40 black plum romas (shumway 2008 seeds)
  2. 18 bell pepper carnival mix (burpee 2007 seeds) - don't save these - likely hybrid
  3. 12 grape tomatoes (origin unknown) These are seeds we saved from last year
  4. 6 brocolli (shumway 2009)
  5. 12 serano chili peppers (2007 ferry morse) - don't save these - likely hybrid. I think these are the ones that made our wonderful pickled hot peppers last year.
  6. 12 california sweet bell peppers (shumway 2008) - these are our main pepper crop. The ones that are supposed to get huge and red, but always end up green and small.
I also covered the entire cold frame to prep it for a weekend of seed planting and hardening off of various seedlings. I just ended up doing something pretty low tech - stretching plastic over the whole thing and holding it down with weights at one end and wood lath and screws at the other end. I reassembled a little seed starting shelf for one of our south facing windows to accomodate our expanded flats. The one that I had orginally built used termite infested wood scraps from our now defunct carport. Termites in the house - nice job Chad!

Sarah started...

  1. 25 coleus (target 2009)
  2. 6 strawflower (shumway 2009)
  3. 6 sweet basil (burpee 2007)
  4. 12 cilantro (saved from last year - origin unknown)
  5. 2 cleome (saved from Ryan and Kate - origin unknown)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lettuce seeds

I planted two 8 inch pots of mesculan salad mix from Shumway this morning. I used garden soil and planted them indoors. I broadcast seeded them.

It is about 30 degrees outside and each frame is close to 40. Some seed activity has started in the traditional cold frame, but I think it may be weeds. Some critter got into my carrot planter yesterday and messed it all up. Probably killed about 1/3 of this mini crop. Supposed to be cold and rainy today, so I am going to leave everything covered up. I laid a sheet of plastic over the outside geraniums I have going. I brought all the pots inside that I had taken out over the weekend.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sinatra and Seeds

Thanks to the time change, I had a couple quiet hours this morning. I turned Pandora to Frank Sinatra, brewed a big pot of coffee, and started a few seeds indoors. Ryan and Kate, our seed exchange partners gave us some really unique seeds and I was excited to get those started. They order from Seed Savers Exchange, which I have always wanted to try. Their stuff is very unique and none of the seeds are hybrids, so all the seeds can be saved from year to year. Here is what I started this morning...
  1. 4 Moulin Rouge sunflowers - from seed savers - 4 inch pot
  2. 4 Grey Strip sunflowers - from shumway - 4 inch pot
  3. 4 Traditional sunflowers - shumway - 4 inch pot
  4. 4 Leeks - seed savers - 4 inch pot
  5. 48 yellow onions - shumway - 6 packs
  6. 24 lettuce mix - seed savers - 6 packs - I don't have the catalog at my fingertips, but this is a variety mix of seeds from seed savers. The photos of these are wonderful - lots of reds and mixed green and red color variations. Some are leaf and some are head. I will check the catalog later and post the actual varieties. These will offer quite a change from my old standby romaine and buttercrunch.
  7. 6 swiss chard - seed savers - 6 pack. This variety has a bunch of color. Sarah reminded me that Carter absolutely loves Swiss Chard. I am most excited about a fall planting of this in the cold frame to take us through the winter.
  8. 6 California Bell peppers - shumway - 6 pack
  9. 6 Sheboygen Tomatoes - seed savers - 6 pack. These are supposed to be good for hanging baskets.
  10. 6 Silver fir Tomatoes - seed savers - 6 pack. Also good for hanging baskets.

It was 40 outside and the wind was whipping. I covered the cold frames mostly for wind protection.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rain Barrels and Seed exchange

I pulled another barrel out of the river today. This one had washed up on shore at Dori and Laci's house. It is a pretty nice clean blue one. I am also delivering a finished barrel to a friend of mine - Ryan. We are having a little seed exchange party later this afternoon.

I brainstormed some rain barrel strategies with Laci and Sarah this morning. I think the next spigot strategy I am going to try is a 3/4 inch pvc spigot, secured with pvc cement. Laci thinks that the barrels are made from pvc and that the cement will "melt" the spigot and the barrel together. I also want to step up to a 3/4 inch spigot to speed up the water delivery. It takes a long time to fill a watering can with the 1/2 inch spigots.

I am out of PVC cement, and Home Depot (basically the worst store in the world) didn't have any PVC spigots. So instead of the plan I want to try above, I just caulked the heck out of them with silicone and screwed the metal spigots back in. Two of the barrels I am cautiously optimistic will work without leaking. The other two don't have a prayer. The holes in those two are just not clean enough. I need to try something different with those if I want them to work without leaking. I now have two active 60 gallon barrels, which are about 1/2 full with water. I have another ready to go (sun garden), but I need to cut the downspout and install the water saver to activate it. I'll try to go to Eilers tonight and grab some PVC spigots and PVC cleaner and PVC cement. I should also get a matching 3/4 inch drill bit. I have not been able to get clean holes with the jigsaw.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Garden Day!

I have a full load of manure, a compost pile that needs firing, and soil that needs to be worked. It is 50 degrees with a light rain falling. I got to work around 6:30 am. The rain only lasted a couple of minutes. I started in the compost pile. I had previously emptied all the finished compost out of the left pile and it was ready for more. I did my best to build alternating layers carbon (sticks and wood chips) with nitrogen (mushroom manure). Much of the pile was still frozen, so about 8 am. I took a break and moved on to other things.

The other thing I moved on to was the sun garden. We call this area the sun garden because it gets the most sun (obviously). This is year #2 for this plot. Last year we didn't really get it rolling until mid summer for tomatoes and peppers. This year the soil is much, much better, but still not wonderful. It still has a lot of rocks and some clay. The sun garden is approx 16 X 16. My garden plan has me breaking it into 10 - 30 in X 7 foot rows. Today I prepped and began planting 5 of those rows (the east 5). Based on the advice of the author of The Four Season Harvest, I didn't turn the soil this year. Instead I just spread some lime and some compost on top, and raked it in the top couple inches of soil. Then I dug out the paths and spread that soil on top of the planting rows. When I was done I had what looked like raised beds, but really could be described as sunken paths. In those paths, I spread green manure (mix of alfalfa and clover). I used rocks for the paths last year and wasn't really pleased with the results. Here is what I planted in the sun garden today...

  • Row #1 - about 75 peas (snow peas - goliath - shumway). I inoculated them and planted them very, very tight. Took up about 1/3 of the row (left part - this part gets most sun). I set off the peas with a light row of radishes for marking.
  • Row #2 - This is the cabbage family row. I planted 3 cabbage seeds and 3 broccoli seeds. I put them on 12 inch centers, so had lots of space in between. In between I put little lines of green onions, and spinach, which will be long gone when the cabbage and broccoli start crowding the row.
  • Row #3 - This is the root crop row. I did two little plots of carrots ("early bird garden", nantes type - shumway freebies) and beets (early wonder - shumway). I did a really nice job with these plots. I used my deep tined fork to pull out about the top ten inches of soil in a little 20 x 10 inch mini plot. Then I loosened the remaining soil with the fork. Using my new compost screener (built by me, Quinn and Carter), I filled the plots with screened compost, soil and mushroom manure. This planting meduim was light and fine. I can just picture the carrots and beets shooting down through it with ease, making wonderful, long root crops.
  • Row #4 - left blank - I have bush beens planned for this row.
  • Row #5 - This is the onion row. I planted about 30 onion seedlings. Quinn helped.
In the past I would have fully planted these rows. This year, I am really trying to be patient and build a much longer harvest season, and better variety through succession planting. I intend to do smaller plantings every couple of weeks, rather than one huge planting.

After finishing up the planting, I headed back to the compost pile and finished sorting it. I was able to remove 4 wheelbarrows of compost and dump it in the left half of the sun garden, to be worked in the coming weeks. This compost was by no means finished, but I am not a compost snob. I don't mind a few eggshells and chunky sticks in my compost. I have also learned from experience that some of the best and fastest way to break down partially finished compost is to let the soil organisms in the garden take their crack at it. When I was done, the "green bin" was about 3/4 full and the "black gold" bin had about 16 inches of the good stuff. I feel really good about this compost activity today. I fully expect the layering and aerating I did today combined with the rising temps to get both piles fired back up and cooking. I would be shocked if I don't feel some heat coming off those piles tomorrow.

Sarah did some work outside today as well. She turned a small 4x4 section of grass and prepared it for flowers. Over the last two years we have removed several plots of grass in the same manner and are slowing building perennial flower gardens.

No signs of any seeds sprouting anywhere yet. I watered all seeds and seedlings with compost tea. We came in at about 5:30 - after spending over 10 hours outside on a beautiful, warm pre-spring day.

Friday, March 6, 2009


After surviving the last couple of nights with the outside temps in the single digits, the cold frames took some serious heat yesterday. The square foot garden frame took the brunt of it, reaching 90 degrees at 2 pm, when it was 55 and sunny outside. The other frame was already in the shade at that point and only registered 62. When it hit 90, Sarah removed the two ends to give it a little air. By the time I got home from work it was back in the 60s.

I spent some time in the garden after work, exposing the sq foot garden for the first time since I planted it about a week or so ago. As the headline to this post suggests, we had some death. The cabbage is the worst off. We lost at least 3 possibly 4 of the 6 cabbage seedlings. The lettuce also took a hit. One of the Seedlings ripped off when I was removing leaves. The spinach and onions look great. There was no sign of any seeds making their way to the surface. I will likely replant the dead squares this weekend. Question: What killed the cabbage? Was it the cold or the heat. I am guessing heat. The cabbage in frame #2 (only got to 62 degrees) looks just better, but still not beautiful.

The other frame didn't have any death. The stuff in there looks pretty good. It is possible that I saw one pak choi sprout, but that is as of yet unconfirmed. May be a weed. But something sprouted, which should be celebrated regardless of the plant.

I moved all the finished black gold compost to the sun garden, in anticipation of some serious compost reshuffling this weekend. The black gold looks ok - still pretty chunky, but plenty good enough to spread. The middle section of the compost bin needs a redesign. My little funky temporary center support to hold it together is not working as I hoped. I will have to screw a middle support permanently in place to hold it all together.

Early morning activity: My rowing plans were cancelled by some rough water, so I worked in the yard this morning. I planted 4 romaine seedlings in the sq foot garden to replace a dead cabbage. I replaced another dead cabbage with 16 radish seeds. Two other dead cabbage were replaced with Brocolli seeds. Two cabbage seedlings remain in the sq foot garden out of an orginal planting of 6. They are sickly looking, but may survive. I am willing to give them a couple more days.

In the back yard cold frame, I did the following:
  1. Brought out Beet Planter and Carrot Planter, burried the pots a little in the dirt and surrounded them with leaves. It is mild (55 degrees) and cloudy today, so I thought they could start to harden off outside. I added one beet seed to this planter, which had a vacant spot.
  2. Planted 4 geraniums.
  3. Removed leaves from inside of cold frame, added good soil and planted 35 onion seedlings.

I left this cold frame with a 4 inch air gap at the top to allow for some air flow today. The sq foot garden, I left uncovered. I watered everything I planted today with compost tea.

On my way to work I hit Sandy Creek Supply for a 1/2 ton of mushroom manure and one cube of peat moss. It is amazing to me that peat moss costs almost as much as musroom manure. I probably shouldn't have bought it, but I do want to make my own seed starting mix for next year, so I need it at some point. I plan to add finely screened compost to it and put it in a black plastic bag to cook over the summer. Should be sterile seed starting mix for next year.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

8 degree differential

7:30 am: 18 outside and 26 inside both frames. Supposed to get pretty hot and sunny today - I may need Sarah and Quinn to vent the square foot garden cold frame in the afternoon.

I unloaded a full truck of wood chips from sylvan into the compost pile this morning. The "green compost" bin is overflowing. I want to get a load of manure on Friday to rebuild the compost piles and get them burning again. The problem with compost bins in the winter is there is an abundance of carbon ingredients and absolutely nada in the way of nitrogen. That plus the cold temps meant that my compost sat pretty stagnant this winter. It is supposed to get warm this weekend and if I can get them fired back up with a load of mushroom manure (nitrogen), and some good layering of the two, I think I may be able to jump start them back into action. I think there is probably also a couple cubic feet of finished compost at the bottom of my "green pile" which I need to expose, remove, and prepare for use. I may even get a chance to work the soil in the "sun garden", removing the green manure (wild rye and white clover) and spreading a thick layer of finished compost.

Can supply update: Last year we canned approx 125 jars of various fruits and veggies. As I have said in some of my earlier posts, our 2008 garden produced an abundance of black plum roma's and hot peppers. Therefore most of our cans included these two ingredients. We had a ton of spaghetti sauce, salsa and chili. While we are definately getting tired of spaghetti sauce, our canning work in fall 2008 has served us very well over the winter. Here is an update of what we have left.
  • 11 qts spag sauce
  • 2 qts cabbage soup
  • 7 pts apple sauce
  • 2 pts pickle relish
  • 2 pts pickles
  • 1 qt pickles
  • 5 pts salsa
  • 1 pt spicy beens
  • 1 pt beets
  • 2 pts carrots
  • 5 pts various jellies

Total of 39 jars of stuff remaining. The chili went the fastest and was definately the most popular. The hot peppers were fantastic and a big hit. I never, ever thought we would eat all of those. Those peppers were excruciatingly hot when fresh, but when canned they became much more mild. I add them to everything. Of course my seed starting was so bad last year, that I am not even sure what kind of peppers those were. The pickles were also a pleasant surprise. All of our friends seem to love pickles, so they made for nice little gifts. The kids also eat them, so we used them much quicker than I imagined. I definately struggled with finding a variety of recipes to can last year. I was in a spaghetti sauce rut. This year I will be more creative. Sarah is copying recipes from a nice canning book as we speak. We also overdid the vinegar in most of our recipes last year, becasue we were concerned about spoilage and safety. I think our second canning year will be much better due to our experience in year #1.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

still cold

7:00 am 10 degrees outside, 20 inside both cold frames.

Here are some photos of the compost bins.

1:00 pm update: 31 degrees and sunny outside, 54 inside both cold frames. Shade is just starting to hit the backyard frame, but the sq ft garden remains in full sun.

4:15 pm update: Wow - the afternoon sun makes a world of difference. Sarah tells me that it is 68 degrees in the sq. foot cold frame and 36 in the other.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

friggin cold

Outside: 7 degrees - 5 wind chill. 20 degrees inside the traditional cold frame, 25 inside the square foot cold frame.

I shoveled and hauled a full truck load of wood chips from the Sylvan Canoe Club. They chopped a couple of trees and ground down the stumps. I hauled the stump remains - basically a pile of 2 inch wood chips mixed with sawdust and dirt. This is the second truck load of wood chips I have added to my compost pile this winter. I just read a book last night where the author doesn't recommend adding wood chips or saw dust to compost because of the time needed for them to break down. Whatever dude - go put some tofu in your little whimpy compost pile. My pile will compost body parts if you leave them in there long enough.

I forgot to mention my compost tea in yesterday's post. Quinn and I cut a 2x2 section of burlap, filled it with compost, tied it tightly and dropped it into my rain barrel. Had to break through the one inch of ice at the top of the barrel to let it find it's home on the bottom of the barrel. I am excited for compost tea. Several books I read this winter (yes I did nothing other than read gardening books), speak of compost tea as being the transplant elixor. Water with it when you transplant and all your garden worries will disappear!

1:30 pm temp update (Thanks Quinn): 21 outside, 39 in cold frame (part sun), 57 in sq foot garden (full sun). Yep - my cold frame is in absolutely the wrong place. I need to think about moving that, but where? Not much sun hits the escarpement in the winter.

Monday, March 2, 2009

still surviving

Quinn and Sarah checked the temp inside the sq foot garden frame for me today while I was at work. The outside temp never got above 20 today but it was sunny. The temps inside the frame at various times throughout the day were 32, 40, and 52. After work I bought a thick canvas painter's drop cloth and another thermometer. Quinn and I removed one of the ends of the frame and looked inside at the plants. It was fun to see some steam escape when we opened up the little greenhouse. This is the first time I have seen the seedlings since the temp dropped so drastically. They all appear to still be alive. The cabbage, onions, and spinach look just fine. The romaine lettuce is not so spry, but they still appear to be alive. They are just kind of laying down a little. Then Quinn and I spread a thin layer of leaves over the seedlings. The thought here is that they will provide a little extra frost protection and possibly soak up some heat during the day and release it at night. Then we sealed everything back up and laid the canvas drop cloth over the whole thing. The way the wind was howling - that drop cloth has to help.

Cold frame #2 looked pretty good as well. Nothing dead. We followed the same precautions here as we did in #1. Supposed to go down to 8 degrees tonight and 12 tomorrow. Not sure whether the seedlings will survive this extended cold snap. I'll keep you posted.

Inside seeds - First pepper sprout noted today. Nothing major to report - everything seems to be coming along fine - which is a huge improvement over last year. Photo: Alphalpha sprouts for those "winter salads".

Garden Goals

Every good project needs some goals. Here are some of mine for the garden season...

  1. Don't buy nursery stock. Start everything from seed this year. Last year's seed starting was a complete failure. Not enough light made leggy stuff that I forced outside too early. The fact that anything survived was a complete miracle. This year's seed starting is going much, much better.
  2. Better variety - Last year was marked by too many romas, and hot peppers and not enough of everything else. I want Mellons, rhubarb, beans, zukes, onions, potatoes, brussel sprouts - and much much more this year. Although I am not forbidding the Stacy family from buying veggies at Giant Eagle this year - we certainly aspire to grow all our veggies. In order to do this, we need much more variety. I can only eat so much spaghetti.
  3. Extend the season - I hope to look back on this season and be able to point to some tangible evidence that I successfully extended the season. Perhaps that means spinach in April or Kale in December, but something to help justify all the lost seedlings and rolls of plastic.
  4. Crop rotation/succession planting - Much like the goal around season extension, I want to be able to say at the end of the season (without fibbing) that I had some success with succession planting and crop rotation. I think succession planting will be a key to help me with goals #2 Variety and #3 Extension. Small little rows planted every two weeks will keep us in veggies all season, rather than being overwhelmed with a ton of one type of veggie at "harvest time".
  5. Enough Compost - Can you ever have enough compost? I hope so. I don't want to have to skimp on the black gold this year. I have two 25 cubic foot bins of the stuff that I am cooking. I am gathering hair, ash and tree trimmings from the neighborhood. I want to have a surplus!
  6. No Hose Watering - There has to be a reason I pulled all those rain barrels out of the river. Fix the leaks, divert the gutters, and make those things useful!
  7. Compost Tea - Combine goals 5 and 6 and you get a big burlap sack of compost sitting at the bottom of one of my rain barrels brewing compost tea!
  8. Family - Have fun and keep the kids involved.



10 degrees outside and 20 inside my sq foot garden cold frame. I didn't have a blanket big enough to cover it last night. I need to get myself a big painting drop cloth to drape over it. I don't have a thermometer inside the other cold frame, but the ground looks slightly frozen in there as well. The seedlings look unhappy, but not completely dead. 20 is definitely the coldest it has gotten inside one of these frames since I planted in them.

Nice applicable quote from Jeff Ashton's The 12-Month Gardener:

"As you experiment with season extension, you'll inevitably lose plants because of freezing. This isn't failure. If you don't lose plants occasionally, it indicates that you're not taking enough risks. Embrace your failure as a personal learning curve. Seeds are cheap, and success is the promise of great veggies from your garden while the neighbors are eating supermarket produce."

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I promised Carter I would put a picture of him on my garden blog if he got me my nice warm booties. Promise kept. Here he is digging in the garden as part of his 6th birthday dinosaur dig.

random photos

Three pics: Completed sq foot garden filled with cold weather veggies and seeds. Seed starting set-up - two shelves, two lights and three windows on the east side of house. The photo with the soccer ball is my standard cold-frame.

Square foot garden

Here is a photo of my son Quinn standing next to my 4 ft by 6 ft square foot garden. I planted this on 2/28 and covered it with plastic to form a mini cold-frame. This is what I planted.

  1. Early Garden Peas (soaked and innoculized) 8 squares
  2. Spinach seedlings - started indoors mid Jan - one square 9 seedlings
  3. Romaine seedlings - started indoors mid Jan - one square 4 seedlings
  4. Red cabbage seedlings - 6 squares - 6 seedlings total
  5. Onions - started from seed mid jan - two squares - 32 total
  6. Carrot seeds - Early Nantes - 16 seeds
  7. Buttercrunch lettuce seeds - 2 squares - 5 seeds in each - 10 total
  8. Green onion seeds - one square - 16 seeds
  9. Spinach seeds - one square - 9 seeds
  10. Beet seeds - one square 9 seeds
I know it is way, way early to be starting stuff outside. I know all this stuff will either die or not germinate. But I just couldn't help it. I spent all winter reading books about 4 season harvests, and extending the season, and I just got a little frisky. The great thing about the sq foot garden approach is that it is very easy to turn into a nice little cold frame. Yesterday my sq foot cold frame got up to 70 degrees on a 30 degree day. At night it is getting into the high 20s. Let's see how long this stuff lives.

First Post

March 1, 2009. My ratty old three ring garden binder is going hi-tech.

I am Chad Stacy. I live in Pittsburgh. I garden. This blog will be proof of that.