Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Square Box Gardening #8

Square Box Gardening #8
 Putting the Garlic and Asparagus to Bed for the Winter

Top Left - Asparagus Bed in 2 X 2 Ft. Garden Box. 
Lower Left - New Garlic Plants in 2 X 2  Ft. Garden Bed. 
Far Right-Top to Bottom line of  1 X 1 Square Ft. Garden Boxes filled with new baby Garlic.

Just a few days ago, Monday, December 10, we got our first killing frost. Fortunately, I had already laid down a thin pre-mulch layer of leaves weeks ago when it was still warm. About the middle of November.  The Asparagus' were put in the Large 2X2 box as a temporary measure to hopefully get them through to next spring when I can put them in a permanent bed.  There are about 250 small Asparagus plants in this box and I will be happy if most of them make it through to spring. Then I can put them in a permanent spot.  These Asparagus were bought last spring but I never had a chance to finish planting them. Therefore, I give them a temporary home in an experimental Square 2 x 2 Ft. Garden Box. This Box is  designed much like the 1 - Ft. Garden Boxes..Just a bit bigger to hold more plants. It's also a little deeper for deeper growing plants.

This is the Mulch Sandwich that I made  to protect the plants in these boxes, hibernating through 3 months or more of Winter. 

1 In Early November, I lay a layer of leaves between each plant in the boxes. 

2. About a week ago, with the weather cooling considerably after a mild frost, I put on a 4 to 6 inch layer of straw on top of the first leaf layer. Straw is A good mulch with lots of Air space for insulation, But it doesn't protect against frigid winds much. As I finished the boxes, I then asked my neighbor for his 5 big bags of leaves.

                           Winter Blanket Layers for the Large Baby Asparagus Garden Box.

3. I then put a 2nd Layer of Dead leaves completely over the top of the Plants and completely around the open outside parameter of all the Garden Boxes.

The Asparagus and Garlic Boxes hopefully have been safely tucked away for the winter.  About March - next spring, the small plants will come out of Dormancy and start to grow again. I will be checking for pale white spears coming up again through the first layer of leaf mulch.

As the weather becomes warmer and warmer, I will pull back the mulch that hasn't completely composted through the months of December, February and March and  put it on the compost pile. I will add a small amount (1- Cup) of composted, purchased, cow manure across the top of the soil.
 [ Never use fresh manure. You might substitute a 1/4 Cup of Alfalfa meal here instead - for health reasons if you don't want to use Sterilized Cow Manure. Purchased from your local garden store.] 
Alfalfa Meal is very strong in Nitrogen in comparison to cow manure. That's why I am only using a 1/4  cup of Alfalfa Meal..I will stir it in slightly with a Garden Trowel or Hand Rake, water the Garlic generously and watch the Garlic grow.

When My Asparagus Bed is ready, I will transplant the Asparagus and probably plop in a Cabbage in each of the large beds. The require plenty of room and this size works well. I will Put a small chicken wire fence against My preannual Garden Rabbit. And watch my Garden Grow. I don't know if you noticed, but there are several plastic easy chairs strategically placed  for easy sitting and contemplating the squirrels running back and forth on my backyard cable wires.

About May first, I will be filling the extra plant boxes with new Tomato Plants from my nursery and then, about the middle of May, finish off with a bunch of Climbing Cucumber Pickle plants. One to a Square Foot Box and set them close to 30 ft long Rope and Post Trellis.  I should be finished putting my spring garden in about 1 or 2 days.

 To those that think that the Square Ft Garden Boxes might be heavy, they each weigh about 15 pounds when damp. About the weight of a woman's small hand bag... ;-)  I am nearly 70 years old and I can do all the work because the soil is light. I don't have to dig up a garden space. I don't even have to mow even though my Garden Boxes are setting on lawn grass. I decided it adds beauty to my garden and it's nice to walk on. I only have to use a Weed-Wacker to clean around the Outside of the boxes 2 or 3 times during the season. Total time about an hour.  The rest, I hit with an small electric mower when I feel like it. Another hour 2 or 3 times a season

 Once you have the Square Garden Boxes and fill them with soil the first time, you can pretty much relax the rest of the season. Rarely a weed or grass root invades these boxes. Be sure to buy a few cheap lawn chairs to sit back and enjoy a cold one or two - Tea of course.

See how all this works in my Simple Square Box Gardening Articles. So far #1 thru 6 with maybe a whole lot more to go.

 Thank's for stopping by at GrandBob's Garden again. If this is your first time, drop a short note in the Comment Section below and tell me what you think about this new idea in gardening. Or send a private e-mail to the address below. See the very bottom of this article.

First article of Square Box Gardening and How to Build Simple, Cheap Boxes:

And a Merry Christmas to all my Garden Friends and a Happy New Year!


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Friday, December 7, 2012

Square Box Gardening # 7

Planting Fall Garlic for Next Summer Harvest

After pulling out the dead summer plants this fall, I stacked the boxes (Soil and all) in my garden and checked out any that needed fixing, repainting or rebuilding and then replaced old Soil Mix with my newer improved Soil Mix. A few days later I found the "left behind" Garlic that I missed and failed to pull Last Summer. They were Now putting out brand new Sets. Up to 35 new plants per Garlic! I guess since I missed them in the ground when I was harvesting, they must have seen it as a golden opportunity to have Children!

  What a great opportunity to start a fall garden with new Garlic Sets that were already putting out roots and green stems for Fall Planting. At this point, I have 10 boxes with 16 to 36 plants growing in each of them. I am trying various spacing to see just how many will still grow decent sized, sturdy new Garlic for the coming late summer harvest. Here is the step-by-step process I used to plant this fall garden in my Square Garden Boxes.

 As you can see, I have set mine on a section of dormant Back Yard Lawn. The bottoms of the boxes are not made of wood - I just tacked on simple heavy black plastic. Most are made with tacked on Landscaping plastic available practically anywhere. Hardware, Garden Store or Lumber Yard. The box sides are made from red cedar fencing. The average cost is $1.50 US. With a stain or paint, most will last up to 5 years. Out of 50, I replaced 3 this spring. Each box has several drain holes around the parameter of the bottom . I never have to worry about my plants drowning out or rotting away from too much rain!

 I have developed my own soil mix that has done a great job of growing Cucumbers and Tomatoes this year. I have found that Cabbages, Onions, even Watermelons grow nicely in these boxes. The Watermelons just sprawl out over the sides.  I not only have complete control of watering to the last Ounce, I also know exactly how much fertilizer I have put in every Square Foot of Garden Space. You can easily and accurately experiment with different types of soil mixes and fertilizers. And, you can even garden on your Driveway, Patio, or even your lawn!

 Just mow around the boxes when you decide that your lawn looks too high!. The boxes will not do the grass underneath any good. Expect only a few dry roots. Any that are in the box most likely grew over and into the boxes - not through the bottom plastic. I am very excited about my new method of gardening in boxes and I really hope you at least try out a few boxes next spring. It only take's a few minutes per box to build them. Scrap lumber will do fine to try this easy method of Gardening. I think you will be amazed. You don't even have to dig up a garden in the spring. You could "till" these boxes in just a few minutes with a small garden trowel!

Everything you need to know is in my articles on this blog about square box gardening.  At this point there are 4 continuing articles now posted with complete instructions.You will save tons of Garden Space and Work. Getting along in age, I needed an easier and simpler way to garden or just give it up. So I tried out a new idea. Square Foot Boxes.  With a simple little hand trowel found in any store, I can cultivate 10 boxes in about 10 minutes and I am ready to replant a cabbage etc. in each box or maybe a hundred bulb onions in 5 or 6 square boxes taking up only 6 square feet of garden space. Can you beat that?

I am also experimenting with 2 ft x 2 ft boxes. This is my third  successful year of using the square foot boxes and the First year for trying out the 2 x 2 foot boxes that hold 4 times as many plants. Again, all I need do is turn the soil over in the spring with a hand trowel. I can also add fertilizers and nutrients as well at this time.  It's a whole new easier and faster method of gardening and I am really happy with the resultsI hope you will try this whole new method of Gardening. Please Note: If the boxes are raised off the ground a few feet and placed on a set of 2 X 4 rails with legs spaced ever few feet, even people in wheel chairs could easily grow a fine garden. I am working on plans that I can include in a future post.

So, lets get started with planting a Fall Garlic Garden.

Dig Trenches for Your Garlic

I am making the trenches in my boxes only 2 inches apart instead of the recommended 3 inches apart usually mentioned by garden books and catalogs. You may want to follow that 3 inch recommendation unless you are experimenting with boxes like I am. I am planting in furrows as shown here - only 2 inches apart. I have 7 rows of plants  by 2 inches apart Furrows by 5 plants to a row. This gives me a possible 35 plants in a single square foot box.  I want to try out more compact planting - just to see how it works out in my Garden Boxes. You might want to use the recommended spacing as found on your seed packets etc.

Gently Dig Out a Garlic Clump

If you do not have Volunteer garlic starts like I had, you should be able to get sets at your local garden nursery. If not, come next spring, get some cloves, plant them and when harvest comes, let them just die down. Come September or October, new sets should be coming up in bunches. Be careful, One clove, I have found, can produce as many as 40 new plants in each clump of new growth! 

Gently pull each plant away from the roots of the one beside it. You might want to soak the root ball in water for a minute or two. Pull very gently to avoid damaging the Garlic's roots. Pull off enough for a few inches and plant as you go. Keep the root ball in the shade under a damp cloth until you again need to pull off more garlic's. Be sure your soil is moist and loose when you plant them in.

Plant the Garlic as you Go

 Do a Few at a Time..


Space Them about 2 inches or so Apart

 Lean Them Toward the Planted Garlic

Leaning them away from yourself as you go, allows you to fold the  soil back over the garlic and clears space for you to dig the Next trench after you have the previous row planted.

Pack the Soil Over the Garlic Firmly but Gently

Set the Plants in to get Light


Your bulbs will vary in height. Set them in so the parts that were already up (green stems) are set in at about the same height as they were before you dug them up. At least allow a tip of the white stems on the late growers to rise slightly above the soil.  I leave at least a quarter inch peeking out. Ones with the green stems should be planted with all the green showing. The cloves themselves, should be all underground. On new cloves, remember, the pointy side goes UP!

Lastly, Water the new Garlic Plants In

With each planting, I water the new plants thoroughly. As you can see, I literally soak the new Garlic Transplants. Using the square box method, any over watering will easily drain out of the box at the bottom.  Here you are seeing 2 new boxes just planted being watered  Notice that the boxes further back are already being mulched with leaves. After the new growth starts, I will also mulch the last two boxes.  When it gets cold enough for the foliage to fall down, I will also add about a half gallon of compost that I have brewing in the corner of the garden to put the new garlic to bed for the winter.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Square Box Gardening # 1 - Great New Idea in Simple, Cheap, Gardening.

  Great New Idea in Simple, Cheap, Gardening - No Wasted Space , Garden Anywhere, Cut Water Costs Drastically Practically no Weeding.

 About 4 years ago, I moved to where I am now in Wichita,         Kansas. I had been doing a lot of plot gardening and was doing fairly well I thought. However, when I got here, I ran into some real problems. The first was a good location. I finally decided to plant tomatoes along the South fence of the back yard.  I also found that the soil was perfect for potters to use for their clay source. The soil was very heavy and I found out that I would sometimes dig up big fist sized clumps of nearly pure clay.  I had about 2 inches of Top Soil and probably several feet of nearly clay soil beneath. that our house had been built on a river bead that had long ago moved to the next county!I would have had to bring in several truckloads of good soil to even start to build a garden. I either had to come up with something different of forget about a garden.

I first started building Raised Beds. However, while they were fine for things like Radishes and Onions and Beans, Etc. They didn't seem to work well for such things as Tomatoes and Cucumbers and Squash and Watermelon and Peppers, etc. I liked the complete control of the Raised Beds but needed more separation and space for some vegetables. When I had tried planting my Tomatoes directly in the Ground they did thrive for a while.

When a long heavy rain came that lasted over a period of days, (the tomatoes just starting to set well) actually suffocated and drowned in the clay soil they were in! It was about then that I came up with the Square Foot Box Gardening idea.

It's really taking the idea of Square Foot Gardening a Step Further. You actually put the plants in Individual square foot boxes. Not just spaces in a plot.  This way I could control the Soil mix, the watering and the fertilizing Exactly. If a plant was getting to much Shade, I could pick it up or slide it to a new area...and keep track of the results. I could easily number each box and keep notes on watering, fertilizing, and soil mix results and see where I was making obvious mistakes for better gardening in the future - if I wanted to.

I first tried bottomless boxes - but the grass and weed seeds soon invaded the boxes where they stole nutrients and water from the plants.

I then tried a box with a wooden bottom. This worked, but made the boxes heavier and more expensive to build. I could build one box with one, cheap 6 ft  Dog-Eared Cedar Fence Board. With only a 6" scrap of  Dog Eared end leftTo keep the weight down, I hit upon the idea of trying to cover the bottom by tacking on a piece of heavy plastic sheeting. I used landscape plastic. But I found that just about Any heavy plastic would do.  Even light-weight tin.

 Don't worry about drainage. The cracks will actually help drain away into the ground extra water if you over do it or heavy rains come.  I checked boxes that set through the summer, over into winter and into spring. When I looked under them, I found that all the heavy Bermuda Grass underneath the box was dead  or dieing and That part of the Bermuda garden patch was clear of grass and weeds. Of course after a few weeks, the grass that was outside the box again took over the spot and any roots still alive start growing again.

I only have to cultivate the One-Foot-Square-Box. Not the whole area. You will see how I easily mow the grass between boxes and clean up with a Weed-Eater. I spent about an hour - 3 times a Season keeping things looking clean, nice and comfortable for me and the plants set out on the Bermuda Lawn!  There were almost No weeds or grass to cultivate in the boxes all season long. I found 3 invading grass roots in all of 50 boxes this fall when I was removing the old plants for winter.  I picked out about 5 small weeds. The ease of this type of gardening is...well, almost sinful! There is no Comparison to the work I done preparing my garden in past springs. The boxes should last over several seasons with little cost or rework, if at all.  Build a few, put in some good garden soil, plants some plants or seeds, water regularly and see how they work out for you. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

 In the spring, with a small trowel, I will break up the soil, add a couple cups of new soil. A few amendments like a teaspoon of fertilizer and maybe a little bonemeal. With a few seconds of work for each box, I can then plant new seeds or transplants in and I'm  good to go. My garden is in for the Season. I'm done.  I only have to Water about a half gallon a week, pick a weed now and then, and watch my garden grow! And of course, I have a few strategically placed old lawn chairs and a little Parsons table in the shade for my Tea or Cold Cola after a "hard" day's work. I purposefully tried to make my Gardening as easy as possible. At nearly 70 years old, the creaks are calling for an easier way to garden. 

You're of course wandering about drainage, Tomato Growing in a Box and growing Cucumbers in a square foot box. Watch this Blog. At this time, I have 4 more articles you can read for more information including building instructions and diagrams to make your own Square Foot Boxes. Lots of pictures accommodate my future articles. If you have read this far, you are in for a treat!

  I will tell you about these and other questions and how easy it is to grow plants in these Square Foot Boxes.  All this will be included after I show you how to build these garden boxes out of cheap wood in the next article and much more...

     Copyright Robert Mader 2012   All Rights Reserved 

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Square Box Gardening #6

My Surprise Garlic Crop!

Maybe you remember me talking about harvesting my crop of Garlic a few months ago. I believe it was toward the middle of August if I remember correctly. I cleaned the whole bed out - or thought I had.  When I was done digging and sifting for Garlic,  I planted several cloves in one of my large Garden  Boxes. So, I had about a quart jar full of nice moderate sized garlic clovesI also had saved several to replant for a fall garden patch. Little did I know that the fun was just starting.

  A couple weeks ago around Halloween time, I noticed these little bushes popping up in my old garlic patch. At first when I pulled one up thought some of my Wild Onions had jumped their fence and gotten loose and were running around in my garden without a leash

 It seems that I had accidentally left a few Garlic cloves in the ground after thinking I had thoroughly cleaned the original patch. I hadn't! Where I had overlooked an old garlic, a nest of new garlic arose! I dug out the first clump thinking they were just weeds. Low and Behold, out come a handful of New garlic plants! Nearly 30! Some were already as big as my thumb. I could see where the original Spring Planted Garlic had disappeared as food for the new ones I suppose. What an amazing process!

It was time to plant Garlic, and dad-gum, if I wasn't ready to set them out then they were just have to start without me! I looked over the the old plot, and there were close to 10 clumps just like the first!  Some much bigger!  I was astounded and bewildered by the discovery of all these Garlic growing health and happy ready to transplant into my Fall Garden.

Just when I was going to go down the Produce Aisle and select a few Grocery Store Elephant Garlic like I did this spring - because Elephant Garlic seems to make a lot of Cloves! I'm not really Thrifty, I'm just Cheap.  Besides, growing Garlic is still new to me.  I'll just experiment and stumble around for a year or two until I get it right. Then I'll have more stories to tell.

The new plants are easily detached from the clump of roots.

 Now, I had to do something with them. As I dug each partial clump out, I dropped them immediately into a half-full Fruit Jar of cool water.

 Golly those jars come in handy, though I have to Beg, Borrow. and sometimes (out of pure desperation you understand) Steal them from my daughter. She did give me the ones with the "Small Mouths" though. Their not good for pickling she says because she can't get her fingers out and she dances around the kitchen with a fruit jar stuck to her finger! Anyway..

I checked the boxes that I had put the mid-august cloves in and there were quite a few missing plants.. I dug around. They were gone. Killed by the summer heat I suspect. They had just rotted away. Planted at the wrong time I guess.. When the experts say plant them in the fall, I guess they mean it!

So I set about planting the newly leafed out garlic cloves into the empty spots in one of my Big Boxes (4 Square Feet).  

As you can see, there are a few Big Leaves on the right side of the 2 X 2 square foot Garden Box.  These are what is left from the planting that was made too early in Mid August. I  have already planted quite a few new garlic in this picture.  I  planted them a little over an inch deep and in rows about 3 inches wide.

The plants are planted 3 inches apart.  This is probably a little closer than recommended, but my "Small Box Gardening" method should allow me to grow Garlic denser than usual. I will  soon be covering all my Garlic over with a thick mulch to protect them over the winter. In the spring about Late March or Early April here in South Central Kansas (zone 6b, I will be pulling the mulch away from the plants as they start to grow. According to the Master Gardeners, I should be pulling  a nice crop of large Elephant Garlic about Late July when the tops start falling over.  Wish me Luck!



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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Awesome Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

From Stacy's Kitchen

1 Large Can Chopped Green Chilies
1 Small Onion
Zest and Juice from one Lemon
3 Tablespoons Cilantro
1 Med Avacado
1 Tspoon Chopped Garlic
1/2 Tspoon Salt
8 to 10 Medium Sized (golf ball) Tomatillos -  husked and rinsed

Add the Tomalillos to a Medium Saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then turn burner off and let sit covered for 3-4 minutes. In the meantime add all other ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth. Drain Tomatillos and rinse with cold water. Add Tomatillos to blender and blend until smooth.

Makes 1 Quart of Salsa

Recommended for Fish, Beef or Chicken Tacos. Great as a Chip Dip.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How To Start a Pineapple Plant from a Cut-Off Top

I dug a Cut-Off  Top from a Pineapple out of the Kitchen Trash - after my Daughter left the room! Then I found a Gallon Coffee Can, filled it with 1/3 water.   I plunked the Pineapple Top into the water.  I Set the Top in Semi-Shade on my Patio and waited.for a couple weeks. When I pulled the Pineapple Top out and looked, the bottom was rotting a little but the Top looked good except for a few brown tipped leaves around the outside. No roots. Just a little rotting matter at the bottom. . I rinsed  most of the loose matter off under a faucet and set the Pineapple Top back in the water. Admittedly, I was kind of loosing patience with this project!
  Finally, about 2 weeks later, checking the water level;  I notice several short thick white roots growing out of the center.of the mass at the bottom.I set the plant back in the water and waited a few more weeks.

About the 6th week after starting this project, The roots were over an inch (2 Cm.) long. I cut off a few yellow tips of outer leaves with a kitchen shears.and then decided it was time to put into soil. The Plant was plunked  into a three-gallon (10 liter) bucket with my regular soil mix. The plant is flourishing. Take a look. Even the Cut-Off leaves are healing and regrowing.

  Our new Pineapple Plant is doing fine in the Blue Painted, three gallon "Budweiser Bucket". One of my kids won The bucket in a heated Texas Hold'm Poker Tournament!  It was very pretty but pretty useless.  ( I "borrowed"it ).  To the Right in the White Bucket is a Wild Garlic Plant.  On the far backside,  barely visible, is a small Blue Easter Bunny bucket with Onion Chives.

Since we are in Zone 6B, a Pineapple Plant cannot survive outside through our winters.   It starts to look sickly at about 40 degrees. It has to be put in a heated greenhouse or brought indoors where it is Warm and can get lots of Warm Southern Window Light or  a good Plant Light to flourish during the cold months ahead. I will set the Pineapple Plant Outside again when the temperatures - both Day and Night are at least above 60-F (10 Centigrade). Usually in May in the Cooler States. Why not grow a pineapple Plant from that Pineapple Top that landed in your Kitchen Trash. It's Free, It's easy. And it's fun! 

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Square Box Gardening # 5

Square Box Gardening - #5

And here it is again. The first hint of Winter approaching.  The nights starting to cool way down into the 60's 50's and sometimes even into the upper 40's.  The Monarch Butterflies already passing through. Even a few leaves starting to fall. Out in my garden - a ways from the patio in back where I sit with my wife in a shady spot, each with our book in hand; a single squirrel is wobbling his way back and forth from some nut tree of my right neighbor across to his home in a big tree owned by my neighbor on the Left. His tail swishing and a dipping and a bouncing as he tries to stay balanced with a big walnut in his mouth. Almost more than he can handle.  Trip after trip. He must have hit the mother-load!

The Grass in the back yard needs mowing but I just don't feel like it.  I notice the lone pine tree that I transplanted this spring from a garden plot to a good corner of the garden is beautiful and about 4 inches taller than me. It grew over a foot this year. I discovered it in my hoop-house a year or so ago only about 2-1/2" tall. It is now almost 6 foot tall.  The Pickling Cucumbers are noticing the cool down too. Very few blossoms. The leaves are dropping and the stems are starting to look naked although I did pick a small bucket full a few minutes ago. The Regular Cucumbers on my Trellis are starting to grow a little slower but here is Yours Truly holding a few that I harvested about a week or so ago.

 We Still have tomatoes ripening. Because of all the extra work building many garden boxes (maybe have to build  3 or 4 boxes next spring instead of over 40, Tomatoes got in a little late. I didn't get Zucchini or Watermelon in at all.

 I am new to growing garlic but I decided I had better plant some this spring. The vampires are really getting thick this year... (I know, your supposed to plant garlic in the fall and then harvest them from early spring until fall of the next year) I went and done it all bass-ackwards . Garlic weren't really big when I pulled them this summer but I cleaned them and put the cloves in a fruit jar coated with olive oil "to keep them fresh" according to my daughter. Then stuck them in the fridge. That was the first batch.  Then I cleaned out the other half of the patch I had planted in one of my plots and decided to use Those for a Fall Planting like people tell me I should do.  OK. I also wanted to know how many I could plant in one of my square wooden Garden Boxes.  I planted them in about 3 square inches apart and got about 24 to one box and 35 in an other. Then I have 1- 4 ft Sq. Box where I planted about 75 garlic. Here are a few pictures:

   Large 4 Square Ft. Box of Garlic. Using 1 x 8
          Lumber from Old Red Wood Fencing. 

They started coming up right away. I'm not sure they are supposed to do that!  Probably still to warm to plant in the fall... Anybody in South-Central Kansas know?   Next year I will try planting garlic in September .   In a few weeks, I plan to cover them over with Old Maples Leaves and Wheat Straw - after adding a little cow manure stirred into the upper box soil. I am thinking maybe about a Cup of Manure mixed into a gallon of my favorite purchased mulch - Cotton Boll Compost.  Is the mix right? I don't know. But this is a Blog on Experimental Gardening in South Central Kansas.  About 5 miles into where they say the Great South West Begins!  On the tip of Zone 7.   I'll know in the spring and fall next year when I harvest them -  If there is any to harvest. Stay Tuned!   I don't know how well these little garlics will take the winter in a wooden box with mulch over them. The garlic were cheap. I got their parents from the grocery store. I thought they were Elephant Garlic - but they looked like awful little elephants. Maybe they will grow bigger next year!  And they will be growing in my Famous -  Garden Box Soil Mix!  I figure, if I can come up with a good dependable mix for most vegetables - why buy little bags. I can mix my own.  So far I am pretty happy with the all-purpose mix for my boxes that I have come up with. Then I will experiment with Additives. That is the great thing about using these boxes. You know Exactly what you put into each box and Exactly what that plant or plant group grew on.   For Tomatoes, I might mix in a little more bone meal  and test out a cup of Corn Meal - which is purported  to counter Tomato Blight.

When I filled my Square Foot Boxes, I wanted to be sure the soil was firmly packed in the boxes. I used 6 Gallons of my Soil Mix to each box. Half the first time. and pack firmly but not hard with my hand. Then the rest poured over that and again packed firmly. I used my fingers to pack even more firmly around the edges.
If you fail to this, a rain or just pouring or sprinkling water in will tend to run to the edges and right down the sides. You might add a gallon of water, and most will run down the sides and out at the bottom through the seep holes at the bottom sides of the box that should be there for Hard Rain drainage or over watering by your Grand Kids! Check once in a while for soil cracks along the sides - especially in the hot dry part of the season. Push soil down into these cracks.  The soil around the plant may be hard too! If so, you should break it up a little with a small trowel or even a large screwdriver. This allows the plant roots to not only get Water, But roots need Air, which usually gets in with loose soil, and the help of earthworms.

Speaking of worms, Maybe I will add a dozen worms to a few boxes next year and see if there is a difference. The climate changes so drastically here that it is hard to predict when and where I can find worms short of going down to buy fishwoms at the local GOMart! And I understand that these are not the best for gardens and probably wouldn't survive anyway. I have started a small bucket size worm farm in my garage which is Hot in the Summer and Cool in the winter. The Lordetts of the Manor will not allow me to bring them into my closet inside nor even in the basement where tempertures are nicely moderated!.  So they are stuck in my Garage from Hell. They managed to survive the Summer heat. Now comes the Winter.   There Are lot of baby worms in the bucket so I assume they must be getting along famously!  Again, Check back with me next Spring folks. If my worms survive through the Winter,  I will build a proper Worm Ben for them next Spring. Just what I need. Another Project for my Garden. You should see my List!

I also plan to get closer records on different fertilizers. This year, I used recommended amounts of Miracle Gro on my Tomato plants. Nothing exceptional happened. And Fish Emulsion on my large Salad Cucumbers and my Pickling Cucumbers. They seemed to flourish and prosper!  But I did not really keep good notes. So I really can't give you a Quantitative answer on the results.

Check back soon for "More Square Box Gardening - # 6 where I will go into more detail about the Soil Mix I worked up for my Garden Boxes - an All Around Mix that I am very happy with. I will also show you what happens when you just set them on the turf, pour some soil in, insert seeds or transplants and water. You'll be amazed at some of the uses and results. Have a nice Fall! I already have my " Long Handles" patched and ready to go for what looks like a Cold Winter Coming On. Tonight we will have a Low of 40 degrees F. in South Central Kansas. Atchinson is expecting a Freeze. Kill all the tomatoes - and then warm up into the 70's for the rest of next week . What's Up with That!


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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Square Box Gardening - # 4

How to Do and Use Square Box Gardening

Why I use a Plastic Sheet Bottom on my Boxes

 Go back to the very beginning of this article and view the Large Introduction Photo.  In the background, you will see a few light green boxes with plants in them. But no grass or weeds at all in these boxes. Only between boxes or on the outside of the boxes do you see unwanted grass or weeds.  I have spent maybe a half-hour on all 20 of my Pickle Cucumber Boxes - all Summer! 

 In the front close to these green boxes is a redwood colored box setting next to the redwood trellis just packed with grass as well as a few onions, a cucumber plant and a few leeks with large ''Pom-Poms" at the top. This box has no bottom and sets right on the ground. I have weeded it maybe 4 times this summer and the Grass - since it is coming from the ground Below the Box - is terribly hard to Keep out and Get.  This is how I started growing in boxes. I had a lot of work cut out for me since the boxes were setting directly on the ground. I wanted drainage but the boxes had to be weeded and de-grassed at least every week to keep clear. With the Green Colored Boxes, I rarely have to pull out a weed even once a month. Part of the reason is the Plastic Sheet Bottoms and the other is the soil mix that I use. It is usually clean of most weeds when I first use it.  The wind carries a few weed seeds and grass seeds occasionally in inspite of the caution to keep them out.  With the Drainage Holes around the bottom of the boxes, I never have to worry about plants being drowned by a "Gully Washer" rain. [ A Kansas term for a very heavy Rain Storm]. We know, don't we guys and gals... When the soil is put in the boxes, I press down a little firmer around the edges of the box when I pack the soil mix down.  Since watering is easy and takes small amounts, and the holes are on the sides of the box instead of the bottom, very little soil is lost. Maybe a half inch of soil this year from each box. 

Grow More Plants in a Whole Lot Less Space

Since these are square foot boxes, and I can control the amount of water and  nutrients going into each box, I can grow more plants in a smaller area.  For example, 3 cucumber plants (as in most "hills") in one box. - since I grow them under a rope trellis and they grow UP instead of Out, They take up only 1 square foot of garden space. Not only that, I could probably put one box against the next with no space between and have about 90 plants in a 30 foot row! But I haven't tried that yet so I don't know how that will work out.  I put about a 2 inch space between the boxes and let the grass grow between them. If it gets too long, I give the grass clumps a haircut with a kitchen scissors.I have figured out a simple method to keep the grass growing through much without cutting it. A herbicide is completely out.

Check Out:

More Square Box Gardening #5

There is more to come so stop by often to catch the latest up date on Square Box Gardening.  Please go to the bottom of the page and check one of the Comment Blocks.  More important, Please leave a comment and let me know how I am doing and what articles you might want me to write and ideas and experiments You have tried.  I might even have You write an Article for us!

Coming Soon: "How to "Winnow" Onion Seeds"  and also Leek and Chives using the same method - like the pros probably did 3 thousand years ago! Subscribe Below to keep from missing a post!




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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Square Box Gardening # 3

How to Assemble Garden Boxes.

Cutting the Sides
Lets say you want to start with 10 boxes. Just buy 8 Cedar Fence boards that are 6 foot long. This will give you enough sides to make 10 boxes. To see how this works, we will make 2 "Story Sticks".  One for the Short Sides 12 inches long and one for the Long Sides 13-1/4 inches long. Any stick that is straight will do.  Cut these sticks to exact measurement. With these you can quickly mark the lengths off on your board. Be sure to allow 1/8 inch for your cutting blade between Side pieces. If you don't your boards may be short! You can make 4 short pieces and one long piece or 4 long pieces and one short piece. You should have about 5 inches or so of scrap on the Dog-Ear end of the fence board. 

Keep track of parts for each Box.
Keep track of the sides. Stack sides for one box with 2 short sides and 2 long sides. Just change direction when you add another stack of sides to the last stack. Or just keep them separate. It will help keep you on track!

 Almost Everything You Need to Know is in this Diagram. /|\

The Rest is Here \|/

 Note that the long sides are attached to the small sides. If you change this around, you will no longer have a box where the insides are 12 inches X 12 inches - or a square foot inside.
The small circles on the right side are the screw points. The larger holes around the bottom of the box are 3/8 drain holes for when the big rains come! If you leave these out, You plants could easily drown as the boxes are pretty water tight. 

 Drilling the Drain Holes
After screwing the sides together, now is the time to drill the drain holes.  They should be from 1/2 inch to 1 inch at most from the bottom of the box. This will allow adequate drainage in deluges and too exuberant watering by Grand-Kids!  You can drill the holes later but I find it easier to do at this time.

Attach the Bottom Plastic Sheeting
 There are two reasons for using a plastic sheet bottom instead of just nailing a piece of plywood to the bottom. You could do this and just skip the whole plastic sheet-slats or trim boards subject. But.  You expose your box to rot underneath and add extra weight to the box. When the soil in your mix is just damp, you can pick the boxes up easily - soil and all - without having a breakthrough in the plastic. Think of how handy if you are moving. You will be able to take the smaller plants with you. For the Large plants - like mature tomatoes, you Could slip a  thin board underneath for extra support when moving. If you find that your tomato plant is not getting enough sun, like any container, just move the box, plant and all to a brighter place!
 Cutting the Landscape Cloth
I don't quite know why they call it "Cloth" at some places. I guess the word "Plastic" is just to tacky.  From here on out, I am just going to call it Plastic Sheeting. There are various places you can probably get sheets of heavy plastic Free.  For example, you could cut down one side of a TopSoil Sack and get at least enough plastic for 2 boxes. Larger Cotton Boll sacks [ 2 cubic feet of compost] from your nursery, (very good compost by the way) would probably get you 4 box bottoms easily. Both 4 and 6 mil Construction Plastic can be bought by the roll at most hardware stores. Smaller 4 mil plastic sheeting rolls can be found in some Dollar Stores which are sold as Paint Cloths. 

You will notice, that I have rolled out the cloth at 15-1/4 inches and cut through it all with a box knife. Next I fold this piece out and cut out the width of each box 2 inches or 14 inches. I have one bottom 14 inches X 15-1/4 inches. This leaves an inch extra all around the box when it is tacked on. Why is it necessary to overlap? Because my Wife said so! When you see the box being used, you will sometimes notice the plastic edge hanging outside the edges of the bottom. My wife is Always Right so there Must be a good reason for the overlap.  Eventually I will see the light!

Cut the Wood Slats
Cut 4 strips of wood to the exact lengths of the sides. I use a small coping saw to cut them off at the box. Notice the cutting mark

Tack the Plastic Sheet Down
Center the plastic so it overhangs about an inch all around and tack the strip down on it.  Here you see I have use a small inch and a quarter galvanized nail but they don't have much of a head to hold the wood. They are a little cheaper and wont rust as well.

Tack the strips all the way around.  Trim the extra plastic off if you have any hanging over. This is more likely with pieces of plastic like Plant Nursery sacks as mentioned before.  Work around the box until the whole bottom is tacked down securely.   Here you see extra plastic hanging over. 

 Were Nearly Finished
Your box is now ready to drill holes if they haven't been drilled. After applying a stain and drilling holes as is needed here, the Garden Boxes are finished and ready for you to add a good soil mix.

Part 4 will show you how to use these boxes that could change you way of gardening forever saving you a lot of work each spring and tons of water (and water bills) that usually runs off to no use to your plants whether they be most vegetables or flowers. By using various color stains and colors of paint, you can really wake up your garden! I will also give you a soil mix that I have developed for my boxes that will work anywhere. It works very well for me.