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First season SFG results / lessons learned

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First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Rick Seeger on 10/13/2013, 9:14 pm

Today we had our first noticeable frost in our part of the state.  So, with the 'official' start of the end of summer here, I thought I could share some lessons learned in my first attempt at square foot gardening.  I received a copy of Mel's book as a gift from my wife in late March.  After reading the book I decided to construct two 4 X 4 beds for our daily veg, one 2 X 8 bed for asparagus, and one 2 X 8 bed for more rhubarb.  After constructing the beds, putting down weed barrier, and filling with Mel's mix, I began planting.  Two types of asparagus went in, Mary Washington, and Purple Passion - growing very well after putting up a fence to keep our dog out!  Valentine rhubarb was put into its new bed - growing very well!  Radishes, carrots, cilantro, kohlrabi, sweet onion sets, roma tomatoes, early girl tomatoes, and cherry tomatoes all did very well in the SFG.   Pole beans, bell peppers, and jalepeno peppers were so-so.  Pole beans were nearly decimated by Japanese Beetles, and the few beans i did harvest were fairly tough.  Will try a variety of bush beans next year.  Sweet corn was a total bust, the stalks never grew more than 3 feet tall, and ears never fully matured.  Next year I will plant something else in those 4 squares I had designated for corn this year.  Bunching green onions from seed never got very big, will try starting some indoors next year and transplanting, or starting off with sets.  Zucchini produced only one nice fruit, then it imploded, will try another variety next year.  Today I planted 3 different varieties of garlic: California white, Silver Rose, and Italian Late - looking forward to harvest next summer!  All new SFG 2nd edition, and the forum here have been invaluable tools in helping in my first year!
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  jimmy cee on 10/13/2013, 10:21 pm

Rick
Nice going, bet your happy.
Was my first season also and went way beyond my greatest expectations.
This year was mainly a test trial, everything grew nicely except spinach.
Good luck next season.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/14/2013, 1:38 am

Sounds like you had some great results mixed in with the occasional dud. Overall good though! Hope your next year goes well too.

Sorry about those Japanese beetles. Cucumber beetles were my bane, along with hornworm. We've got to find a way to get on top of those next year! I'm going to try tanglefoot.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  sanderson on 10/14/2013, 1:55 am

This is a good topic for all first year SFGers.  I'd like to see what others achieved this year, 2013, their first year.

I learned:

Homemade compost is good  , better than Kellogg's!!  Embarassed 
Pests I've never seen before can find my tiny boxes.  Shocked 
First year is learning the needs of different produce and fighting those new pests.SOS 
Bees are rare in city residential areas, especially in mine!  Sad 
Paint brushes are necessary.
You can never have too many squares.  Very Happy 
The Forum is a wonderful support.  thanks 

I grew for the first time:  (Note - maybe not showcase quality or quantity, but I ate them!!)

Romas and others
Red, yellow and green bell peppers
Poblamo and other hot chilies
Carrots
Celery
Chard and Kale, Bok choy, Collards
Beets
Turnips
Strawberries
Lots of different herbs
Onions
Garlic
Zucchini
Yellow Squash
Green beans, vining, and Dragon Tongues
Snow peas and sugar peas
Cucumber
Cantaloupe - 2! hungry 
Two tomatillos
Lettuce

Fall / winter experiments:

Butternut and Spaghetti
Silver Queen corn
Spinach
Garlic
Brussels sprouts
Red potatoes
Second batch of both peas, Dragon tongues, carrots, celery, greens, beets and ???
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/14/2013, 3:06 am

You're right, sanderson, this is a great topic. I like the detail you went into. I'm going to follow your format.

I LEARNED:

-- Companion planting may help, but it's no silver bullet. The marigolds I planted were the first things the bugs got. I replanted more dozens of them than one hand can count.

-- Find the lesson. Were marigolds a bust? No, they attracted lots of butterflies and were beautiful. What's more, they probably served as a "trap crop" that focused insects on my cheap and easy-growing marigolds rather than my more expensive and labor-intensive veggies. I would plant them next year even for that reason alone.

-- Don't judge a plant variety too quickly. Some real duds in the garden can surprise you. I had no idea Juliet tomatoes would come in so late. After proving themselves worthless almost the entire season, setting only a tomato or two per plant, they burst into life very late, setting lots of really big tomatoes.

-- Composting can require prodigious amounts of material. I've hauled hernia-courting tubs of horse manure to my pile for months, an endless five-gallon buckets of chicken poop, and it just keeps shrinking.

-- Buying larger transplants is enough in itself to severely cut into the cost-effectiveness of gardening. Growing from seed, and even saving seed, makes gardening a relatively cheap hobby after the initial expenses of getting together tools, soil amendments, soil itself, etc. Even a potentially profitable one. But there's a big difference between a 3 or 5 dollar plant and a plant that costs a few cents(or nothing).

-- If you're not going to protect your garden, you may be wasting your time. Strong fencing with no gaps is a must. I lost probably 2/3's of my tomato crop this year to pests of various kinds. I used primarily a generous neighbor's raised beds that were poorly fenced as well as unprotected from gophers.

-- Most strategies address an aspect of the problem, not the whole problem. Watering sparingly helps develop strong root systems and seems roundly recommended, but it doesn't lead to especially vigorous growth or large or abundant fruit in the typically quite hot summers we get in my area. When fall came, even though I had not been that stingy with water over the summer, the increased rains made the plants go wild.

-- Even the simplest, most indifferently "brewed" compost tea can encourage lots of green growth. But green growth is not the only priority. Eventually it's time to change your feeding to encourage flowering.

-- There is not enough time to learn everything the first year. There is, however, always plenty of time to misinterpret, mistake, and misunderstand anything you DO learn.

-- Learn what works locally. No book can replace talking to people in your neighborhood and asking them to share what they know, from the gardener next door to local Master Gardeners to your local area's Extension agents to people selling at the Farmers Market. They'll usually be happy to share what they know, what they think they know, what they guess, what they wish, what they dream. It's an education and it's always entertaining. It keeps you from having to reinvent the wheel and from spending time and money on things that may work well elsewhere, but won't work for you.

-- Evaluate advice carefully rather than uncritically. Even your next door neighbor's gardening advice may be completely inappropriate for your situation. Example: a neighbor with a largely shady garden advised me to plant spinach long past the time I thought was generally advised. His thrived. Mine, in a sunnier spot, was a complete bust. Same when he said I should plant lettuce. Oh, did I water plenty -- it was bitter anyway.

-- Be social with gardening. People who might not open up or be friendly or helpful, at least not to you or whatever type of person they imagine you are, will often go out of their way to be nice to you once they see you love gardening too. Maybe it's the romantic in me, but there's something primal and just "right" about coaxing life from the soil. It's spiritual and practical all at once. People like to see those qualities in themselves and they like to see them in others. A shared interest in gardening makes for an easy bridge between people. Might as well make the most of it.

I planted:

Juliet tomatoes (large yellow)
Mojo (or something Mojo) grape tomatoes
Sungold cherry tomatoes
Sweet Million cherry tomatoes
Early Girl tomatoes
Brandywine tomatoes
Blond Kopfchen tomatoes (yellow cherry)
Big Beef tomatoes
Better Bush II tomatoes
Green tomatillos
Purple tomatillos (not a one was purple)
Zucchini
Butternut squash
Patty pan squash
Giant Marconi peppers
Japanese eggplant
Corn (some hybrid I can't remember)
Lemon cucumber
some other cucumber a neighbor gave me (I think it was called "Superbitter")
Kentucky Wonder pole beans
Selma "something" pole beans
Yellow bush wax beans
Sweet basil
Thai basil
Bouquet basil
Bloomsdale lettuce
Olympia hybrid spinach
Mezsclun salad mix
Peppermint
Sage
Oregano
Thyme
Chives
Tarragon
Nasturtiums
Many (and many varieties) of marigolds

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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  jimmy cee on 10/14/2013, 9:35 am

@Marc Iverson wrote:Sounds like you had some great results mixed in with the occasional dud.  Overall good though!  Hope your next year goes well too.  

Sorry about those Japanese beetles.  Cucumber beetles were my bane, along with hornworm.  We've got to find a way to get on top of those next year!  I'm going to try tanglefoot.
Marc
Tanglefoot is great to have around, as far as the beetles go, you need to find how to attract them to the tanglefoot traps.
I've tried small bottle with artificial yellow flowers, with a wad of cotton inside dabbed with oil of cloves.
Nothing seems to be working effectively...
Yellow pads around with tanglefoot on does some good..
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/14/2013, 10:37 pm

Jimmycee, I saw some thin cardboard school folders on sale a while back and bought a few bright yellow ones. I understand that cucumber beetles at least tend to be attracted to yellow. So I think I'll cut them into small squares, tanglefoot them up, and pin them around.

I think I'll buy some tanglefoot tomorrow and try it out under the row cover I have over some of my pots in the back yard. I don't know if other bugs will be attracted to it, but I would be happy if cabbage moths and spider mites and flea beetles also took a shine to my tanglefoot.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  sanderson on 12/2/2016, 4:35 pm

Bump. What did the first year class of 2016 learn this year?

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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/2/2016, 8:59 pm

@sanderson wrote:Bump.  What did the first year class of 2016 learn this year?
I learned that: 
Cucumbers can't get below 55 degrees without croaking.
Kale can tolerate our triple-digit summers. (What I have now -- dwarf blue curly -- is almost a year old and thriving.)
Armenian cucumbers do better than other varieties in our heat.
Everything needs protection from our summer sun.
Everything takes longer than it says on the seed packet. Mad
Use a heating pad under seed trays for summer seeds -- they germinate in half the time. Cool
Basil gets way too big for the SFG (at least 4 squares for just one plant). Shocked
Saving seeds is fun! I love you
Sharing seeds is even more fun! I love you I love you

I'm sure I've learned more so I'll come back as I think of other things.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  sanderson on 12/3/2016, 2:57 am

And using fresher, viable seeds. Wink

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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/3/2016, 10:36 am

@sanderson wrote:And using fresher, viable seeds. Wink
Smarty Pants! Razz I found a newer packet of Brussels sprouts seeds -- from 2013 -- and tried that this time. Rolling Eyes Tomorrow we're going to Walmart. I'll see if they have any. Actually, the kids will be at Ace Hardware today. I'll have them check there for me. bounce I am now on a mission to grow Brussels sprouts!
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/13/2016, 9:14 pm

If I'm bringing a plant into the house or greenhouse from outside, I need to inspect both sides of every leaf, and every inch of the container -- including the dirt. I contaminated the house with tiny flies and the greenhouse with aphids. Also, I brought in some mildew on a pattypan plant. Grrrr! This is going in my new journal right now. Embarassed
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 12/14/2016, 7:55 am

@countrynaturals wrote:If I'm bringing a plant into the house or greenhouse from outside, I need to inspect both sides of every leaf, and every inch of the container -- including the dirt. I contaminated the house with tiny flies and the greenhouse with aphids. Also, I brought in some mildew on a pattypan plant. Grrrr! This is going in my new journal right now. Embarassed
If the tiny flies are fungus gnats you won't be able to inspect for them very well - the eggs/babies are practically invisible in the dirt. Don't feel embarrassed. I learned this lesson last year. This year the mint in containers stayed outside (but got to go into the covered hoop house! - not an option last year) and the potted horseradish went into the garage.  I let the lemon verbena in because it's too cold to overwinter it where I live but it looks practically dead, I guess I need to research what I should have done, err... like it's entering dormancy and will come back in the spring if I don't freeze or overwater it.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Mellen on 12/14/2016, 8:09 am

@sanderson wrote:Bump.  What did the first year class of 2016 learn this year?

1.  Watch the calendar and do stuff when you SHOULD, not when you get d..... good and ready to!
2.  Don't lose the markers on the plants you purchase, so you don't put broccoli plants (4 per 9 squares) in thinking it's kale (1/square)   Embarassed
3.  Have your boxes ready BEFORE you buy plants
4.  Ask more questions sooner
5.  Plan plan plan (that's what I'm doing now)
6.  Buy a planner for 2017 (done!)
7.  Stop buying seeds & use what you have (which is enough to last until you die)
8.  Retire (1/6/17) and get busy

I can HARDLY WAIT!

hyper
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Mellen on 12/14/2016, 8:11 am

PS.  When the label says "prolific straightneck squash" BELIEVE the "prolific" part & save more freezer space. Razz
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/14/2016, 11:30 am

Mellen -- congrats on retiring. It's awesome to be free of a regular away job.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/14/2016, 11:34 am

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:If I'm bringing a plant into the house or greenhouse from outside, I need to inspect both sides of every leaf, and every inch of the container -- including the dirt. I contaminated the house with tiny flies and the greenhouse with aphids. Also, I brought in some mildew on a pattypan plant. Grrrr! This is going in my new journal right now. Embarassed
If the tiny flies are fungus gnats you won't be able to inspect for them very well - the eggs/babies are practically invisible in the dirt. Don't feel embarrassed. I learned this lesson last year. 
Thanks, Beetles. I actually had to spray real poison on those little dirt flies. Embarassed I use Garden Safe Fungicide 3 for emergencies. Is there anything better, safer?
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  quiltbea on 12/14/2016, 11:50 am

Rick.....I applaud you on enjoying your first season.  I remember by first and it was so thrilling to be growing my own, but the best was the flavor of everything.  So much fresher and better than store-bought.  Clap, clap, clap.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Kelejan on 12/14/2016, 12:59 pm

Mellen, after a while you will wonder how on earth you managed to go out to work.

I was always a workaholic and it took me a while to adjust, now I would never willingly go back.

You made a good list of your lessons learned.
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 12/14/2016, 1:33 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:
@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:If I'm bringing a plant into the house or greenhouse from outside, I need to inspect both sides of every leaf, and every inch of the container -- including the dirt. I contaminated the house with tiny flies and the greenhouse with aphids. Also, I brought in some mildew on a pattypan plant. Grrrr! This is going in my new journal right now. Embarassed
If the tiny flies are fungus gnats you won't be able to inspect for them very well - the eggs/babies are practically invisible in the dirt. Don't feel embarrassed. I learned this lesson last year. 
Thanks, Beetles. I actually had to spray real poison on those little dirt flies. Embarassed I use Garden Safe Fungicide 3 for emergencies. Is there anything better, safer?
Those dratted things are also why I buy commercial stuff for starting seeds indoors rather than bringing in anything from outside.

Letting your plants dry out somewhat will help some, the gnat babies like moist soil. There are traps for the adults but they don't stop the problem. I've heard diatomaceous earth works, but I don't use it because I appreciate my house spiders. I think there was a thread mentioning the pros and cons earlier this year. If I recall correctly you don't want to get it wet, or it loses effectiveness - so it works better when you can bottom-water?

Oooh. alrighta Just found something I didn't know about - apparently there are Bt strains for these - different than the caterpillar control kind. The mosquito dunk type may work, and there's this!
https://www.amazon.com/Valent-Gnatrol-WDG/dp/B003E7BGTU

I don't use the caterpillar-bt because I have non-cabbage butterflies (Red Admirals, Swallowtails, and Question Marks) visit my garden and land wherever they want, but I'd be totally ok with using an anti-gnat version of Bt indoors. Thanks, Suz!
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/14/2016, 1:50 pm

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:Oooh.  Just found something I didn't know about - apparently there are Bt strains for these - different than the caterpillar control kind. The mosquito dunk type may work, and there's this! 
https://www.amazon.com/Valent-Gnatrol-WDG/dp/B003E7BGTU
Nice! Thank you, Beetles. I bookmarked that product for future purchase. I hate using chemicals.  Mad
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/14/2016, 10:42 pm

OK, my read between is that everyone had a satisfactory experience with SFG.  Which is the goal.  

Me too, details on the various forums. ❤️
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  countrynaturals on 12/15/2016, 12:42 pm

@Scorpio Rising wrote:OK, my read between is that everyone had a satisfactory experience with SFG.  Which is the goal.  

Me too, details on the various forums. ❤️
Absolutely!
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  Mellen on 12/15/2016, 7:52 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:
@Scorpio Rising wrote:OK, my read between is that everyone had a satisfactory experience with SFG.  Which is the goal.  

Me too, details on the various forums. ❤️
Absolutely!
+1
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Re: First season SFG results / lessons learned

Post  MBroman on 3/31/2017, 11:49 am

This is my first year. My parents have been SFG-ers for years so I have a good resource I can tap into as I go.

So, far I'm learning:


  • My 8yr old can put together the cedar 4x4 boxes on his own (great job!).  Smile
  • The "powers that be" have changed my zone from 5b to 6 and I have to recalibrate what that means for planting...by tomorrow.
  • Strawberries will likely be the bane of my existence this summer as I will forever be trimming runners so they don't take over the box.
  • The first year is expensive.  affraid
  • Ibuprofen is my friend.


I'm looking forward to it. Here's to a great 2017 growing season - come what may.
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