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Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

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Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  gingeandhales on 3/27/2011, 5:57 pm

Hi from Long Island!

I am an awful gardener, yet every year around this time the fantasy returns. There I am on a warm and sunny summer's afternoon. My yellow-daisyed sundress and floppy hat flap in the gentle breeze as I pull up fresh carrots, snip a variety of different salad leaves, and collect potatoes from my perfect garden. The kids see me in the garden and run over to sample a tomato, a bean, a strawberry. I hand them a basket and ask them to pick some romas for the sauce I will make the following day. Did I mention I am also 10 pounds thinner, and a couple inches taller in that fantasy? And I don't even own that dress or hat. Yes, it is that fantasy that has me, every year, making lists of seeds and seedlings I plan to buy. It even has me out in our neighborhood garden turning the soil, staking my claim to the rows that seem the best suited for my crop. March and April I am incredibly motivated. The promise of spring does something to my psyche that always makes me believe, "This year will be different".

But something always happens come June. Steps are left unfinished. Perhaps I forgot to mix in fresh compost, or I started seeds too late and they are not ready to go in the garden. Or I forgot to water my seedlings and they all died. Or, the weeds end up being too much for me to bare so (like laundry and vacuuming) I choose to just ignore the situation all together.

Or what happened last year . . .

After all of my planning and muscle work to prepare my rows someone else (not realizing I had planted some seeds and seedlings probably because the weeds were so much bigger than my plants) ended up digging everything up and planting their own tomatoes in my spot. Of course, at this point I had already lost interest so I didn't make a fuss. I just watched the other families who share the garden enjoy their harvest as I watched from my bedroom window.

I always wanted to try square foot gardening, but I was scared. The person who began our community garden really knew his stuff, so I figured that if I was going to try gardening myself I should just follow his lead. After he moved, I decided to get a head start and use his rows for last year's garden. But I already told you how that turned out. Unfortunately my attention span and the overwhelming amount of work it took to grow my rows correctly make me give up on it every year. And I was scared of trying something different, especially the part where I have to use power tools. :shock

Usually, even with my failure I ended up with a cucumber or two, and last year I even had 3 snap peas come to fruition. That was the most delicious snap pea I ever had (the kids ate the other two). Those pathetic yields, as disappointing as they were, were still enough to make me get back on that horse again this year. But THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT.

Yesterday, a freezing but sunny March Saturday that kicked off my kids' spring break, we decided to take a family trip to Barnes and Noble. My family all ran to their favorite sections, my daughter to the art books, my son to the comics, my husband to the photography section, and me. Well I bounced around between all of my hobbies. All of things I throw myself into until I get bored. Cook books, knitting books, fiction, pedagogy books, fitness books, and because it is late March GARDENING BOOKS. And there it was. Mel's book. THE NEW AND IMPROVED SQUARE FOOT GARDEN.

I picked it up. I remembered reading about this method. I've seen pictures on gardening forums of people using it on patios and decks and well, just about any place with sun. I always imagined myself having a garden just like that one day. I picked up the book. Checked on the kids. Went back to the table and put it back down. Because, I buy a new gardening book every year around this time, and I've learned that reading a book isn't the same as actually working in the garden.

I checked on the kids again, found my husband who already had a stack of books he was ready to buy. He asked me what I was getting and I floundered. "I don't know". Went back to the cookbook section. All of the fresh veggies on the covers sparked my interest again, so I went back to the table, thumbed through the book, put it back down. Went to the knitting section. Decided knitting is for the winter months. I needed a spring book. Back to Mel's book. Carried it around. Maybe a fitness book? No. So, yes, this continued until my family couldn't take it anymore and I came home with Mel's book. And I'm so glad I did.

I read it cover to cover--like I always do--so I believe I'm an expert because I could probably pass a written test on the subject, but real-life application is a different animal all together. But I really think this might work for me. Because all of the hard work, the building, mixing, filling, all happens at the beginning, when my motivation is at its peak. I can do all of that stuff now it now, weeks before the last frost date, but when I am excited and eager to start. Hubby said he'd help with the building, and I went to home depot today to get an idea of how much it is going to cost. Totally doable! Then, it seems like it will only be minor maintenance compared to what the rowed garden required. And I will be able to water with my watering can (there aren't any hoses that reach the community garden plot and watering two full rows of veggies by hand was a real PIA if you know what I mean). But with this method it seems like I will only need to fill a bucket or large watering can once a day at most.

So now I am absolutely convinced that THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT, thanks to Mel, his book, this forum and the iphone app (yes I purchased the app, iphone apps seem to extend my motivation period). So, hopefully I will soon have pics to post.

Last edited by gingeandhales on 3/27/2011, 6:13 pm; edited 1 time in total


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  boffer on 3/27/2011, 6:05 pm


What more can I say! You too can have one real soon the SFG way! :tiphat:


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  Furbalsmom on 3/27/2011, 6:41 pm


Welcome and please, please, please, keep that enthusiasm for just a bit longer.

Get that box or boxes made and filled with Mel's Mix. Start some seeds or try a few transplants. Once your garden is growing (and there are few if any weeds) you can stroll thru the garden in your sundress and floppy hat with the kids and harvest more than 3 sugar snap peas. THIS YEAR WILL BE DIFFERENT

Keep us posted on your progress and please share pictures.


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  Old Hippie on 3/27/2011, 7:22 pm

First of all I am so glad you joined us. I totally feel your pain. That happened to me so often when I was row gardening. The weeds would get ahead of me and then that was the end. I have had better results with less work with SFG than I ever did with row gardening. It's because we are not constantly fighting weeds! And we are not always tilling and watering and walking on the soil in the pathways either. That has always seemed counter productive to me. I am a very lazy gardener. The pathways in my garden NEVER get tilled and don't need weeding. I put down cardboard and then wood chips so I don't have to weed that part. I only dig in the soil/mix that my veggies grow in. It is so much easier. Sometimes weeds blow in but they are easy to pull out.

This year will really be different. I promise. and I know because it was like that for me and it has changed.

Start small, so as not to get overwhelmed again. After you get the boxes built and the mix mixed and everything planted you will have a bit of time. Go shopping then for the sundress and hat you see in your fantasy. You want to be ready for when the garden is producing so you can have DH take some pictures of you living out your fantasy.

Best of luck.


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  gingeandhales on 3/27/2011, 8:15 pm

Thank you so much for the encouragement. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's enthusiasm waxes and wanes as time passes, and it is really encouraging to know that others with my same problem have found success with this method. Next weekend I am going to buy the materials for 2 boxes, a 4'x4' 6" deep box, and a 3'x3' 12" box (for carrots, onions and potatoes). My biggest concern is finding the vermiculite and compost. We have a pile of manure in the corner near the community garden and I will ask the maintenance crew if I can use some of that, but I had a hard time finding different kids of compost at home depot and at the garden center I visited today, and I will not be able to make my own in such a short period of time, although I plan to start a pile asap.

I wonder if the grounds keeper around here will have some good resources to help me find what I need. Mental note to ask him about that tomorrow.


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  quiltbea on 3/27/2011, 8:24 pm

Welcome to the world of SFG and this forum.
The hardest part is the very beginning. After that, its lots of benefits, starting with good, healthy food for you table.

Good luck.


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  boffer on 3/27/2011, 8:25 pm

That's a great size to be starting. And I like your thinking: start asking everybody everywhere where you can buy some compost. Mel's Mx works the best when you have five or more different types. Something like this:

1 compost=potatoes
2 composts=potatoes and veggies
3 composts=potatoes, veggies, and fruit
4 composts=potatoes, veggies, fruit, and dairy
5 composts=potatoes, veggies, fruit, dairy, and meat
6 composts=potatoes, veggies, fruit, dairy, meat, and dessert Very Happy

Just like in humans, plants grow best with a variety of different nutritional sources.
Compost is the worst place to skimp in the SFG method.


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  Dunkinjean on 3/27/2011, 8:43 pm


I am only a state away from you - NJ.

On this forum is a list of Vermiculite locations.

I actually had to order online through Uline since the nursery didn't have any last fall until now.

It came quickly.

Best of luck on your garden. You will not be disappointed...



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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

Post  Megan on 3/27/2011, 9:16 pm

Gingeandhales, welcome! glad you\'re here

Buy yourself that floppy hat--you deserve it--and get ready to rock and roll!

You've got the book and read it already, sounds like you memorized it!, and know you can do it. I have to re-start myself this year--new boxes and MM in the backyard--and am in the throes of construction myself. But I had a fantastic season last year. Sure, a few crops failed, but we ate LOTS and I still have some shiny jars of pickles and beans to show for it. I can't wait to start again.

It probably won't be exactly like your dreams, but who knows... maybe it will be even better? Very Happy The most important thing is to get out there and try it. I can't wait to see your pictures! We are here to help.


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Re: Green Behind the ears in search of Green Thumb

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