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Hi From Indiana!

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Hi From Indiana!

Post  Jandasdad on 5/4/2011, 12:09 am

Location: Indianapolis, IN (zone 5a/5b)

Gardening Experience: I have a lot of experience accidentally killing houseplants through over and under watering and neglect.

Risk Tolerance: Low. We're aiming for jaw-dropping success.

Strategy: Have fun, spend a little more than planned, grow many healthy, extraordinary, tasty things so that if some don't survive, no one will notice!

My neighbor offered to share heirloom seeds this year, so that our families could learn to garden together. My wife and I had not done this since we were kids, but we'd talked about this. There are so many good reasons to garden, and we'd been saving up so that we could do something nice with the backyard. So my techie friend and I gave in to our inner geeks and transformed our yards.

Fast forward a month and a half. We're all having a great time. I've learned about heirloom seeds, and Mel's Mix, and I know the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatos. I'm on a first-name basis with new friends at every garden center within driving distance.

Our little project started with weed mat on the top half of the back yard, about 20 feet out from and all the way along the back of the house, and six four-foot-square raised beds. One bed for my wife and I, our two daughters, and our neighbors. I figured that everyone needed to have their own garden so they'd all feel connected to the project.

I am not up for watering. I made the square foot lattice out of wood lathe and twine so that it'd rest inside each bed, on top of the soil. I lashed 1/4" drip tube in an "S" pattern (with twine) to the top of the lattice so that each square has its own dripper, about 1/2 an inch or so above the dirt. I don't know if that'll prevent clogging, but that's the general idea. FYI, 100' of drip tube is needed to cover 6 four-foot-square beds this way.

We stood back and looked at what we'd created. It was good. It felt good to be out in the sun doing this as a family. Except for moving bags of mulch. Bleah. But that is not something that's done all the time.

My wife and I looked sideways at each other as we considered some bright, sunny places that really demanded that they be used for more gardening this year. I added a trellis of mason line between the deck supports, along the north edge of the beds. We added strawberries, blueberries and grapes.

We stood back and looked at what we'd created. It was even better. But the deck itself, above the garden, was empty except for some fading, indestructible deck furniture. And it is in full sun. It wasn't long, and it had blackberries and tomatos all along the perimeter.

It's been about three weeks since we first put seeds in the ground, and they're all popping up and growing. Our families are ecstatic, and happy to look forward to a summer season of being a part of the whole process.

To other clueless newbies like myself: Just do it. Start with a small family project. You're bound to enjoy this. Mel's Mix is awesome, and the forum community is full of enthusiasm and wisdom.

I'll post some pictures of this once there's more to see.


The new square foot gardening book. If you plan to loan it to your techie neighbor, just buy two. Trust me.

weed mat

raised beds

Mel's Mix V1: 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 horticultural coarse vermiculite, 1/3 compost made of (mushroom compost, composted cow manure, composted kelp, composted shrimp, worm castings)

Mel's Mix V2: As above, 1/3 compost made of (mushroom compost, composted cow manure, forest/organic compost, composted chicken manure, worm castings) [Because some guy bought 35 two-cubic-foot bags each of the kelp and shrimp compost at once.]

Drip watering system. I used a drip system kit, a garden kit, and a patio kit by the time I was done. You can find this sort of thing here on the site, or at your local hardware store. I get it, a drip system is totally lacking in personal touch, but remember that my touch kills plants, so lazy watering is by far the lesser of evils. I am going to set out a rain barrel to collect water, and we'll use that to give drinks all around the garden. I would fear to overwater, but Mel's Mix is proof against it. (See how much I've learned?)

A few 3-gallon growing pots (the cheap black plastic kind).

In four of the beds, we're growing:

Charentais Melon
Table King Bush Acorn Squash
Cherokee Purple Tomato
Winter Squash Delicata
Monk Peas
Jalapeno Pepper
Yolo Wonder Pepper
Lincoln Peas
White Sweet Spanish Onion
White Bunching Onion
Purple Plum Radish
Cubanelle Sweet Fryer Pepper
Yellow Summer Squash (straight and crookneck)
Dragon Tongue Garden Bean
Beefsteak Tomato
Marketmore Cucumber
Bush Bean Trio (Green, Yellow, and Purple Garden Beans)
Irish Cobbler Potatos
Scarlet Nantes Carrots (just to see if they'll work in 6" of Mel's Mix)
Red/White Calypso Bean
Little Finger Carrots
Giant Black Diamond Watermelon
Black-Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Pink Brandywine Tomato
Marrone Bel Pea Bean (spelling?)
Alaska Peas
Yukon Gold Potatos
Waltham Broccoli
Bloomsdale Long Spinach
Red Romaine Lettuce
Irish Gold Potatos
Scarlet Emperor Bean
Mr. Stripey Tomato
Red Potatos (Look what I found in the pantry. Let's plant them!)
Little Manel Pea (spelling?)
Tonda Di Parigi Carrots
Quattro Stagioni Lettuce

Near the stairs to the deck: Red and White table grapes (I forget the varieties. I picked grapes with hardiness in mind.)

By the patio: Hardiblue Blueberries, Chippewa Blueberries, Strawberries (all along one side on the slope so they'll drain)

On the deck:
Chester Blackberries x2
Tomatos: Lemon Boy, Jet Star, Bonnie Original, Yellow Pear, German Johnson, Black Prince

Canning equipment (Presto 23 qt?). This is an old-world skill we'd like to learn. Next year, we'll expand the garden and have more to give away.

Red Wigglers. Thanks to the forums, I know to get the right kind of compost worms for the job. I've got worm towers ready to go for each raised bed. As backup (because our winters are cold) I'll have a small worm compost box so that if the worms in the towers don't make it through the winter, I'll have replacements.

Topsy-Turvy Tomatos: My wife likes these As Seen On TV things, and I owe her for giving the nod to all the other stuff. 'Nuff said. We've got some strawberries growing in one of these setups already.

Herbs, flowers: We made a nice herb garden area on a slope off the patio for herbs. We've vining flowers like morning glory and sweet peas to plant near the deck stairs.

Thanks to all of you! I enjoy reading all of the posts. You're all very encouraging.

-- Jandasdad (and family)


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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  middlemamma on 5/4/2011, 12:14 am

I think you win the "Best First Post Ever" award!!

Your garden/experience sounds WONDERFUL!!!! So happy to have you!

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  Furbalsmom on 5/4/2011, 2:28 am


What a marvelous experience you have all enjoyed. And I enjoyed reading about it. It is obvious that you really studied the ANSFG book and learned a lot.

Sorry you live so far away, because I certainly could use some of that shrimp and kelp compost that some guy bought 35 bags of at once. Shipping is just so expensive.

Now you and your techie friend need to add a TABLE TOP or two and a heated hoop house (aka H3)H3 and you will have the full experience. Check those links, they are too much fun Laughing .

Welcome to the forum and please, keep us updated on your progress. We are waiting to see those pictures.

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  ferhoodled on 5/4/2011, 7:36 am

Hi Jandasdad! Nice to have another Hoosier here on the forum. Your garden sounds awesome! Very Happy

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 5/4/2011, 9:18 am

All I can say is WOW! That's a huge project to undertake, and so quickly. I'm glad it all is going so well. My family would look at me and just laugh...lol.

Welcome aboard. There are a lot of Hoosiers floating around here...and Buckeyes, too. The people, as you've found, are very nice.

I hope you continue to share your experiences with us. And, I hope to see more of you around.

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Picture Update!

Post  Jandasdad on 5/21/2011, 9:50 am

You are all so encouraging, and your enthusiasm is catching. Electrically-warmed beds? Greenhouses?

I want to try it all.

My wife and I recognize that our family is in a good life stage for this, and the "easy mode" window is closing, so we're moving quickly. My 12 year old is not quite a teenager so is still openly enjoying herself with us, and my 10 year old is not quite a tween. She still gets excited to check to see how "the babies" are doing mornings and afternoons.

Here are the four beds with growth. Two others were just planted. Brown 1/4" drip tubes are tied to the lattice so that each square foot has its own dripper.

The back yard, and the grapes I'm training to go up the railing. Behind, by the house, blueberries.

The top of the deck, and one of the blackberries. I am really enjoying coming home from work and relaxing out here while the sun goes down.

This last is a picture of the drip stake taken out of a blackberry pot so you can see how the watering system goes together. The kit for the eight 3-gallon pots on the deck was about $25 from the hardware store, and simple to put together with scissors to cut the 1/4" line. I highly recommend lazy automatic watering for busy beginners like myself.

A worm farm composter arrives next week, and red wigglers after that. The worm towers you see in the raised beds are empty right now, though we put some coffee grounds and any organic trimmings from the garden in each starting last week so that the natural processs can get a head start before the worms move in. I'm going to put a few worms in the pots on the deck too.

-- Jandasdad


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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  Furbalsmom on 5/21/2011, 12:21 pm

Jandasdad, your family has really taken to SFG.

Worm tubes and a vermicomposter are great ways to get Worm Castings for your compost and the worms will keep your SFG aerated (though Mel's Mix is light and fluffy anyway)

Enjoy and have fun!

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  Kelejan on 5/21/2011, 1:41 pm

Wow! Jandasdad, I really thing you have GOT IT!

Look forward to seeing your progress.

Welcome from another newbie to this forum.


I wonder when I can take off my L Plates and not be a newbie any more?

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  squaredeal on 5/21/2011, 10:09 pm

Beautiful garden! What are the white towers in each box? When you switch out to rain barrels, will that affect your drip design?

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  sherryeo on 5/21/2011, 10:36 pm

Wow!!! Shocked Jandasdad, You don't believe in doing things half-way, do you?! Your yard looks great and I agree that you win the "Best First Post." Keep us updated, please, on how things are going - more pics as you go along, please! to the forum!

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Re: Hi From Indiana!

Post  Jandasdad on 5/21/2011, 11:29 pm

Squaredeal, Josh deserves all the credit for the white towers in my SFGs. His post here (http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1603-worm-tube-for-the-sfg) is one I saw on my first visit to this forum. His thread inspired me to copy his idea, and in this case it really is the sincerest form of flattery. Thanks for sharing, Josh!

The white towers are "worm tubes". Mine are PVC, 4" in diameter, and about two feet tall. My local hardware store sold those in bulk already cut. The black tops are end caps I found in the garden center of the store where the roof drain extension pipes are. They fit loosely and let air circulate.

They work like this: The bottom six inches are drilled with holes about 3/4 inch diameter. I pushed them to the bottom of the beds and mixed up the Mel's Mix inside with them as I set them somewhat level. Worms don't like light or soil that's too wet (they drown), so the tower will help them to have an environment that's always dark and safe from rain.

I started putting coffee grounds and garden debris in each one about a week ago. If it's green and doesn't sting (like peppers, say), it will go in there and start to rot. Worms eat the microbes that live in the rot, so decay is good. The end caps let air in and keep out bugs.

I ordered a "worm factory 360" vermicomposter last week. It is like a giant ant farm, but with worms. I'll feed the compost worms (red wigglers, also called Tiger Worms I think) organic waste from the garden and the kitchen, and they'll make super-special garden compost for me in the WF360 so I don't have to buy it.

I ordered extra worms for the worm towers. Each one is a self-contained composting tower. The worms will probably just stay in the tower because that's where most of the food will be. However they'll also go out into the SFGs through the holes in the towers to eat whatever decaying matter they find there. They don't eat roots, and are good for the plants.

I'll also put some of the red wigglers in the 3-gallon pots I'm using for tomatos up on the deck. I think they'll be fine in there. It's sort of an experiment.

WRT Rain Barrels and drip watering: I don't think there's enough pressure to use rain barrels for drip systems. I think we'll put one on the porch below the deck, so the kids can dip an old-fashioned watering can into it. My wife has a lot of hanging and potted plants that will like being watered this way, plus this will be useful on hot and humid summer days. Any stressed plants will appreciate a warm drink between automatic waterings.

-- Jandasdad


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Re: Hi From Indiana!

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