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What I learned this year...

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What I learned this year...

Post  fiddleman on 11/1/2011, 7:43 pm

Well, though I've been gardening for 35 years, I just this year past tried the all new square foot gardening. I have done his older style square foot gardening more or less, but this year was a "by the book" kind of year for me. Here are my observations.

  • Less weeding than ever before in my life, hands down, no exceptions. The ENTIRE season combined I spent less than 1 hour weeding. Amazing.
  • Virtually no fertilizer. One shot of Miracle Gro early in the season when we had extended cool season temps and cloudy days, I think it was a bit cool for the plants to take up the nutrition easily.
  • Less water. Now we did have some extended weather I consider perfect for growing with rain at night 85 degrees and sunny during the day, but even so we did have some extended time with hot weather and dry conditions for a week or more at a time. We watered every other day and the plants didn't seem to notice... the mix holds a TON of water in it I think.
  • Healthier plants. Huge leaves thick green stems. Able to withstand some bug attacks, without a real loss to plant health.
  • Roots...oh...my...goodness... I pulled the plants from the garden 2 days ago, and I make no exaggerations here; the Tomato roots went FOUR (4) feet across the garden, hit the side then another TWO (2) feet along the side before it broke off. The root was larger around than a coaxial cable throughout its length, and there was more of those which broke off when I pulled the plant. Absolutely amazing! Shocked Now I have talked in other posts about the importance of a foundation to the plant and how without good roots, you don't have a healthy plant or a great harvest... I have gardened an awfully long time and seen a lot, but NEVER have I seen roots like this on a tomato plant. My Green Pepper plants were similarly heavily rooted, intertwined with the square next to them full and rich and taking up the 5 or so inches in depth. Again, I was shocked, amazed, and happy to see they were just as happy below as they were above.
  • Harvest was up anywhere from 30% to 100%. I pulled over 200 green pepper out of my 35 plants this year. I live where the peppers do okay, but if the fruit isn't on the plant by August, it doesn't have time to mature...so maybe you can see how unusual it is for me to pull that many per plant. IF I had a longer growing season, I would have had even more, the frost which killed the plants killed another 200 on the plants, they were showing no signs of slowing down. This even with our garden having to be replanted due to a hail storm the last week in May. Counting that, it makes the numbers even more amazing. Tomatoes, I don't even know how many we have in the freezer... I won't be buying any cooking tomatoes all winter I'll bet. A bumper harvest. Green beans and Peas... wow, I didn't plant enough... somehow a great many were eaten before they made it inside the house... yum. Lettuce... I could almost watch it growing before my eyes. Cucumbers, ran up my 10 foot trellis and cascaded down the back. I had more cucumbers than anyone I heard of. A great many people had trouble with cukes in my area. Carrots went insane in the garden. Short and Sweet are my favorite of all the varieties, and none ever went woody or nasty
  • Carpeting the garden isles worked wonders at keeping down the weeds to NOTHING, and allowed me to plant and stay clean. I liked that. (a friend was recarpeting, and I took what they threw out) It kept my 4 foot wide isles virtually weed free, and was easy on the knees.
  • First time growing potatoes in 20+ years... I found it hard to not dig them up to see what was going on... all my other plants, you can sort of see what your plants are producing... carrots kind of poke through the top of the soil, and onions do the same, but potatoes are like unwrapping a christmas present, I felt like the dad in "A Christmas Story" just before he unpacks the leg lamp... "there could be anything in here"... Good harvest from 4 squares of potatoes, about 15-20 pounds of potatoes. Delicious. I am going to dedicate a special area for them next year. I hadn't realized how tall they like to get and sited them poorly in the garden... they shaded some of my peppers as they matured causing lower production in those plants.
  • No matter how heavy the rain, there was no extended puddling in the garden. Within 5 minutes of the rain stopping the Mel's mix had drained away the excess water and there was no more compacting of the mix after the 2nd rainstorm. I could plant seed 10 minutes after the heaviest rainfall. Very cool.
So let me recap... less work weeding, less water, no fertilizer, more harvest, healthier plants... Yeah, I think I will do this again next year! Thanks Mel!

So what did you learn this year?


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Re: What I learned this year...

Post  Furbalsmom on 11/2/2011, 4:19 pm

fiddleman, what a marvelous season you have had, and a such a testament to following the method of SFG.

@Fiddleman wrote:So let me recap... less work weeding, less water, no fertilizer, more harvest, healthier plants... Yeah, I think I will do this again next year! Thanks Mel!


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Re: What I learned this year...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 11/3/2011, 10:53 am

I learned...

- Squirrels suck
- Fall gardening can be an art (also see above)
- Replenishing with unfinished compost REALLY affects the next set of plants
- Maybe let the lettuce mature a bit longer before harvesting the leaves if you want to keep them going further into summer
- Plant TONS of carrots in the spring so you can harvest all summer and into the fall. Planting in late summer might be rushing things since you can just leave them in the ground.
- I need to make a stronger hoop house (see number one)
- Conduit trellises with cattle paneling rock!
- Potatoes and onions are fun, too
- Broccoli really attracts the moths
- Did I mention squirrels suck?

Hope you all had a fun year. I did.....in large part to my SFG forum buddies. way to go

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