Saturday, July 7, 2012

Preparing for a Fall Square Foot Garden

a few baby carrots from our garden
I have had several friends over this Spring/Summer to view our garden and gather some goodies to take home. We were glad to share the bounty and our limited and beginning knowledge of Square Foot Gardens. Our garden is in its summer slump - finished with its spring bounty and not yet ready to be planted for fall. Our tomatoes have mostly run their course. Some were looking scrawny and the worse for wear so out they came. I left two tomato plants that looked decent. If they survive our August weather, they may get their second wind in the cooler fall weather. If not, something else will be planted in their place. It is survival of the fittest in our garden. If they don't do well, out they come. I won't waste water or time on them.

My wish is that every friend would plant just one Square Foot Garden this Fall. Many have told me they will be. If you could learn from my mistakes, please start your compost boxes now. Here is a little goofy story about mine. It isn't fancy, but it is working. We are up to three boxes now and thinking about adding three more. We labeled them Box No. 1, 2 and 3. We start off the box with some manure compost from the store. We continue to dump kitchen scraps and yard clippings and every few weeks, dump some more manure. When No. 1 gets full, stop dumping things into it. Turn it every once in a while and spray it with the hose if it looks dry. Start using No. 2 until it gets full and then stop dumping things into it. Now you use No. 3. You get the idea. It takes about 6 weeks after you stop dumping new stuff in it to turn to usable compost. Faster in the summer. Slower in the winter. When I pull out an old plant, I put a few spades full of compost, mix it up and plant the new plant.

We had a calcium deficiency caused by using just store bought compost and manure. Healthy calcium levels in the soil help the plant keep nice healthy leaves and keep rot from forming on the fruit. Homemade compost will help with this. Egg shells are like gold. Put as many as you can in there. Crush them up before putting them in the compost. You can also add bone meal. My sweet and knowledgeable friend Bonnie also recommends adding blood meal.

Be careful about coffee grinds. It changes the acidity of your compost and thus your soil. Put some but not tons in your compost. I usually just sprinkle them right on the plants that like them best... tomato, parsley & strawberry.

My sweet friend told me that they were keeping a bucket under their sink to collect their kitchen scraps but that it was attracting bugs. My suggestion is to just get a large 32 oz yogurt container with a lid, label it and keep it in the fridge.When it gets full, get some unsuspecting person who just happens to walk into your kitchen  to dump it in the compost box outside. Easy, clean and no stink.

Speaking of stink, my compost piles do not stink. That is, unless I put onions in them. They are not pretty though. I opened it up the other day to see a bunch of maggots on an old cantaloupe. I just closed it quickly and remembered that was the natural process. My only problem right now is that the ants think that it is a cafeteria. I'm working the problem with DE.

So, start your compost and start dreaming of your fall crops!

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