The NEW Garden Model, in All Its Glory…

Well fair readers, when last we left, I had ripped out the “eyesore” of the wooden garden box (per the LL, not my own personal belief regarding the beautiful box) and removed it to my mom’s house.  While figuring out how best to tackle the large garden area along our garage (think 2.5′ x 16′) we got our jalapenos and strawberries planted in individual plastic containers, and our herb boxes going.  Yet none of this addressed how best to utilize my huge garden plot, without the wooden box that I had originally built for it.   Ultimately, I decided to just do exactly what I was originally going to do, only without the beauty of my wooden boxes.

I made a quick graph on computer paper so that I could determine what plants I wanted to put where in the garden plot.  Now, here’s a quick hint — according to Mel ( my new gardening best friend who I’ve never met), not everything has to be at a 1 plant to 1 square ratio.  As in, there are certain plants that you can pack in more than just 1 into the square foot area that you’ve allocated to them.  I know! What great news. I can maximize my beans and peas and carrots and onions, while still growing 1 red pepper plant behind them.

After consulting with Mel, I divided up the plot into two long rows of square foot sections.  They actually ended up being a little more than 12″ in depth, as I had 2.5 feet, less the 4 inches allocated to my brick and fence exterior. I knew from last year’s garden plot that our cucumber plant will grow absolutely out of control, and will need support.  This was the first year that we were doing beans and peas, but I’d read in my friend Tina’s blog (and others) that you really need good support for those plants as well.  And, I knew from previous experience that our bell pepper plants would need some structure as well.  Herbs, lettuce, carrots and onions, on the other hand, do just fine without any type of structural support.  Therefore, I decided that along the back row of the plot, would be all of the plants that needed structural assistance  Smaller plants would be in the front.

Patrick and I discussed what our gardening/eating goals were and we decided to plant the following:  cucumbers, beans, snap peas, red pepper, green pepper, yellow pepper, onions, lettuce, mint, cilantro, oregano, basil, and carrots.  Off to Lowe’s!  I got to Lowe’s, realized that although their flower selection was fantastic they didn’t have much in veggies and herbs, and I headed to Home Depot.  Once at HD, I was able to get starter plants of the cucumbers, peppers, and herbs.  Based on the seedling start times and harvest times for the remainder of the veggies, I decided to try my hand with seeds and starting those from scratch.

With plants and seeds purchased, and a break in the rain on the Sunday that I just happened to decide to do all this, I headed outside to work.  Lucky for me, I had already prepped the soil and done all that hard work, so my faithful companion for the day (Scout, my sister-in-law’s pug who was staying with us for a few days) and I set off to work.  Note:  our pug, Oscar, is not the biggest fan of dogging my steps in the garden and following me around.  He’s learned by now that I’m not going anywhere and that I’m not doing anything to interest him, so he just kicked back for some sun on the deck while we worked.

I was still determined to use the Square Foot Gardening Method, as outlined by Mel Bartholomew in his popular gardening book.  I knew I had 2.5′ in depth to work with, and 125″ in length.  I got my trusty tape measure out, along with my twine and I started by blocking off my garden plot into 12″ square areas.

For the back row of plants, working left to right, I planted the squares as follows:

Square 1:  2 cucumber plants

Square 2:  red bell pepper

Square 3:  green bell pepper

Square 4:  yellow bell pepper

Square 5:  bush beans (started from seeds)

Square 6:  snap peas (started from seeds)

Square 7:  carrots (started from seeds)

For the front row of plants, the squares are planted as follows:

Square 1:  Basil

Square 2:  Mint

Square 3:  Cilantro

Square 4:  Greek Oregano

Square 5:  Boston Bibb Lettuce (started from seeds)

Square 6:  Mixed Greens Lettuce (started from seeds)

Square 7: Onions (started from seeds)

This is how it all looked the day we did the planting:

And, some up close pictures of how the individual plants look:

Obviously, the last picture is of the seedlings that I planted.  I left the wrappers as indicators of what we had planted until they started to produce.  Patrick helped me install the little wooden fencing that I had gotten at Lowe’s, which has helped keep Oscar out of the garden.  (Confession: I had nightmares of Oscar jumping into the garden plot and doing his little pug kick and tossing my seeds every which way into the wind.)  It seems that the fence, at about 14 inches high, has proven to be a deterrent for our lazy pug when it comes to jumping and catapulting his body around.

Our last project for the Sunday was to get the tomatoes into the upside down tomato planter. The tomato planter can handle 3 tomato plants, so I had purchased starter plants of beefsteak, plum and large cherry tomatoes.  In my opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than a good looking and healthy tomato plant, just knowing what I’m going to be eating in about 2 months on my salads:

As always, once the plants were in the ground and in their planters there was still more work to be done, but it seemed like a good stopping point on that particular day.  The garden looked GREAT! Our plants were in, our seeds were planted, the fence was up, and it was still warm and sunny outside.  The next morning I pruned the tomato and pepper plants back so that they could focus all their growing energies into the main shoots.

It was time to sit back and enjoy the remainder of a lazy Sunday afternoon, looking at all of my handiwork, and the hard work and planting efforts of my neighbors in their garden plots in the yard.  Yeah, I’ll throw in some more garden porn for everyone here:

The most amazing thing about the whole gardening process, and especially the seeds, is that within a week we started to have sprouts from the seeds that had been planted.  Why? Well, we had some AWESOMELY hot weather here in Chicago for a few days immediately after I planted — 4 days of 95 degrees and higher.  After that, the skies opened up and we had good, healthy rains for the plants to soak up nutrients. But that is for the next post! Hope you all enjoyed the pictures of what we have growing in our garden….and growing the stuff is…

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7 thoughts on “The NEW Garden Model, in All Its Glory…

  1. Looks great! Can’t wait to see how it goes. Have you planted mint before? Be careful, it can be really invasive and take over things. We always plant mint in a pot because of that, but it never does too well. We are trying to figure out where we can plant it in the garden where we won’t mind if it takes over. Let me know how the peas do. I have always heard to plant them really early (like as soon as soil can be worked in early to mid April). Wonder how they will do planted later in the season? So much fun to experiment in the garden!

    1. Thanks, Tina! That means a lot:) We have done mint before, and had mixed results. I thought long and hard before putting it into the garden plot with other plants, but Mel said it was okay and just needed its own 12×12 area. I figured it’s worth it to give it a try. Worst case scenario is thinning it or removing it altogether. Best case scenario it works well. I’m already amazed at how much the stuff has grown. Tomorrow’s post is the 2 week update and the peas are really starting to shoot up. It’s the beans though that are the superstars of the garden. I cannot believe how fast they grow! How’s your garden going?

      1. Hmmm…maybe we should try mint in the garden. I could put it in the square that I planted the cilantro seeds that seem to not be doing anything. I love beans! Our beans have always been very prolific, almost more than we can eat. They are so good. Pick them when they are still thin and young! Our garden is going really well. Had our first salad of the season last night for dinner (with grilled chicken marinated in Very Very Teriyaki). And our strawberry patch is going gangbusters. Harvested a bunch on Sunday and need to harvest more today!!! Yummy. My 8yo is a food snob already and only wants to eat strawberries if they are picked fresh from our garden.

  2. my mom just told me that she learned the hard way to pick peas early too. They aren’t as good when you pick them at the “mature” stage. That’s why baby peas are so popular in recipes and the frozen food aisle (we were discussing why the peas I had bought tasted like, well, dirt)

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