17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tis the Season to Plant a Garden...

...at least it is in sunny CA.

On our more private "My Family" website, we have been having a discussion about gardening ever since I posted a photo of my "Square Foot Garden" my mother-in-law and I built and planted last week during her very timely visit. And might I say, I am totally sold on "square-foot gardening" and highly recommend reading the book if you are interested in planting a garden and don't have a lot of space.

Turns out Jen is renting a plot at a community garden down the street this year, Beth has a plan to build a mini-garden on her balcony, Melissa is going to try to grow artichokes this year, Kage is wondering if she can figure out how to use an upside-down tomato planter (something that both Marian and Melissa have had success with in the past) in her apartment this year, and Marian has plans for co-op gardening this year with her family that all live in the same town. Who knew so many of us had green thumbs (or are at least trying to get them)!

After all the discussion, I just have to open it up to a bigger audience to see what other gardening plans and past gardening successes we've got going on out there. Hearing everyone's ideas have been so inspiring! So let's hear it - especially ideas that deal with gardening for small spaces.

P.S. That photo is of the last harvest from my fall garden. I called it my "lazy-woman's garden" because it was planted by a group of neighbor kids (the oldest being 5), it was never thinned and was basically ignored (luckily we have automatic watering hooked up to our boxes). And this is part of the beautiful bounty that still emerged from that poor, neglected garden. I was pretty amazed.


  • Seriously that yield looks like a pic out of a magazine. Amazing. I would love to have fresh tomatoes if it is at all possible. I am a little worried about dirt, but I do have just the spot next to a sunny and bright window.....any advice on indoor gardening?
    posted by Blogger Kage at 3/25/2008 10:40:00 AM  

  • I'm looking at EarthBox.com for their container system - I've been frustrated in Maryland with squirrels eating my tomatoes - thought I might try this system for tomatoes and hot peppers, on a screened in porch with northern exposure.
    posted by Anonymous HK at 3/25/2008 10:48:00 AM  

  • Are those beets?
    posted by Blogger brenbot at 3/25/2008 10:53:00 AM  

  • Yes, those are beets.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 3/25/2008 11:23:00 AM  

  • It must be that So Cal sushine cuz in our parts of the woods we don't get nuthin' like that (without being a gardening-Annie Sullivan- of sorts anyway-hah!)

    We have a whole group of LDS moms out here who are hot on Square foot gardening. I haven't tried it yet, but have done some reading and I would agree that it looks VERY effective. Everyone I know who's tried it has had great success.

    We planted a garden 2 summers ago on a little spot, and ended up with tons of tomatoes, but I never got one carrot- except for a year later I was digging and found a sad tiny little one that must've survived.

    I would think for super small spaces I would do an herb garden for sure (fresh herbs are the best, right?), and some cherry tomatoes (just can't get enough of those) . A little research and I bet there are tons of things you can do in a tiny space!
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 3/25/2008 12:23:00 PM  

  • Pots. Pots. Pots. I am a Ca girl transplanted in Idaho. When we first moved here, all I heard about was everyone's gardens. I was no gardener. Gardens are HUGE here. So I took an interest and tried to figure this out. I started that summer by planting a tomato plant with some herbs around it in a pot. I also planted some green beans in a pot. And they grew! It was great. Not a lot of space needed and I didn't have to dig in the dirt all the time. Since then my gardens have gotten bigger and this year I plan to do a HUGE garden for canning and year supply. Great idea I heard this year for big gardens, I bet you could even do this in container gardens---get wet newspaper and lay down around plants and walkways and cover with mulch or bark. This prevents weeds from coming up and growing. Also a good way to recycle.
    posted by Anonymous idaho at 3/25/2008 12:25:00 PM  

  • Idaho - Pots are exactly where I'm thinking of going with my balcony garden. Although I'm also considering Melissa's upside-down tomato plant idea.

    Any suggestions on gardening with a toddler? I want him to really be able to "see" the progress of his little garden. It doesn't have to be edible, although that would be cool. Maybe flowers that grow pretty quickly, or peas, strawberries that he could pick and snack on. Those are some of my thoughts, but I'm just starting my research and am planning on shopping next week.
    posted by Blogger beth at 3/25/2008 03:05:00 PM  

  • You have inspired me to try to do the square foot gardening on my balcony. I think doing just 1-row-wide (maybe 2) boxes around the edges of the balcony will look really good. I've been doing everything in pots and it just seems too unorganized and not an efficient use of space. Are you doing all veggies? If so, which ones?
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 3/25/2008 04:26:00 PM  

  • I love my square foot garden, it yields just the right amount for my husband and me. I just got mine planted last week.
    Beth-I just planted a bunch of edible flowers to toss into salads, that might be fun for your kids? I got them at Smith & Hawkin.
    Also, to keep birds/rodents away from your garden put a couple of plastic/rubber snakes around the plant and plant supports. It works great! You do have to move the snakes around every couple of days so the birds don't get suspicious.
    posted by Blogger Jessie Jo at 3/25/2008 07:48:00 PM  

  • The best tomato crops we ever had were planted on the tiny balcony attached to our 2nd floor apartment in Sacramento. The abundant sunshine really made them grow. In Irvine, they always seem to get some kind of wilt before we get very many tomatoes.
    posted by Blogger kathi d at 3/25/2008 08:46:00 PM  

  • I love that book and am a big fan of square foot gardening. It's a good thing.
    posted by Blogger Bubbles at 3/25/2008 10:35:00 PM  

  • hmmm. i've never had what you would call a green thumb. but you guys are totally inspiring me. i may just have to give this whole gardening thing a try.
    posted by Blogger i'm kelly at 3/25/2008 11:32:00 PM  

  • tamrobot - i did veggies in my square foot garden (but I have an herb garden, some blueberry bushes and a bed of strawberries planted other places in the yard already).

    We planted: cucumbers, snap peas, pole beans (green), tomatoes, red peppers, hot peppers, carrots, scallions, 2 kinds of lettuce, spinach, zucchinni and two squares of marigolds to keep the pests away. My garden is approx 6'x 3' (the box was built already by the previous owners of the house and we just "made it work" for square foot gardening by replacing the dirt, adding the grid and building the climbing "wall".

    If I get our second box prepped before the baby comes, I think I will add some more lettuce, a staggered planting of carrots, more basil, another tomato plant and maybe some artichokes.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 3/26/2008 08:12:00 AM  

  • Keep the advice coming....Heather O, where are you? What do you plant in your Virginia gardens? When can you start planting in NoVa? It is still below freezing here at night, so I am thinking not yet....which is good because it buys me some time to figure everything out.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 3/26/2008 12:22:00 PM  

  • I wish i could do that. I'd even be happy with just tomatoes. But I think it's to hot here in the City o Sin.
    I did have a girl in my ward who said you can grow water melons like crazy here, but who has room for a watermelon vine taking over your appartment?!
    posted by Blogger britt at 3/26/2008 01:12:00 PM  

  • Jen,
    From past experience in VA and MD, I think the recommendation is to wait to plant after Memorial Day - then you should be assured we won't have the errant dip in temperatures that is so common in this area. It's 66 right now - two days ago it was in the upper 20s in the morning - go figure.
    posted by Anonymous HK at 3/26/2008 03:40:00 PM  

  • Jen-

    In NoVa, you can plant things now that are frost resistant, such as radishes, lettuce, spinach, and carrots. (I planted all of those a week or so ago, and the radishes are already peeking up).

    When we lived there, we planted radishes in mid March, and harvested them in early May. Yummy! Radishes actually do better if they are exposed to a little frost--it makes their flavor sweeter. The hotter the temp, the hotter the radish, and if left too long in the ground too far into the summer, they become woody, starchy, and way too hot to be edible.

    The rule of thumb to plant everything else is after Mother's Day, although if I recall we fudged a little with our sugar snap peas, another cool weather vegetable. Frost will absolutely kill a tomato and a pepper, although peppers prefer cooler nights, so they can go in earlier than tomatoes. You could probably also get away with squash right now, but I like to wait to do squash and pumpkins until mid-late summer, just because it's fun to harvest things in the fall when everything else is done.

    For overwintering, you can plant garlic in November to pop up in the spring...oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Sorry, just getting excited for the season!

    There are some herbs that like cooler weather and can tolerate frost, such as parsley and lemon balm. Sage and rosemary are pretty hardy too, but basil is the wuss of herbs, so you definitely have to wait until after frost for that.

    Also, be aware that cucumbers don't do very well in NoVA because of cucumber beetles and some kind of wilt that is common in VA. The good news is, however, that you can plant several plantings because they grow so darned fast. We are going to try to do cucumbers right this year, and just keep the seeds coming.

    For those who care, I had very good success with growing cucumbers in a pot on my driveway when we didn't have space for a garden. I built a trellis into the pot, and they climbed up it. We got several cucumbers that way.

    Good luck!!!!!
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 3/26/2008 06:01:00 PM  

  • Another tip:

    Sugar snap peas are a great thing to plant for kids, as they are easy to pop off the vine and munch on right away. My kid has loved sugar snap peas since he was 3. Make sure you make something for them to climb up, however, as they need a lot of vertical space to get their flowers exposed and be properly pollinated. The climbing thing doesn't have to particularly sturdy, as they aren't particularly heavy plants. We've used string stretched from sticks, as well as wire stretched between bean poles.

    Yes, beans needs poles. Boy do they need poles. In NoVA, our beans grew over 6 feet high. What a nightmare.

    Also, remember mulch, mulch, mulch, and, if possible, compost compost compost. Composting will make it so you don't need fertilizer. We get great yields without any synthetic fertilizer--we just dig in compost every spring and summer, and mulch around plants with grass clippings and mulch with leaves for overwintering. It makes a difference, really.

    Ok, I'm going to stop geeking out about it all now.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 3/26/2008 06:09:00 PM  

  • Beth,

    as for quick sprouters for children, we planted last Wednesday and today we have sprouts from our snap peas and our pole beans. Both are climbers, so I don't know how you would do it on a balcony, but I am sure you could build some sort of support for them.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 3/26/2008 08:13:00 PM  

  • Thanks so much HK and Heather O. I'm starting to get a plan together for this whole project!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 3/27/2008 07:59:00 AM  

  • That sounds awesome. I saw a promo piece one time between conference sessions and it looked pretty good to me. I was considering doing it this year and now I am convinced. Thanks.
    posted by Anonymous Katie at 3/27/2008 02:25:00 PM  

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