Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gardening in a Box.

Normally, I do things a little outside the box. This time, outside the box is inside the box!

I love getting my hands dirty in good soil. I also love reminding myself of the simple truth: "If I want to live, something else must die."
That's some hard philosophy for you, and it's not what this post is about. This post is about gardening using a technique I have modified from "Square Foot Gardening" . I bought the newest book at a big box hardware store so I could start raising the food I eat instead of just going to the store. Previous attempts at gardening have only been minimally effective, I wanted to try and do something good and right, and I'm finally starting to see fruit, literally, and figuratively!

I don't wish to critique Mel Bartholomew's book Square Foot Gardening because I didn't follow his instructions exactly. I didn't build the soil he said to build (and I don't think I will), and I used slightly different materials. I didn't do anything different out of spite, or because I thought I was doing it better, I did it because I've learned to be pragmatic, especially when time is of the essence. I was already late in getting the boxes built, I feared I might become downright hasty if I neglected doing something beneficial soon! I'm glad I did things when I did them, I was able to learn some valuable lessons:
1. The thing about a raised box garden is that the magic is in the raised box! I believe that is the single most important thing I learned. Building a box, covering the bottom with a weed fabric, and controlling the soil you use to grow your plants are the things that seem to provide the greatest results. Isolate the environment to compensate for a lack.
2. Watch it like a hawk. Because your environment is isolated, you may have to make a quick reaction to what's happening in and around the soil, especially when it comes to water. When you have a raised bed, with weed fabric accross the bottom, it's hard to water too much, but it can be very easy to water too little, especially as it gets hotter. plants can't develop deep roots, so you have to compensate.
3. Have a plant support system established before you build the boxes. One of the things Mel says do, that I didn't was build a netting trellis. I couldn't find the netting, and instead of pragmatically just getting some tomato cages or stakes, I neglected to do that, and the plants quickly went willy-nilly. Bad call. I finally staked the tomatoes today, and got them off the everything. My tomato production will probably suffer as a result.

Other general notes include, the next time I do tomatoes, i will do one variety at a time, just to keep seeds pure. I will also locate some netting, because I think I could get better tomatos if I'd been training to to grow on a net instead of just staking them, staking will damage the vine. I'll do fewer plants too. Ultimately, I'd like to have a group of cherry tomatoes growing overhead. I think I could do that, and have it be awesome.

The garden is beginning to bear fruit. it's gone from this:

To This:

The tomatoes are producing tomatoes, although none have turned yet. The cucumbers are going strong, we've already had one. I've gotten basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, radishes, and various greens. I've also had a hand full of blackberries.

updates as summer and harvest progresses!


Lori Bundy Pellem said...

I've found the net trellises at Home Depot on an end cap. My cucumbers love them. :D

Love your beds! I have one, but it's filled with bulbs. I did plant some tomatoes and peppers in it, but it's all good.

Hope you get some good veggies!

G. Brandon Hoyt said...

Thanks for the comment! I've learned a lot on this go round that I plan on sharing once the crops start coming in. I've tried to keep things as organic as possible. I got bit a little bit on watering, I watered the cukes late one day, and the leaves got wet, meant mildew in the morning, just like roses. Hasn't been too bad since, I've managed to keep the leaves dry!