Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gardening 101: Seedlings and Planning - The path to a self sufficient organic vegetable garden in 2011

I have set myself a very challenging goal for my vegetable garden in 2011!! I want to make my vegetable garden this year organic and best of all, I want to achieve self sufficiency...

So I will describe all the steps of what I will do this year to achieve my goal. So here is the first post:


The first thing I did was draw the design of my garden in paper. I am trying a new method this year called the square foot gardening (SFG). Basically, you build this square box of 4x4 feet and divide it into 8 1x1 spaces. You plant different arrangements of plants in each of the 1x1 boxes. As I have already built-in beds in my house, I modified the process and measured my boxes and divided the area in as many 1x1 boxes I could fit in.

The idea of SFG is that you can increase the yield of your garden by planting together instead of in rows. As I want to be self sufficient and I have limited space, this seems the way to go.

I ended up with lots of 1x1 boxes. I then put the name of the plant I want to grow in each square. In order to do this I took into account the following:
  1. My family's preference in vegetables - no point on growing something nobody will eat!!
  2. The size of the plant (visualize the full grown plants)- as my boxes are against my house, I put the tallest plants close to the walls so they do not shade the others.
  3. What I planted last year in the space so I can achieve a good rotation and not deplete my soil of nutrients. I normally rotate as follows: year 1- brassicas, year 2 -roots, year 3- others and start all over again in year 4.
This year, I will have onions, garlic (planted in the fall), herbs, 3 types of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, arugula, okra, strawberries, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, zucchini, spring onions, corn and more....


I have just planted our first set of seeds for the garden. I am starting all the seeds indoors, off course as it is still freezing out there. I live in Zone 5 so snow is still in the ground. I have started with the cold season vegetables as there are the first ones that are going to be planted outside.

This is what I just planted:
  • 2 different types of peas (sugar snap and a round one)
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Onions - from seeds collected from my onions last year
  • Coriander (this I will keep inside for longer - not a cold season crop)
  • Beans (my kids got these as a project at school so they will also stay indoors for longer)
To plant, I used recycled materials to be as green as possible. I put some of the small seeds inside egg cartons and for the bigger seeds I have been collecting my used paper cups from the office!! You only need to open some holes at the bottom of your egg cartons and cups, put on top of a plastic tray and voila! the egg cartons are particularly cool as you can close them for the first few days and they keep your seeds warm so they sprout quicker. Remember to leave open once they sprout so they can get some sun.

I am also trying to not be wasteful with my seeds, I collected as many seeds as I could from last year's vegetables (if you need any home grown seeds let me know!). I am putting only 2 or 3 seeds per container vs. seeding outdoors hundreds of them only to have to thin them all!

For seedling medium - I refused to buy the ohh so expensive (although I know is good) stuff they sell at garden centers, so I did my own with garden soil and free composted horse poop!!! (this one is the subject of another post)

In the next couple of weeks I will prepare the soil - Stay tuned.

DAY 3 Photo - Onions and Arugula sprouted already

DAY 12 Photos: A few more seddlings

4 weeks later:

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