I have been reading about square foot gardening for years and this is the year I’m finally able to get started. I had plans to make about 8 garden beds and got talked down to making two, plus a raspberry bush and cut flower area. 4 beds is plenty for my first year at this, especially with the challenges of Colorado.
Building my raised beds
I built one 4′ x 6′ bed and one 4′ x 4′ bed. I used pressure treated 2×8’s since from what I read it seems that this lumber is now safe for gardens with the new way they treat this lumber. I had the guy at Home Depot cut the lengths for me, which made putting them together go quickly.
Hunter enjoyed playing in his new “forts”. The PVC piping is to hold hail cloth in place, since it’s a huge problem in Colorado. For now the hoops double as a cold frame. We have pretty warm weather late February on with must occasional spurts of cold and snow. The plan is the start my lettuce and carrots now and cover them with the greenhouse film if needed.
Adding the dirt
I made my beds extra deep since I had a little bit of a slope to deal with and also wanted ample space for carrots. I ordered a load of “planters mix” from a local gravel/mulch/landscaping company and mostly filled the beds with this soil. I filled the top 4-6″ with a fancy “outdoor planting mix” that is very similar to the Mel’s mix recipe. I found it at the local garden center and bought it on recommendation from a friend.
I had the boys help me plant the first set of seeds in the garden, which included carrots, lettuce, radishes and broccoli rabe. My romantic notions of quality family time were quickly dashed as the boys fought over who planted the most seeds and who could water.
I opted to cover the newly planted seeds the first night, mostly because I was excited to try out my hoop house experiment. I need to work on a better plan for the ends because it doesn’t handle wind well.
The next day I ended up taking the greenhouse film off because it was getting way too hot inside the hoop house, as our weather has been crazy warm (steady 70 degree days).
The radishes were the first little plants to emerge from the ground. They came up exactly one week after being planted. The broccoli rabe and lettuce emerged a few days after the radishes. I decided to throw some straw over the top of the new sprouts to help hold in some moisture. I also decided to put in some Sweet Pea seeds, because flowers are pretty.
A peek at our first little sprouts:
Seed starting indoors
On March 19th, a week after planting the outdoor seeds, I set up our indoor seed starting station.
I learned my lesson from the first seed planting experience and filled my seed starting containers and sewed the seeds after the boys were in bed. I started a number of flower seeds (Giant Zinnia, Black-eyed Susans and Alyssum) as well as tomato and basil.
I also started one seed each of melon, pumpkin and butternut squash. These crops hate being transplanted but our season is a bit short. I planted them in peat pots and am hoping to be able to directly plant those pots outside. I will also direct sew one of each to see which fares better by the end of the season. I am a nerdy plant scientist at heart, so why not set up control and experimental groups in my garden?
I actually have two seed starting trays set up, one of which has my tomato plants, basil and zinnia. I have a seedling heat mat under this tray and it seems to work well because I had Zinnia sprouts a mere 48 hours after planting them!
It’s quite possible our kitchen/dining area will be over run with plants in 8 weeks…
Next post topic: what I learned about drip irrigation in the process of preparing a home for these future seedlings.