Decided to start doing videos instead of writing so much as it seems like it will be easier to keep this updated.

So it’s been a while since I posted and a lot has happened since then.  To catch you up on the seeds I started, the broccoli rapini and the swiss chard all came up good.  Not so lucky with the lettuce or tomatoes.  None of the lettuce came up and only 2 tomatoes.  I think it was just too hot with the heating mat under these.  So I redid both and didn’t put them on the heating pad.  Much better this time as both did great.  The only problem was I sat the tomatoes on top of my grow lights and didn’t check them everyday because I figured they wouldn’t come up until 7 days or so.  Well I was wrong because they must of came up in 3 or 4 because when I looked at them on day 5 they were tall and leggy already.  Some of them where 3-4 inches and trying to fall over.  I proceeded to transplant them into individual newspaper pots a few days ago and they seem to be doing fine.  They might be a little leggy but I figured I’d killed them for sure when I first saw them.

I also tried to start some peppers with the heating mat almost 3 weeks ago.  Still nothing has came up.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to buy my pepper transplants.  I’m not real happy with that heating pad.

As far as the SFG itself, I got most of my boxes filled and I’ve build cold tunnel covers over 2 of them.  I still need to fill up a couple of them and both of my younger boys want boxes of their own so I need to get those built as well.  I’m also kicking around the idea of making 4 more boxes that are 2×4 and using these for nothing but tomatoes.  Here is a pick of the cold tunnels:

We also started planting outside the last weekend.  We planted radishes, spinach, beets, carrots and lettuce from seed.  We also bought and planted some transplants of cabbage, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, parsley, and lettuce.  We put these under the cold frames to help protect against frost since we was about 6 weeks away when we planted.  We had a frost once this last week and the plants look okay although 2 of the cabbages don’t look the greatest.  Today the first of the radishes started popping up as well which is pretty cool.  We are planning on planing some cauliflower, more broccoli, and more radishes this weekend too.

I also started a compost bin outside.  It was just a small one that we bought at Sams Club.  If all goes well we will probably one or two more like this one.  And on the subject of composting I ended up buying some worms to help with composting.  I made a worm bin out of 3 totes and ordered 5000 worms.  I just got the worms today and got them all tucked in for the night in their new home.  Here is some pics:

Hopefully they will be making some nice compost from food and garden scraps in a few months.

Anyways, that’s what has happened in our little square foot garden in the past few weeks.  How about you?

The winner of the first sprouts of the year was the Rapini Broccoli.  At around 3 days we had a couple of these popup followed shortly by the Rainbow Swiss Chard.  Here is a pic of the sprouts:

One thing I’m finding out is that these pots really dry out fast.  I’m watering them daily but they are pretty dry when I get around to watering them.    Also on the box front, I found 5 different kinds of compost.

So I have a mushroom, organic compost, garden compost, cotton burr, and manure compost.  I’m sure some of these are kind of the same thing but it’s the best I could come up with.  I also got my vermiculite which was sold as attic insulation instead of the regular horticulture grade vermiculite.  I contacted the company that makes this and they said it’s the same vermiculite except it might be more coarse than their garden vermiculite.  I’m going with it because it’s $10.99 for a 3 cubic foot bag compared to $26.99 for a 4 cubic bag of the coarse horticulture vermiculite.

I mixed up about 24 cubic feet of the Mel’s mix on the first day and it’s a lot of work.  I’m really hoping this SFG will pay off because it’s going to be a lot of work setting it up.  The hardest part is mixing the compost first.  I’m mixing it up with  1 cubic foot of each compost which makes it tough to mix 5 cubic feet on a tarp.  Also not all the compost is equal.  I like the consistency of the manure, mushroom and the organic compost although some of the organic bags are bone dry making me wonder if they will even do anything.  The cotton burr on the other hand is a horrible smelling compost.  Not sure why but it stinks pretty bad but the few articles I’ve read says it’s one of the better composts to use.  The garden compost is also full of sticks.   Some of them are more like branches.  I’m going to have to pull these out when I go to plant and save them for my compost pile when I set it up.

So that’s the update for now and hopefully I can get the rest of the boxes filled and get more plants started inside.

Last year was the first year in 15 that my wife and I had a garden and afterwards I remembered why we hadn’t planted one in that long.  The only thing that really produced was the tomatoes and cucumbers.  Oh and the weeds did really good!  But rather than give up I was looking online for ways to improve our soil when I stumbled accross square foot gardens (SFG) and it seemed like a great way to have a great garden this year rather than work on building up a soil in the hopes of having good soil in a few years.    Basically it’s raised garden bed with grids on them which allows you to grow more food in the same area because you are doing away with rows.

First a view of what the old garden looks like right now:

Everything is right where we left it last fall.  The area is about 23′ x 17′.  Our plan is to use 12 – 4’x4’x6″ boxes in this area.  We actually spent the last 2 days building and painting these boxes and the easy part of them is done.  We still need to work on the grids, covers and trellises for a few.  I’m also having a hard time locating everything I need for the soil mixture.  Basically in the book, it recommends a mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat, and 1/3 vermiculite.  I found the peat and vermiculite but the compost should come from 5 different sources.  I don’t think I’m going to have a hard time finding all of this a month from now but right now it’s a little early for everyone to have compost on hand here in Nebraska.

One of the other things we decided with this garden was we were going to grow more heirloom varieties especially in regards to tomatoes.  I just feel like these will taste better than the hybrids or genetically modified ones.  But with that it also means we are going to have to grow them from seeds rather than just buying transplants.  So while we were building our boxes I also built a growing lamp setup.  The only spot we had in the house for it was on top of our son’s snake aquarium so I had to build a stand to go over it.  Here it is:

The lights are basically 2 – 48″ shop lights that I bought at Walmart for 10 bucks each.  I then also bought 4-plant fluorescent tubes to go in them.  The whole setup probably cost right around 50 bucks which is cheaper than a could of bought a small 24″ one with 2 bulbs.

Once we had it up we decided to start a few plants.  Most of these will be put in the cold frame hoop house in a few weeks when I get them built.  We started 7 kinds of tomatoes including Amish Paste, Mortgage Lifter, Black Cherry, Brandywine, Black Pineapple, Kellogg’s Breakfast,  and Bloody Butcher.  It might be a little early for these as we are 9 weeks away from the average frost date but I’m thinking about using either a cold frame or water tubes to get a few out early and I thought it would be good practice just to see if we could get anything to germinate and grow.  We also started Rainbow Swiss Chard, 2 Kinds of Kale, Romaine Lettuce, May Queen Lettuce, and some Broccoli Rapini.   Here is all of these sitting under the growing light:

We are planning on starting some peppers in the next few weeks as well and the rest of the tomato plants.  We also need to finish the raised beds in the next 3 weeks and get the cold frame hoops up on a few of them.  Here’s hoping spring and warmer weather is right around the corner.