Behind the Fence

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Questions from the Coffee Shop

About a dozen folks joined me at Market House Coffee Shop yesterday for discussion of my potager and Square Foot Garden. We were fortunate to have horticulturist Kathy Keeny present and appreciated her sharing tips and answering some of the more technical questions. Following are some of the questions with my answers.

How did you get started doing Square Foot Gardening? I first heard of Square Foot Gardening in the early eighties on the PBS series by the same name. I bought the first edition of Mel Bartholomew’s book at that time and started with a couple of squares. I now have eight squares and his latest edition published in 2005.

Do all vegetables require a lot of sun? As far as I know, with little exception, most vegetables do require at least 6-8 hours of sun.

When do you plant lettuce? Late February, early March, depending on the weather. Also again in late summer I plant lettuce as well as arugula, Swiss chard and spinach under a shade cloth for a fall harvest.

What is “Mel’s Mix” that you keep mentioning? Mel’s Mix is the planting medium mentioned in his book Square Foot Gardening. It is equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost.

How do you know when to fertilize? I only add fertilizer if the plants seem to need it (leaves starting to yellow, plant not growing or producing.) I usually apply fish emulsion. Good compost has most of the nutrients garden plants need.

What do you put in your compost? Peelings from the kitchen, newspaper, cardboard, dryer lint, coffee grounds with filters, garden debris, etc. (See earlier post.) Avoid meat and fats as they will attract undesirable animals (like raccoons.)

Have you had problems with animals getting in the compost? Not yet, maybe because I avoid the meats and fats.

Where do you get those neat little compost bins? The posts were ordered on-line from Green Culture. The slats are from Home Depot or Lowes.

Is there time to grow summer vegetables after you harvest the early produce? Don’t wait until you harvest the lettuce, onions, peas, etc. to plant the summer vegetables. I use the lettuce and onions in the center of a square first and plant a tomato, squash, melon, etc. By the time the summer crops need the space, the early stuff will be done. See Louise Riotte’s book Tomatoes Love Carrots for more information on succession planting.

Much thanks to Valerie Pollard for inviting me to share my passion for gardening at Market House Coffee Shop. For more information on Square Foot Gardening, visit their web site.

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