Christy & Chad Attempt a Square-Foot (Raised Bed) Garden!!!

Has anyone tried square-foot gardening in raised beds?? It's supposed to produce 100% of the yield in just 20% of the space, so we're giving it a try this summer. We're following the protocol explained in the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (thanks for the tip, Barb H.). There's also a website at I'll try to post progress updates here for anyone who might be interested. We'll see how this goes....wish us luck!!!!!!!!

Chad builds the garden boxes...

We stapled weed screen to the bottom of each box....

Okay.....flipped the boxes over and we're ready to add soil (we're gonna use "Mel's Mix," which is equal parts vermiculite, peat moss and compost mix)...

Chad mixes several types of compost & manure (we always knew he was full of it!!!)...

A minor setback....wheel barrow needs a new wheel.....

Added "Mel's Mix," but didn't buy quite enough supplies. Will have to add more tomorrow; we're ready to clean up and have some dinner!!!!!!!!!!

Time to figure out what on EARTH to plant!! Ahhhhhhhhhhh.....what have we gotten ourselves into!?!?!?!??!

Alright, got the rest of the products we need, so we're ready to top off the boxes with more of Mel's mix (see....Christy helped a little!!!)

Guess that fence can't wait til next weekend, after all. Jackson (our dog) seems to think that these "beds" are for him to lay in!!! By the way, if you've never tried constructing a fence in the dark...don't!! LOL!!!!

Things are starting to come together..

Alright, we've got our 4x4 grids in place...

Getting a few plants started indoors

A few things can already be planted outdoors (radishes, lettuce, etc.

Our parsley is sprouting! Yeah, it worked!!! (April 23, 2009)

And the cucumber plants are peaking out, too. Yeeeessss!!!

Finally built the trellises for our vine crops (tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and melons). Chad constructed the frames out of electrical conduit and braced them at the bottom to rebar and fence posts on each side!!! Christy really only helped with adding the trellis netting :)

Update (May 7, 2009)
1. Seeds we planted outdoors are beginning to grow!!

2. Just look at those radishes go...YUMMY!!!

May 15: A minor setback. Some "critter" has been eating our plants. The tops of the cucumbers are completely GONE....only a little half-stem remains. :(
Here are the green beans (nibbled on)....

and the broccoli raab (one completely gone and the other barely remains)...

Chad spent some time "reinforcing" our garden fence, but someone did suggest to us that it might be a raccoon (especially since the lettuce has been left untouched). They recommended that we pour vinegar around the perimeter of the garden to deter them. We'll see....

May 16: Our first "harvest" of the year - a tiny, spicy radish!!!

Radishes are Chad's "thing," and he said is was spicy and delicious!! :)

Update (May 17)
Headed to Fertile Crescent Farm (Crescent, IA) for some organic starter plants. You may also know this farm as "Blooms Organics," whose products are available at Whole Foods and the Benson Farmers Market. "Blooms Organics" is operated by Rebecca Bloom who we've always found to be quite knowledgeable and kind...and very generous with her information (and recipes!!). Thanks, again, Rebecca!!!
View from the road...

Inside the greenhouse...

Here's what we bought today: tomatoes, hot peppers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, mint...and a couple raspberry plants (not shown).

Update (May 25, 2009)
Chad and I had a productive Memorial Day weekend in the garden. Now that most everything has been planted, I was getting a little "bored," so we decided to plant a few more things that we weren't originally going to bother with....and of course it couldn't be as simple as just tossing some seeds into the ground, now could it????
We constructed 3 "high rise" boxes and planted carrots (between our original 4x4 boxes...and we planted 6 stalks of corn, too, in the ground behind one of the carrot boxes (which required constructing a "cage" to keep the birds out :)
Well, at least it kept us "entertained" for one more weekend. LOL!!!
(We'll be far from bored in a couple months, now, won't we!?!?!)

Chad built the frames for our "high rise" carrot boxes...

Christy filled the boxes with "Mel's Mix"...

Carrots are all planted (16 in each square)...

Corn is planted and protected with chicken wire (from the birds). Carrot boxes are covered in plastic to retain moisture in the soil...

Watermelon from a seed I planted 2 weeks ago. We'll see how it goes....

Broccoli Raab looks like it might "bounce back" after being gnawed down by some "critter" a couple weeks ago (suspect number 1 is the raccoon we spotted last night up in my neighbor's tree!!!!). Two middle plants in the front are lettuce - - which really have been enjoying the cool break in the weather - - behind the one on the right side is the broccoli raab...

On a side note, Chad also spent much of this weekend replacing a wall of landscaping timbers in our front yard (nothing to do with the garden or with food, but thought some of you might find this interesting.....) He developed a blister under his wedding ring that was red and in the shape of a perfect THAT is love!!!!

Update (May 28, 2009)
So, more plant parts disappeared overnight last night (including the watermelon plant shown above and the leaves off of our other watermelon plant). And here are suspects #1 and #2.....(we spotted a total of 5 raccoons in our neighbor's tree tonight - - a momma and 4 babies!!!!)

Peek-a-boo, little raccoon friend!!! (May 29, 2009)
Well, look who was watching me water the garden this morning around 7am (and probably licking his chops the entire time!! LOL!!!). (Look to the far right side of the hole in the tree...a raccoon!!)
We have a flood light over our back door that shines on part of the garden, so I decided to try leaving it on all night last night....nothing was disturbed this morning, but probably just a coincidence??? I'll try again and see :) I also stayed up a little late "staking out" the garden from my bedroom window to see if I could catch anyone "in the act," but I gave up around 11:30pm!!

(May 31, 2009): First lettuce harvest of the year!!!
We had quite a bit of lettuce just begging to be eaten, so I finally caved in and made a huge salad with it for dinner tonight. It's just a bit sad to see it leave the garden b/c it was doing soooooooo well :) But I was told that there's a chance of storms tonight so I wussed out and "saved" it from the garden. Better to eat it than see it ruined, that's for sure!!!
We've never grown lettuce before, so it was pretty exciting to enjoy our first home-grown salad together. Unfortunately, I was about out of other veggies to throw in there b/c I skipped going to the grocery store this weekend (way too nice outside to bother with THAT!!!), so I had to get a little creative. The radishes are also from our garden :)
(Oh, and by the way....we left our flood light on again last night and the garden remained untouched. Hmmm....I guess "crossing your fingers" must REALLY work. LOL!!!)

(June 3, 2009): Corn is up!

(June 13, 2009): Darn cutworms!!!!
Something is chomping off parts of our plants. Barb said her husband told her that it sounds like cutworms. Ugghhhh!!! Here's exhibit A: a parsley plant...

June 17, 2009
GOOD NEWS!!! Since placing "collars" around all of our plants 4 days ago, we have incurred ZERO damage to our plants....perhaps we have finally "foiled" the cutworms??? (Thanks, again, Barb. As always, you've "come to the rescue"!!)
We shall see. Time will tell, I suppose. :)

Chad creates cutworm "collars" to place around plants (by romantic!!)

In an effort to rid our garden of birds, especially a pesky group of frequently-visiting black birds, Chad hung a bunch of CDs all around the garden (apparently birds don't like "tacky" gardens. LOL!!). But seriously, evidently birds don't like spinning, shiny objects, so we gave it a try. Seems to have kept the (millions of) black birds away, but not the robins. So we added an owl to our "tacky" garden decor....those darn robins were spotted a few times within FEET of that stinkin' owl!!!!!

"Whooo, whooo.....who cares about this owl!?!??! Not the robins, that's for SURE!!!!

I'm sure Chad would've been satisfied with just hanging a boatload more CDs everywhere, but I was highly opposed to the idea (regardless of how much beauty and character it would add to the garden....NOT!!!!). After hearing from MANY people that fake snakes are the way to go, we finally got our hands on some....and let me tell you, in the WEEK since placing those silly things throughout our garden, we haven't spotted a SINGLE bird in there (and it's NOT for lack of trying....we CONSTANTLY peek out our windows, etc.). Honestly, I'm not sure the robins were doing any harm....but just in case :) Many of our tiny plants were getting plucked completely out of the ground and then just left there intact..not sure WHO was the culprit!
We searched MANY stores before FINALLY getting our hands on some fake snakes (we never imagined it'd be such a hard to find thing). If you need any, we found ours at Nobbies on 120th & Center. A 12-pack was about $13. Otherwise, they are about $2/each if purchased individually.

Apparently, they need not be too realistic looking....

Our garden in all of its "bird-deterring glory"!!! (oh, well)

Go to the Videos page on this site to see some footage of our "battle against the cutworms" (2 videos posted!)

June 30, 2009
WOW!! A lot can change in just one short week when the weather is right :) Here are today's pics of the garden....complete with the glorious ripening of the highly anticipated cherry tomato. YEEEEEESSSS!!!! Too bad Chad thought I said, "eat it," when I actually said, "guess we can eat it" (meaning, let's split it). Oh well, he said it was good....I'll just eat the next one before he sees it (ahhh.... the advantages of being the designated garden waterer...too bad for him, I'm out there in the mornings before he even gets out of bed... Sucker doesn't have a chance!!!! LOL!!)

July 1, 2009
As promised, I secured MYSELF a cherry tomato while Chad was still in bed today. Guess it's true that good things come to those who wait.....b/c I found TWO today (take that, Chad!!)

Stay tuned!! We have lots more work to do!!

PLEASE NOTE: Because of the abundance of photos in this blog, it is taking FOREVER to all future updates will be posted as individual blogs!!!

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Comment by Christy Pooschke (founder) on July 1, 2009 at 12:53pm
I've added a few posts recently to update you all on our garden progress. See above :)
Anyone else excited about what they've been able to harvest??? Do tell.
Comment by Molly Kvam on May 28, 2009 at 7:39am
Christy, Our eldest daughter did the square foot garden as a senior project. (A joy of home schooling). She didn't do the raised beds but did it right on the ground. We still use some of the same style on our big garden. We just strung our trellises yesterday for the cukes. I love being able to stand to pick cukes when it is time to harvest. We tried the slings for melons but weren't happy with the results. I've since turned the square foot area into an herb garden. I do what I'd call a combination of square foot/intensive/ lasagna style gardening. My beds are now 3ft wide by about 30 ft long. I still use the trellis for cukes. We stake tomoatoes rather than cage them. (My second daughter taught me how to do this and it is amazing the space we can save and the ease of picking those red beauties.) This year we have added a "3 Sisters" area to our garden. Our daughters are to be at the Benson market with Mark on Sat if you are around stop by and talk to Vivian about the square foot method. She read the book also. Happy gardening.
Comment by Christy Pooschke (founder) on April 23, 2009 at 7:25am
Colleen, I have heard about various manure "teas," unfortunately, we are fresh outta horse poop here :) How's your garden coming along? How big is it?!?!?! I'm soooooo jealous!!!
Comment by Christy Pooschke (founder) on April 23, 2009 at 7:23am
Shelby....I'm so excited that you're trying this too. Have you planted anything, yet? You should post some photos here of yours, too, so everyone can see. Yours look so nice :)
Comment by Shelby on April 16, 2009 at 6:48pm
Looks great!! Im trying to convince my husband we need to try this. Im hoping your detailed pictures will help me out a little. I can't wait to see what its like 2 months from now!
Comment by Colleen S. on April 15, 2009 at 3:53pm
Looking good! Did you know the color red helps to increase your harvest of tomatoes? Here is another little hint for "fertilizer". Horse manure "tea". Take dried horse poop, place in cheesecloth, add gallon of water, let it sit and waaa laaa, fertilizer and it doesn't smell.


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