This nodeshell is intended as a place for everything2 gardeners to post results from the 2011 spring/summer growing season. Feel free to include methods, tips, or anything else fellow gardeners may find useful or interesting.

Monkeylover's First Box Garden

I grew up around a lot of gardens. Three sets of grandparents always had huge gardens, and for about six years my mother also grew one. But I have never grown one on my own. This year I decided to take a tiny step in that direction. This writeup details my experiences with a 4' x 4' box garden during 2011.

Materials and Expenses

Because I did grow up around a lot of gardening, I knew that I had to be careful about jumping in and biting off more than I could chew with my first attempt at a home garden. Vegetable garden s can become a lot of work, and I did not want to fall into the trap of having half of my backyard planted and be unable to keep up with it. To help prevent this, I decided to pursue square foot gardening. Some of the basic principles of square foot gardening are:

  • Small, easily accessed and maintained growing areas (like say, a square foot at a time?)
  • Controlled soil mixture to reduce necessary maintenance
  • Earlier harvests with more attention to staggering yields
I reasoned that creating a 4' x 4' garden box would give me space to grow enough vegetables to supplement my wife's many soups and salads but not so much space that I would not be able to keep up with it in the evenings. Ideally, I hoped to spend a maximum of 5 to 10 minutes each afternoon maintaining it, with no more than about one hour a week of total attention.

Building a box is relatively simple. I purchased the following items (at premium prices because of where I shopped) and assembly took a few hours during the afternoon. The materials could be purchased much cheaper with a little care, and many of the items could potentially be salvaged from other projects.

  • Pine Lattice
  • 2 eight foot long 2 x 6 boards (untreated)
  • 36 foot of weed cloth
  • Jute twine roll
  • 2 cubic feet to Peat Moss
  • 1 cubic foot of organic soil
  • 4 four foot long garden stakes
  • 25 feet of 4 foot high garden wire

  • --------------------
  • Total Cost = $82.82

To build the box, I cut each of the 8 foot long boards in half and nailed them together in a square. I then covered the bottom in weed cloth and tacked it down. I picked out an area in the backyard that would be in full sunlight all day, and placed it with the weed cloth on the bottom. To divide the box into its 1' x 1' sections, I had planned to use the Pine Lattice. Ultimately though, I marked each side of the box into one foot intervals, drove a nail into each mark about halfway down, and then tied twine from one nail to its opposite on the other side of the box to create a twine grid representing my 1' x 1' blocks. Prior to tying the twine, I mixed the soil and Peat Moss into the box. I made a mistake here in my amount, and ended up only having a box about half-full. Next time I will try to mix in about 30% more topsoil. Finally, I hammered in a garden stake about a foot down at each corner of the box and tied the garden wire from stake to stake (after using wire clippers to separate it into four sections to facilitate getting in and out of the box easily from each side).

After a week or two of weather and letting the soil settle with the rain, I planted my spring crop in the following manner:

Spring Crop

Spring Garden, Planted 3-19-2011 North
Evergreen Long
White Onions
Hot Jalapeno
Earl Peppers
Straight Eight
Straight Eight
Evergreen Long
White Onions
Organic Diciccio
Evergreen Long
White Onions
Red Onion
Organic Diciccio
Organic Diciccio
Organic Genovese
Organic Scarlett
Nantes Carrots
Organic Scarlett
Nantes Carrots
Organic Chives Red Onion
Coriander / Cilantro

Growing Notes

April 5, 2011

  • Much rain in last two weeks, temperatures today in the high 60s
  • Cilantro has come out in three visible, small rows
  • Red onions first to show, now a few are 2 inches high
  • A few very small tips of chives visible, same with two rows of carrots
  • No basil visible
  • Both broccoli squares visible, one on West much more than East
  • Long White onions visible
  • No peppers visible
  • No cucumbers visible

June 12, 2011

  • Harvested 14 carrots (2.5-4 inches long and approximately the width of my thumb) and one fist sized red onion
  • Approximately 85 days from planting to harvest on these items

June 13, 2011

  • Pulled all cilantro because have flowered out of control, grew very well but planted too much
  • Broccoli never made, but grew very well, too hot to produce may try again in colder weather
  • No peppers, should start separate next time
  • Chives doing well
  • A few red onions left, too small to harvest at the moment
  • Cucumber plants finally growing well, a few yellow flowers this week, began moving up the rabbit wire

Summer Crop

Summer Garden, Additions planted 6-14-2011 North
Jack- O'- Straight Eight
Straight Eight
Lantern Pumpkin
Organic Diciccio
Butter Beauty Lettuce  
Chili Red
Hot Pepper
Organic Chives Red Onion
Bush Early
Girl Tomato

July 16, 2011

  • To date: cucumbers totaled 15 for 8 pounds
  • Only one pepper, good size, turning red now (plants seems to be suffering from poor soil)
  • One good-sized green tomato but no others, taken over by cucumber plant
  • Pumpkin thinned to one plant, about a foot tall, looks good

July 27, 2011

  • Picked one ripe tomato yesterday. Six or seven small green ones still on plant the bugs appear to have been eating several
  • Still harvesting chives
  • A couple of onions still growing and harvestable at any time
  • Three or four days ago I picked one red pepper, something ate all the leaves off the plant, will be the last (and only) one this year
  • Two weeks ago I tasted the cucumbers, very bitter and bad. Grew well but worthless, pulled up the plant
  • Pumpkin is doing well, over a foot high, yesterday looked like flowers about to bloom

At this point, September 19, the only thing left growing is the pumpkin. It took over the entire box, spread up the wire, and I have repeatedly had to fight it back out of the yard. A single pumpkin is growing in the box, slightly larger than a human head, and just this week it began turning from green to light yellow. I never harvested any of the lettuce, but apparently it was growing the entire time under the monstrous pumpkin plant and now that the interior of the pumpkin plant is starting to drop and dry out it stands tall and proud (and completely gone to seed).

Ultimately, I did not generate nearly enough vegetables to offset the cost of building and maintaining the garden, but I still consider the year a solid success. I learned a good deal about some specific vegetables I am interested in growing next year, and the act of gardening was, for me, a personally rewarding experience. Looking forward to next year, I plan to:

  1. Grow my tomato plants in large pots instead of the box, and use better supporting wire around them. Also, start them earlier.
  2. Use my existing box to grow carrots and cooking herbs in the first half of the year and a pumpkin in the second half, starting the pumpkin one or two weeks earlier so that I could use a larger seed variety.
  3. Do a better job of preparing the soil and finding organic fertilizer to get my plants through the end of the growing season.

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