My Square Foot Garden 2011 – The Late Start

I’ve been planning my garden since last winter. I got a gorgeous set of cedar raised beds at Lowe’s on end of season clearance. They were a little bit of a splurge, but decided that it was a worthwhile expenditure. The soil in our garden is pretty bad and the time and resources it would take to amend the soil would be significant. Plus, the best sun exposure in our yard is on the patio. I’ve also found that weeds are much easier to handle in the small spaces and don’t run amuck they way they do in the regular garden beds. So over the last three years I’m starting to fill my standard garden beds with flowering bushes, perennials and bulbs, while I concentrate on my raised beds for vegetables. This year I also have a healthy dose of weed-like groundcover, though not of my own planning. At least right now, said groundcover is blooming with little purple flowers. Soon it will just be annoying vines though. Due to the events of the past two months I have sadly behind schedule for my indoor seed starting, but I’m doing my best effort to catch up.

The unusually cold April in the Northeast has significantly set back my plans for a garden this year but I am endeavoring not to get discouraged. Last year I started my Square foot garden with a single 2X4 raised bed. The green beans were successful, but didn’t produce nearly as much as I’d hoped. Lesson learned, this year I’ll plant more. My peas didn’t start early enough to produce much of a crop and the corn never materialized at all. The carrots were also a complete failure. The squirrels stole my seed and dug up my transplants. My cucumbers produced pretty well and my tomatoes too. I also grew lettuce, but I bought transplants from the local garden center. I also bought broccoli transplants but unfortunately the squirrels dug them up.

This year I’m adding 6 trapezoidal beds equally about 36 square feet. The plan is to grow

broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, bush beans, peppers, winter squash, summer squash, tomato, cucumber, peas and strawberries.

I’ve already started my broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and peppers inside, but with mixed success. I also started tomatoes but since I’ve been really terrible at this in the past I have a friend starting tomato plants for me as well. Last night I was lucky enough to be gifted some tomato and pepper plants by a member of my writers group as well. Hurray, one less thing for me to mess up! (Of course that assumes I don’t kill these lovely transplants between now and planting time.) My peas should have already been started but I’ve been having trouble getting my beds prepped because of all of the recent rain. Last weekend I planted my strawberries and the squirrels promptly tried to dig them up, in spite of the bird net. I finally got my peas planted this week and used some bent coat hangers to let the bird net hover above the raised bed more. It seems to be working.

I still have to assemble another raised bed (i.e. ask my husband to help me assemble,) and fill it with soil so I can get my lettuce and broccoli transplants in the ground before the hot weather sneaks up and zaps them.

If the pleasant weather holds, I’m hoping to have the garden up and running for the year in the next two weeks. I’m still trying to decide if I dare to try and add blueberries. Perhaps next year.


What We Can Learn from Pioneer Women

I had a conversation with a friend recently about the community mindedness of pioneer women. They were often miles from the nearest neighbor, yet they forged a sense of community that is so often lacking today. Women did their baking and sewing together, delivered each others babies and watched each others children. Harvest was done together and even turned into a social occasion. Neighbors provided support during crisis. The only sign I see of commitment on this level in this century is among the Amish, where even fire insurance is unnecessary. If someone’s barn burns down, the community pulls together and builds a new one. Pioneer women couldn’t run to the store when they ran out of supplies. Help was given knowing that the same support could be depended on from others in times of need.

I don’t know when this sense of community died. Maybe it was when one too many people abused it, making the generous afraid of being overwhelmed. Perhaps it was our overdependence on technology. We post our troubles on Facebook and receive sympathetic comments instead of the helping hand we really need. Worse still, have we allowed our lives to become so busy and egocentric that we no longer make the time to interact with others?

I expected more from Christians today, hoping that we could success in this area where the culture around us has failed, but at least in the United States, we are little better. We fear being judged if we ask for help or offending others if we offer it. Those of us who live on little are embarrassed to admit it and yet shy away from offering our budgeting skills to those struggling. Our society has cultivated an ideal of independence and an anathema of dependence. Worse yet, the philosophy of “love thy neighbor”, for many, has been replaced by “Isn’t that the government’s job?”

So can today’s women reintegrate many of those wonderful qualities found in the pioneer woman? I’m not suggesting we give up shopping at grocery stores and start having our babies at home (unless of course you want to.) But perhaps there is still room for that kind of community even in the 21st century. Cooking at home goes in and out of style, but teaching those skills is not always something every child is taught anymore. Even basic sewing skills have become a lost art. When I told my friends I had begun baking my own bread at home, they were shocked and begged me to teach them. Why not? Our sharing of skills doesn’t have to limited to the home. We can share our love of photography, Pilates, gardening or computers. As women we can learn to depend on each other again. Those who return to the workforce pay a high price for childcare when they might prefer that their children spend the day with a friend. Many couples of lower income rarely go out because they can’t afford a babysitter. Trading off babysitting fulfills this need. We all have something to offer and we each need something in return, even if it is only our time or our listening ears.

Hanging out the Wash with my Daughter

Monday was the first day since October that it was warm enough (and not raining) and I was able to hang out my wash on the clothesline. In the past I left my daughter napping or playing happily in her playpen while I did this chore, but seeing that she will be two years old in only two months and she loves the outdoors, I decided to bring her out with me. It was a challenge to balance the heavy laundry basket in one hip while guiding her down the deteriorating concrete back steps and verbally admonishing her to use the railing for support. But once we were out there, she seemed to really enjoy herself. She actually helped me take dry clothing off the line and put it in the laundry basket rather than just play in the dirt.

There is something about the warm weather that feels like new life. I watch my daughter explore her little world of our backyard and I think about spring. This has been a particularly long winter. The groundhog’s promise of an early spring proved inaccurate as the snow and cold continued on into April. With my recent miscarriage, the rain and cold certainly haven’t helped my mood. I was beginning to feel as though spring would never come. Now since that wonderful warm day we’ve had more gray days, but I try to remember that eventually the flowers will bloom and new life will arrive.

As usual, my daughter didn’t want to come back inside, but I couldn’t blame her. If I could live in days like this, I would.