Thursday, 8 May 2008

Little Garden, Big Garden

Last year I had a garden for the first time, and I started small. Very small: a 4X4 'square foot' garden. It turned out pretty well for a first effort, but I had started it quite late, and things never really had a chance to grow as big as they might have. And I planted a few things that really weren't suited to the location, but of course I didn't know that then. And one thing I planted wasn't even edible!

But this year I managed to get this little garden in almost a month earlier. My mistake last year was thinking that I had to wait until the last frost date (around May 20th here) to plant. But later on it dawned on me that that applies to plants that are already leafed out and flowering, not to seeds!

So in the Little Garden this year, I've planted (from top left across to bottom right):

Early Alberta Corn, Ethiopian Blue Tinge Wheat, Golden Flax, Barley
Golden Beet, Early Tall Leaf Beet, Earth Chestnuts, Oat Grass (for the guinea pigs)
Danvers Half Long Carrot, Celtuce, Chicory, Garlic
Danver's Half Long Carrot, Gem Turnip, Senger Spinach, Bunching Onions

The first row, with the corn and the grains is pretty experimental - I just want to see what happens before I plant them in a larger area. Off to the right in the white planter (with the broken rim) is a whole bunch more garlic. Gord was none too pleased with this -- he wanted more corn! I assured him that we would be planting more corn once the Big Garden was ready. However, the Big Garden is still mostly a cratered-looking area, which used to be a large brush/log pile. We arranged for a fire permit and over the past two weeks we've been burning 5 year's accumulation of brush and rotten logs. So the Big Garden will be somewhat behind schedule.

Here is the "before" picture of the brushpile:

And here is "after:"

That's Gord in there, doing all the heavy dirty work!

My plan is to build two, or maybe three raised 4X8 foot beds for this area and plant potatoes, squash, more carrots, more corn, cucumbers, beans and peas. We'll also plant some extra potatoes outside the raised beds, just to see how well they grow when planted directly in our fairly sandy clay soil.

So that is the story of the Little Garden and the Big Garden, so far. There should be more to tell in the coming weeks....


Heather said...

What a spread! That's a great garden!

We're going to start building a garden this year (I know close to nothing). We're going to put in raised beds and start composting in them to get soil nice and fertile, then plant next year.

My hubby said a gardening book was actually written for my area so we're on the lookout for it. Growing my own food is my next step in eating locally and I can use all the help I can get. I'm looking forward to future posts.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great! How exciting to have two gardens!

I'm still digging the ivy roots and plan on growing everything in pots this year until I know I have gotten everything... I started some items in February inside (like you, last year I started too many things too late), and yesterday bought more seeds... I hope it isn't too late for those.

DC said...

It sounds like you're off to a great start. One thing you might consider when growing corn is to plant several short rows side by side. This deviates from the traditional square foot gardening approach, but corn is wind pollinated, so you need to plant corn seeds close to one another to ensure good pollination and ear development. Good luck with your garden!

Theresa said...

Thanks Heather - I know only slightly more than I did last year, but I figured the only way to know more was to try and grow more. The raised beds do seem to work quite well to keep things managaable and accessible. What a good idea to do your composting in them first!

Artby - I figured I should get the little garden started since it was pretty much ready to go from last year, with just the addition of some more compost and soil mix. The little garden gets less sun than the big garden will, so eventually I will learn what does better where and then plant appropriately. Oh, and the container planting is working well so far too - I've got kale, lettuce and spinach coming up in those now. I will take a few pictures and post those too.

DC - thanks for the info. In the big garden I will be doing less of the square foot approach I think, and will plant the corn as you suggest. I'll probably also plant some things in ordinary rows, and still others in larger squares or rectangles. And maybe even some companion planting if I can learn enough about that in time. I may end up doing the traditional corn/bean/squash arrangement somewhere. The key to all these big plans of course is to actually get the cratered-area made into a garden!

Anonymous said...


There's a great book called Vegetable Favourites by Lois Hole (an Albertan, I believe). I'm in south central Ontario and use it like a bible. Another book I would recommend is Carrots Love Tomatoes...all about companion planting. I started a veggie garden a few years ago and it grows and grows each year. I love it! This year I'm trying Red Fife Wheat...we'll see how it goes!


Theresa said...

Hi Liz, thanks for those book recommendations. I'm sure I've seen that Lois Hole book around, but never thought to pick it up. I will look for the other one too. I just learned yesterday from Coleman's 'Four Season Harvest" not to plant the onion family where the cabbage family was planted the year before, which I found interesting.

kale for sale said...

I thought the onions at the CSA were going to taste good after you worked to plant them but clearing this space for a garden totally tops that. This food is going to be scrumptuous. Just seeing the work that goes into making a garden makes me appreciate my farmers' market even more.

Theresa said...

K4S - making a salad out of the produce from the Little Garden last year was a real joy. I'd never grown anything to eat before, other than the occasional parsley plant, and actually making part of a meal from food I grew myself made me grin from ear to ear. I just can't wait to plant some stuff in the Big Garden! There should be some more progress to report on that score by next weekend, if things go as I hope....