Lets talk dirt!

One of my favorite times of the year is April and May because I can start planting a garden and flower pots.  Gardening is equally rewarding and frustrating!  I love the planning, planting, pruning, staking and harvesting.  I do not enjoy weeding, watering and fighting bugs and caterpillars!
I have made the most ridiculous mistakes while gardening, and I’ve had the greatest triumphs.  The year I grew prize winning better boy tomatoes was my crowning glory… the year some  animal destroyed all but one watermelon was my low point! 😉  I’m pretty sure I could write a blog post just on all the mistakes I have made through the years trying to grow a garden! 😉
I used to plant a huge garden in the ground.  It was quite satisfying to watch the fruits and vegetables grow, but I found myself becoming too frustrated with the amount of weeds, wildlife and bugs I was fighting.  Plus the drought conditions of a southern Illinois summer meant lots and lots of watering.  I also have poor soil quality (lots of clay and shale!) and it was quite the chore to bring in the amount of compost I needed. 
My mom told me about a seminar at a local nursery (Plantscape Nursery,  Herrin, IL) that was teaching how to start a “square foot” garden.  I was intrigued.  I listened as they spoke about the benefits and it sounded almost too good to be true.

Curious for more information, I purchased the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. 

Mel’s revolutionary way to grow more in less space sounded perfect.  Plus his innovative grid-based method not only produces more in less space… it requires less work!
Square foot gardening requires two key components:  raised boxes and a special soil mix that is three equal parts compost, vermiculite and peat moss.
If you are a DIY’er you can build the garden boxes yourself, however, I am not! I bought mine from Wayfair and Home Depot and they required very minimal assembly without tools.
I purchased the soil from a local nursery with his exact specifications: 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost and 1/3 peat moss. I thoroughly mixed all three together and added them to the assembled box.

Last year was the first year to try this method and I was very pleased with the results! I hardly had to weed the garden and the I never had to fertilize either.  The soil was amazing! The only negative was that I planted too much in the box! I will try to space them out better this year.  (I forgot how large zucchini plants can grow!)  I still fought the stink bugs, but I did not have any caterpillars so that was an improvement!
This year I am adding two more boxes.  I kept enough space in between each box so that I can walk around all four sides.  I am going to mulch around all them for easy maintenance and I will keep a chicken wire fence around the entire garden area to keep the wildlife out.
I planted a spring garden in early April with red romaine lettuce, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach.  Over Mother’s Day weekend I added a variety of tomatoes, romaine lettuce, assorted peppers and celery.  I still need to plant my zucchini.  When my lettuce is finished I will be adding green beans to the mix, too.
All I need now are warmer temperatures because it’s been a chilly May and my tomato plants are not enjoying the cold nights.  How about you? Did you plant a garden this year?  What are your favorites?

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