Cool Season Crops & Square Foot Gardening

We spent two full days this weekend devoted to our backyard. I’m totally wiped, but it feels great to keep things moving along. Here’s what the yard looked like at the end of last weekend’s work:

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And here’s what it looks like now:

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The biggest difference is that we’ve moved overgrown/half-dead bushes, prickly shrubs, etc. from one side of the yard and piled them on the other side. We also moved the compost bin from its location beside the deck to its new spot along the north-side fence, out of smelling-range while we drink our iced-tea on the deck. This was WAY more work than it looks like. My hands are covered in scratches from the stupid prickly bush that hangs over into our yard from the neighbour’s place! I “pruned” it on our side – meaning I hacked at it with pruning shears for an hour or so with no real direction while trying to get out of moving rocks.

We mixed some sheep manure into our beds to beef them up a little. Apparently it’s high in nitrogen! I was really expecting it to stink up our backyard and make our new neighbours angry, but I didn’t even notice the smell.

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I’ve realized my pictures make it look like I do nothing and Dave does all the work. This is only partly true.

We took the rocks that were scattered around the yard and built a raised bed along the side of the fence on the north side of the yard, mixing in a little of our triple-mix. There was a bamboo fence leaning against the existing chain link fence on that side so we dug down a little to make it stand straighter, and hopefully look half-decent.

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Dave used a string to make a straight line, then dug down to build a low rock wall along the edge. We’ll have to fix this each year as it shifts with the frost, but it’s pretty low-maintenance, and better still, free!  You can see the raspberry (or maybe blackberry?) canes there beside the compost bin – we transplanted them to make room for our peas and beans.

After we did the major cleanup, we finished sawing the tops off the stakes so they were level with the garden beds and laid our square foot grid on two of the beds so we could start planting. I used twigs to mark each foot down the length and width of each bed, then tied twine to each to create a grid. This will make it easier for us to remember where we’ve planted and to keep track of plant spacing.

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Square-foot gardening will allow us to use less seeds by planting the number of seeds we know the space could hold as plants. We also won’t have to do as much thinning. I poked holes in the dirt with my finger and dropped a single seed into each one.

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My (extremely creative and crafty) sister made some amazing plant markers for our vegetables – aren’t they so sweet? I love the colour they add to the garden beds. I have one for everything I’ll be planting, so I can’t wait to add more.

We only planted a few things this weekend – some greens, turnip, leeks, onions and peas. My shelling, snow and sugar-snap peas were planted along the north fence instead of the raised beds. We’ll be building a pea trellis or two in the coming weeks so our plants can climb.

Time to clean under my fingernails and plan next weekend’s garden to-dos!

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