Friday, 9 October 2009

First Attempts at Growing Broccoli

The Queen of Vegetables

Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food, comments that about half of all the broccoli that goes to the market in the United States is the Marathon variety. Agribusiness finds it necessary to go with the highest yielding, most disease-resistant varieties, which most assuredly means a hybrid crop. How sad that most Americans do not know broccoli as anything other than the big, bright, uniform calabrese types they see for sale in the produce section at the supermarket.

I'm pretty sure that I've never eaten fresh broccoli from a garden. Not from a friend's garden, not from a farmer's market. I hope I have some pleasant surprises in store.

In my square foot garden, I have transplanted a Green Comet variety of broccoli and a sprouting variety -- one plant per square. With the weird weather we've been having in Texas, my first attempt just might prove fruitful. Today it's about 55 degrees F, with high humidity as a cold front has pushed its way from the north, and it's been cool, misty and humid for a number of days in late September/early October. Time will tell, but this seems to be perfect for broccoli's needs. I've had a difficult time doing the hardening off, since we have seen very little of the sun in the past couple of weeks. Finally I decided to go experimental, and just put some of the plants in the ground and see how it goes.

I also have a plant of the Di Cicco (Italian heirloom) variety waiting to put in the ground. In fact, I sprouted three different varieties under lights indoors starting in August. Crossing my fingers....

My article about nutrition is found here:

On the Path to Better Nutrition

Image of a broccoli plant from
Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Protecting My Garden

The Critter Cage

Yesterday, I built this cage to protect my garden from my schnauzer, any stray cats, and the occasional curious squirrel.

I took lumber, screwed it together to make the frame, and then bent chicken wire to make the cover. The chicken wire is held together at numerous points with cable ties.

In the Mel Barthomolew book, he shows a cage that is about 18" high. I made mine about 24" high, but you get more sagging that way. Most serious SFG gardeners grow their vining plants on a trellis (even pumpkins, squash, and melons!), and that takes care of their wild, monstrous growth. For most applications of the square foot garden, an 18" high cage is probably adequate.

So far, I have marigolds, broccoli, turnips, beets, and chard growing in the box.

My article about square foot gardening is at:

Tips for Success With Square Foot Gardening

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Re-purposing the Space

New Use for the Filled-In Pool

The ultimate in container gardening! The filled-in swimming pool once held plants, but no more. As of the middle of August, the space now houses a square foot garden, made of 1 X 6 X 8 pine boards and filled with a special soil mix. I removed nearly all the perennials, and laid down weed barrier, then used left-over pea gravel and river rock as a perimeter around my box. The box on the ground is 16 sq. feet (4 feet per side) and has been planted with vegetables, one per square. This type of gardening is called intensive gardening.

Mel Bartholomew is the creator of the square foot garden system. In his world, one lays down wood lathe to demarcate each square.... just like you would do figuratively with a spreadsheet. As a matter of fact, an Excel spreadsheet is the perfect tool to plan a SFG. However, there are some of us who get to the point where we don't want to spend more money. So, my grids have been created using string.

Once the box was planted, I stretched fine nylon tulle over the top, and held it in place with lots of C-clamps. The tulle protects the new seedlings from birds and other interested critters. It provides a degree of shade, too.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Pond Today

Waterfall Taking Off

This is the waterfall in its third year. What started out as a fake looking collection of rocks looks much more natural now.

After three years, the taro, also known as elephant's ear, began to take off. It actually has grown like crazy -- even out of the back of the waterfall.

The small green vining plants cover most traces of the vinyl liner. The only little plant that hasn't done well is the parrot's feather.

My little schnauzer, Meadow, likes to climb on the waterfall. She is a regular mountain goat. My dogs love to drink out of my pond, but Meadow is the only one who ever fell in.

Read my article on HubPages about small ponds

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Evolution of a Pond, Part 3

Fall 2007

The perennials look bigger, and the pond plants are quite big. The waterfall still has only tiny plants in it, though.

Umbrella plants grow way too fast. But water gardening is so easy that I can't believe I never tried it before.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Evolution of a Pond, Part 2 When You've Got a Lemon...

May 2006

I found a contractor to knock the bottom out of the pool. We added a lot of fill dirt, and for the last six inches, we used premium soil. I planted perennials in the bare space and covered everything with mulch.

Next the existing waterfall by the "wading pool area" had to be changed so it faced the soon-to-be-pond. Previously it had opened out to the swimming pool proper. It was a mortared water fall, so the pond contractor had to chisel the rocks apart and re-build it.

Lastly, the little pool had to be drained and cleaned up. A silicone compound was applied to the plaster to seal it off. That was done so that algae would be less likely to grow.

When the surface was ready, the pond was stocked with plants and a dozen mosquito fish.

Read my article Water Gardening: 6 Reasons to Add a Pond to Your Back Yard

May 2006

The next thing to do was to fill the pool in and find someone to build me a pond. I asked around among various swimming pool contractors, and found one who would do it for a moderate price although I hated having to absorb even this much.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Evolution of a Pond, Part 1

April 2006
Marital break-up, dreams soured, ambitious project gone bad.

Although the design of this small semi-DIY swimming pool was good in concept, the implementation didn’t work out very well. The preceding very dry year likely caused the ground to shift during the many months of construction, resulting in noticeable water loss due to the leaks in the stream bed of the big waterfall and hidden leaks in the smaller waterfall.

The designer of this system couldn’t decide whether he wanted a pool or a pond. Surfaces were all gunite and plaster, and the supports in the middle of the pool were meant to hold a pier or bridge eventually, giving the pool a “rustic look” that didn’t exactly go with the look of clear, chlorinated pool water. There was even a small, old-fashioned dog house ready to be perched at the end of the pier, assuming the pier was ever finished. The smaller pool area that looks like a kid’s wading pool was supposed to be a bog area with plants and a small circulating pump.

I couldn’t run the pool pump very much because of the leaks, so every week or two, I’d throw Pool Shock into the water. Upon consultation with an expert in pool leaks, it became obvious that I was going to be out considerably more money and time to locate and fix the leaks in the waterfalls and stream bed.

I can’t find the best words to convey the sense of disappointment and loss over the failure of such a big project as this pool. The sense of loss collided like so many accelerated particles with the many turbulent emotions surrounding the divorce. After crying for a day or so, though, I resolved to move on. Not necessarily to have every issue resolved, but just to make myself ready for the next steps.

After some prayer and thought, I decided to fill in my pool with dirt.

How was the only question.