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