Posts Tagged ‘square foot gardening’

I’ve been getting questions about starting a garden, likely because more and more folks want to be able to grow their own food in these uncertain COVID-19 times. Since I’m in the process of starting my own seeds indoors to transplant into my raised beds in a few weeks, I figured I’d take pics of the process and provide some tips and tricks for anyone interested. 🙂  Here goes!

I typically use a seed starting tray with Jiffy pods to start seeds but there are other ways for those so inclined. I like the simplicity of the pods. I don’t use a heat mat – I have a south-facing window in my office/seed-starting room and it gets plenty warm in there. This year is the first time I’ve used a grow light (I have a south-facing window but thought I’d experiment with a light to see how it goes).

To start, I plan out how many plants I want to end up with, then start a couple more seeds in case they don’t all germinate. I follow the square foot gardening method (see the details of that method explained here by the amazing Mel Bartholomew).  Today, I’m starting kale and lettuce.

I started cabbage last weekend so don’t mind the existing seedlings in the pics. They’re going to be roomies for now.

Step 1: The first step is to place the pods in the tray “circle side up”:

Step 2: Water them so get moistened and expand. After the first watering, wait about 5 minutes to see if they’ve puffed up enough. They may need a second watering. You know you’re good to go when they look like the empty ones in the top right – all poofed up – that’s what you want:

Step 3: I open up the “holes”  (the mesh is really delicate – you can tear it very easily with your fingers or a toothpick) and fluff/loosen up the peat (which is what the pods are made out of), with a toothpick, chopstick, tweezer, whatever you have that has a small pointy end will work. This is so that when you add the seeds, it’s easier to cover them with some loose/fluffed up peat afterwards.

Step 4: Get your seeds ready. Let’s start with the kale seeds. I place 2-3 seeds per pod (2 if they’re new seeds and more likely to germinate, maybe 3-4 if I’ve had them a few years). Yes, they are small and sometimes tough to pick up with your fingers. I usually grab a pinchful and try to get about 2-3 in each pod. Don’t stress. Gardening is meant to be fun. 🙂

Now for the lettuce:

Step 5: I cover up the seeds with some of the loose peat (read your seed packets since some seeds need light to germinate and shouldn’t be covered).

Step 6: Add the plastic dome to cover the tray and keep moisture in. Make sure they stay moist and never dry out – that’s very important.

That’s it! These should sprout in a few days. I’ll keep you posted on how things go! 🙂

P.S. You can see my sage (greek mountain sage for tea) seedlings on the bottom tray – first time growing those.






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It’s been a while since my last post so I thought it was high time to provide an update on my garden. 🙂 BTW, I’m in zone 6b, southwest Ontario.

As the weather warmed up, I started planting and moving my seedlings outside. Everything survived except 2 tomato plants, which I replaced with 2 nursery-bought tomato plants. I love looking back to see how much things have grown over the past few months. Super satisfying. So far, we’ve eaten tons of lettuce, green peas, yellow beans, basil, mint, garlic scapes and blueberries. Soon we’ll have tomatoes. I’m in the middle of dehydrating chamomile and mint to make tea – first time so we’ll see how that goes.

Here are some pics in chronological order from mid-May up until to last weekend:

Seedlings – tomatoes, basil and parsley:

I tried something different with the two tomato plants in the front – I planted them in a trench/sideways (back to front in the pic) just to see if they would grow any different from the others (dug a hole, planted straight:

More tomatoes and some carrots

First time growing green peas (patio pride/bush) as well as zucchini:

I bought blueberry bushes from the nursery but was worried about birds. I found this amazing contraption on Amazon – it’s been amazing. I haven’t lost one blueberry to birds yet!

Mint (aka mojitos in training):

First time planting garlic (last October) and the leaves have grown huge so far – these are the scapes that I harvested (and sautĂ©ed with pasta and mushrooms) – yummy:

Peas are truly a beautiful plant:

Peas, yellow beans and zucchini up near the fence:

Buttercrunch lettuce and cucumber plant at the top near the fence:

Mint teenagers:

First harvest of lettuce and peas:

Chamomile is flowering!

Everyone looks so happy 🙂

Beans are flowering!

Couldn’t believe my eyes – my very own blueberries 🙂

Mint young adults:

Zucchini flowers!

Tomatoes taking off

Yellow bean harvest with some thai basil

We have zucchini babies 🙂

And cucumber babies:

Chamomile and marigolds (and a garlic photobomber):

This was a few days ago – lots of green tomatoes, should ripen soon 🙂

Thai basil:

Can’t wait for the first taste of home-grown tomatoes 🙂

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Early in the year, I start planning my garden and make preparations for planting season. I can’t wait to get outside. The plan this spring was to start some seeds indoors and sow the rest directly outside. In past years, I just waited to transplant everything outside until risk of frost had passed for my area (SW Ontario) but this time I did a bit more research, planned out a chart for each item and followed that instead. I was able to sow seeds as early as April for the cold-hardy ones (radishes, spinach, lettuce, carrots). We’ll see how things go!

This is what I’ll be growing this year:

  • 6 types of cherry tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • 2 types of leaf lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beans (will direct sow as I harvest the radishes)
  • Marigolds (pest control)

This is my chart:

Local Frost Date (“FD”): May 1-10, 2017

Plant Sow date Growth Safe set out date Planting date Notes
 Lettuce Apr 15 Once ground is workable Apr 15 Direct Apr 9
 Onion sets Apr 22-29 2-3 wks before FD Apr 22-29 Direct Apr 22
 Radish Apr 15-22 3-4 wks before FD Apr 15-22 Direct Apr 14
 Tomato Mar 25-Apr 8 6-8 wks 1 week after FD May 13 Trans. May 13
 Basil Apr 8-22 5-7 wks 2 weeks after FD May 20 Trans. May 20
 Parsley Feb 18-Mar 4 8-10 wks 2 weeks before FD Apr 29 Trans. May 13
 Carrots Apr 8-22 3-5 weeks before FD Apr 8-22 Direct Apr 9
 Spinach Apr 8 5 weeks before FD Apr 8 Direct Apr 9

As of a week ago, everything is now outside in my 2 square foot garden beds (4×4, 2×8). The radishes, onions and lettuce are coming along nicely. I can see the tips of the carrots and spinach. I transplanted the tomatoes and parsley and they’re recovering a bit from transplant shock but they’re resilient buggers – they should bounce back. I bought basil from the garden centre (my seeds from last year didn’t take) – and I planted those on Saturday.

I keep a gardening journal to record when I do everything and track progress of how the seeds/plants are doing. It helps to look back on past season to see what worked / what didn’t. Last year, I had tomatoes, basil and parsley in one bed and the herbs were HUGE. I’d never seen basil bushes before but there they were in my backyard! I made pesto in September and it lasted us through the winter – I have 2 little containers left in the freezer. 🙂

So excited that garden season has officially begun!!!


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I’ve decided to give square foot gardening a try this year. I have my raised bed frame and garden plan – a 4′ x 4′ grid with 16 squares. I started some seeds indoors a couple of weeks ago and am convinced I have magic beans…

I picked up a mini greenhouse for $30 at Lowes to store my seedlings indoors in a warm spot (my office) which will also work well when I harden them off later this spring out on the deck.

I decided to start some from seed and buy the rest as plants from the nursery. The seeds I started include basil, beets, green beans, spinach and marigolds. The plants I’ll be buying include cherry tomato, regular tomato, peppers and onion sets.

I started my seeds in early March which may be a bit early for the beans. This is them a week later. The beans sprouted really quickly. I’m a bit worried that they’ll grow too quickly before my outdoor garden is ready but I figure worst case scenario, I’ll transplant as needed in to bigger containers and I can always plan new seeds directly into the soil. I’ll play it by ear but they should be fine.



Below is the mini greenhouse and the potting soil I’m using:



And I transplanted some of the beans (top) and the beets (bottom):


These were taken today. I transplanted more of the beans and thinned out some of the beets.




These were the first beans transplanted. Magic beans. 🙂


Stay tuned for progress!

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