Thursday, June 11, 2009


A lot has changed since I first started this blog both personally and in my square foot garden. The garden has taken on a life of it's own. While I have kept to my basic design, the bed sizes have changed some due to budget constraints and I've added other elements that I had not factored in before. As I have is taking on a life of it's on. Although I call it my little cottage garden my mom calls it 'Stacey's Enchanted Garden'.

Other than the changes in the garden my personal change has to do with an accident I had while on a fishing outing with my Mom last week. I stepped into a hole and did some major damage to my right foot. For the rest of the summer I am pretty much confined to a wheel chair and a walker. Luckily the majority of my garden is completed. What I can't finish up within the confines of my temporary disability will have to be put on hold until I'm back to 100% mission capable status.

Without further adieu here are the changes and updates since my last post

These plain wooden boxes are left overs from my days of as an angora rabbit breeder. These boxes were used to store bales of hay for my bunnies. Now that I no longer need them for hay storage I decided to use them in my garden. They are about 3' x 3' and a little deeper than 12 inches. I just couldn't see wasting them. The boxes are painted in the same color scheme as my house. By the time I have gotten to this point of garden construction I am running out of time and don't want to waste my planting time on painting pretty pictures on my beds. These beds are placed next to the fencing and planted with pole beans (Kentucky Wonders) in the squares next to the fence and bush beans (Jackson Wonder Speckled Lima Beans) on the outside.

Between my two left over hay boxes I placed 2 six inch deep beds that were 2 feet wide and 4 feet long. As you can see I used the same color scheme as before. This is left over house paint. These smaller beds are planted with a wider variety of plants including Henderson Baby Lima beans, and cow peas next to the fence and smaller crops on the outside. Now I have to come up with something for that space between these sets of beds to fill the empty space.

During my initial days of container gardening I discovered that anything that will hold dirt and allow for drainage is a canidate for growing something. This is an old ash pot I used for my fireplance that has holes rusted in it. Some of Mel's mix and three basil plants later it has become a miniture herb garden.

This old rubber tub was once used as a watering trough for pigs. I punched a few holes in the bottom, raised it up on some broken bricks and today it is home for a tomato plant, tarragon and chives.
I had an empty space between the east side beds and initially wasn't sure what to do with it. This old fountain's water pump had expired and replacing it cost more than I had originally paid for the whole thing. So I punched a few holes in the bottom, added some of Mel's mix and created another home for a tomato plant.

As my garden progressed I knew I needed to get some sort of compost container going and going quickly. Once again I did some looking on the Internet (I LOVE the Internet!). While surfing I found the idea for a mobile compost bin. I have long knew the benefits of composting and had a compost bin left over from my rabbit rearing days but it was over come by weeds and very unsightly. So...taking the idea from the net, I made my own movable compost bin using left over cattle panels from the fencing and plastic bird netting. Each left over panel was cut to 4 foot lengths and lined with the bird netting. The four panels were attached using only zip ties that could be cut and removed so the bin could be unfolded in any direction I wanted. My husband is happy now because the old eye sore is gone and I'm happy because I still have a working compost bin.

As you can see, it didn't take very long to fill it up.

The more time I spent working in my garden the more I came to realize I needed a central place to keep all my 'stuff' and have an actual working area. With this in mind I decided to create this space and using what I had on hand to add a work area to my enclosed garden.

My work area was created using pvc pipe, a tarp for shade, two tables that we once used for camping and little hangers that I picked up at the hardware store and attached to the fence. Under the tables I stacked the materials needed for filling the beds. I added a garbage can for trash, a larger garbage can with a lid for storing excess and recycled potting mix and I keep a bucket for composting scraps. My garden tools are hung on the fence and little plastic bins are used to keep seeds and other necessities dry. Unfortunatley since I took this picture, we have had several thunderstorms come through and wiped out my canopy so now my work area is uncovered and I'm contemplating on what else I can use for a shaded work zone.

With garden budget at rock bottom and still needing more mulch for the paths between my beds I convinced hubby to it was time to complete this yardly task of trimming some trees and opening up a portion of the back yard. After all we had spent good money on his chain saw and Troy Built chipper/shredder some years ago. I felt it was way past time to put them to some good use.

Opening up this area provided us with plenty of mulch material as you'll see in later photos and shady yard space. The smell of cedar is wonderful in the garden and I've noticed it has been a deterrant for bugs.

As I have mentioned earlier, as I worked my garden it elvolved, changed and morphed into my own little world within this big bad world. Another thing my little world needed was a quiet reflecting spot. A spot that I needed at the end of a long day to sit back reflect and listen to birds. I refinished this old park bench, added some potted plantings and a little table for propping your feet up on. In the cornor behind the bench is a bucket planted with sunflowers. The two 'window' planters have cardinal climbers planted in them twining their way down the fence.

This is the last area of my garden that I need to develop. As it is now I just have one bed built for this section before disaster befell me. What I did have were window boxes and plants that I had already purchased for them. After my accident I knew that I was not mobile enough to tend to all the window boxes on my house so I moved them to the square foot garden and planted them there. They help fill in the empty spots and add more color and interest to the garden.

When I was laying out my garden design and actually placing my raised beds I allowed for extra space between the beds in the event I wanted to add something down the line. Now I am glad that I did because I wanted more structure and elements in my garden than just a bunch of square boxes. Here I added a large garden pot which are filled with annuals, a left over mum from last fall and I added a shepherd's hook my husband made for me with a bird feeder. In the back ground is a bird bath. Even with these extra elements I have plenty of room to move around my garden with a garden cart and even my wheel chair and walker.

One thing I find fun about gardening is all the little things you can find for your garden. I love buying little critters to tuck in and round the beds. My major theme being bunnies, butterflies and birds. As you can see from my photos my plants like them as well and grow happily among my little trinkets.
An element that I added to my garden that can't be seen in these pictures is night time lighting. I have twinkle lights attached to the top of the fencing all the way around my garden including the archway. Each bed has it's own solar light fixture. This lighting makes the garden truely enchanting at night.

The finishing touches on my garden's entrance way leave a lot to be desired. Right now I just have a couple of hanging baskets suspended from the archway until the cucumbers grow enough to cover it. My wonderful husband has designed a brick layout for my entrance. The bricks will be some 1908 antique Coffeyville KS pavers that he acquired from a construction job in Augusta KS some years ago. I think these pavers will be an excellent nostalgic touch to my garden. Once this phase of the garden is finished I'll be sure to post more pictures.

Although I doubt my garden will ever be "finished", one of the last and probably most important aspects is going to be my irrigation system. Right before my accident I attached a supply hose to the entire perimater of my garden. I plan to tap into this supply line to construct individual drip watering systems to each garden bed and container. This watering system will be controlled by a timer so that even when I am not able to get out to the garden to hand water my plants will not go thirsty.

As I sign off for today I would like to add a footnote about my recent perspective on life and my life in the garden. I never fully understood the struggle that a disabled person encountered on a daily basis until I too became disabled. I am fortunate that my disability will be short lived. My experience so far has shown me that even the simplest tasks become major efforts. It has just been a reminder not to take for granted the little things each day.

In the garden perspective - square foot gardening is a wonderful avenue for folks with disabilities. I don't have waist high beds but the raise beds and wide paths that I have make it possible for me to garden this summer when all my other recreation activities have been eliminated.

Until next time...Happy Gardening!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting Started

My grandfather passed on his love of gardening to me. Unfortunately my experiences with gardening have been disheartening for the most part here in Kansas. This has mainly been due to the fact I cannot keep the weeds at bay.

While surfing the net I discovered square foot gardening. This looked like a method I use successfully so off I went in search of Mel's book. I read it twice, layed out my garden plan and proceeded to build. Although Mel and many others suggest starting small, it isn't in my nature to half do a project. I had in mind what I wanted my garden to look like and what I size I wanted. I wasn't going to be satisfied with a couple small beds.
The garden design had to meet two important criteria...1. Ease of maintenance and 2. It had to be cute.

Between the rainy weather we've had and my long hours at work, it has been a challenge to get my garden built. I am about two-thirds the way through and so far it is turning out to be my new sanctuary.

Garden space isn't an issue for me. We have 3 acres of land for me to play on so I choose to use a portion of my old garden site. My original garden was approximtely 5,000 square feet of raised beds. In a way I hated to abandon my old way of gardening because it took me many years to get this old hard clay transformed into decent garden soil.

After several trips to different stores I found all the material I need to begin.

I probably made what some would call a mistake, I purchased treated lumber. I bought the lumber before I had read that it could contain harmful chemicals. It was too late to take the lumber back since I had already cut it. In the end, I didn't think it would matter much anyway since I had planned on painting the wood. After all, I was going for one of my main objectives...cuteness. As an added precaution I stapled 6 mil plastic to the inside walls to keep the soil from making contact with the wood.

My first bed is for strawberries only. All my beds are 12 inches deep with the first six inches being 100% compost for the local land fill. My ladybug beds are 4 ft wide and 5 ft long. Every bed is set on several layers of cardboard and topped off with landscaping material.

Two other issues I needed to address was keeping the pets out of the garden and providing trellis for my beans and vining plants. This problem was solved with the addition of a fence. Keeping with the cute theme my handy man hubby designed and built the fence and entrance way complete with an arch for my vining crops. One 2x4 bed is located on each side of the arch and each are planted with cantalope, watermelon and cucumbers.

Progress is slow but steady. Cardboard and landscaping fabric is the foundation for my entire garden including the pathways. I'm trying to take an aggressive proactive stance on obtaining a virtual weed-free garden. The pathways are topped off with a layer of cypress mulch.

Last year I was very successful with container gardening of flowers around my house. I decided to plant my herbs in pots so I could over winter them inside this year. My theory being, having fresh herbs all winter and saving the expense of replanting next spring.

After lots more web searching I discovered these homemade earth boxes. I decided these would be perfect for my tomatoes and I wouldn't have to be concerned with using up the extra space in my sqf beds. It took a couple of weeks before I got all four built and planted but I really like the way they fit into my sqf garden.

So far things are doing well. I'm enjoying the results. I must say though, I'll be glad when all the construction process is finished and I can concentrate of planting and harvesting my garden.

Hopefully I'll be able to make weekly posts to share my progress. In the mean time, I'd like to thank all the folks who post to the gardenweb forms who answered my questions and gave me the extra encouagement.

Happy Gardening!