Gardener’s Notebook #2

Gardener’s Notebook #2

Okay, so I meant to update my gardener’s journal more often than I did. On the other hand, nothing’s in the ground yet so I’m not too upset with myself. Here’s what’s happened since my last post in mid-March. When we last met, I had planted my seeds in the starter box and set them under the grow light. We’d chosen a mix of tomatoes, hot peppers, and tomatillos, 72 separate plants in all.


The seedlings popped quite promptly and by the end of March the tomatoes and tomatillos were 2- to 3-inches tall and the peppers were either still emerging from the soil or about an inch. It was about time to start transplanting the tomatoes into something with a little more room, but we encountered a problem. I could only find six-inch diameter pots at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and the local gardening center. And with 72 plants that’s a lot of pots. Nevertheless, we emptied the shelves of as many as we could find, bought some potting soil, and started transplanting.


That’s when we encountered our second obstacle: Where do we put all these pots? At 6-inches in diameter, 72 pots takes up a lot of space! More than our kitchen table can hold. We had two solutions. First, we cleared off the top of the bookcases in front of the window in the office and put as many as we could there, after first putting down a layer of wax paper to protect the surface. At two deep, we could fit exactly 18 pots perfectly. And back on the kitchen table we could fit 30 more pots under the grow lamp.


The second solution was to sacrifice some of the weaker plants. We’d already pruned out the extra seedlings in each module so that only one was growing, but with limited space we had to cull some more and thus the smallest of the plants of each type were pruned. I suppose the third option is to do nothing, which we did for some of the peppers, leaving them in the flats for a later transplant. Since hot peppers take so long to mature anyway, I didn’t think leaving them there for now would be a problem.

Now, at the beginning of May, I’m looking toward the next step, which is to actually plant these in a garden. I’ve consulted the charts and it looks like May 15 is a safe “last frost” date for our area and so that’s my target date for outside planting. I’ve already constructed my garden boxes. I bought 3 twelve-foot lengths of 2”x6”, cut them down into 4-foot lengths and then used decking screws to fasten the corners. I’ve also purchased weed-control matting to go underneath. Now, I’m buying my peat moss, vermiculite, compost, and top soil mix to fill them.


Then, into the ground the plants will go. I’m a little worried that strict adherence to spacing guidelines will mean I can only plant a maximum of 12. Maybe I’ll experiment and see if I can nudge them closer. So that’s where we stand as of the first weekend in May. Stay tuned.


Image Credit

  • gardenseedlings.jpg: Own photo
  • gardentransplant.jpg: Own photo
  • gardenonthebookcase.jpg: Own photo
  • gardenboxwithbella.jpg: Own photo
  • Have you had any trouble finding vermiculite?  That was the hang-up for me when I started my square foot garden last year.  I finally found some, but it was quite costly.

  • Sarah, yes, I have been having a hard time. I went to the garden center and he was shocked at how much I asked for.  He said with the amount of peat moss I’m using, I didn’t need that much vermiculite, that it would be way too fluffy. I may take his advice and cut down the vermiculite and add in some topsoil.

    I get the sense from the square-foot gardening book that a slavish adherence to Mel’s method is expected.

  • You can cheat on spacing—especially if you trim the lower limbs on the tomatoes for larger fruits.  Try a staggered spacing, instead of having each plant in the center of a square, think of a diamond pattern—I can’t add a drawing here, augh!

  • Are you using a “grow lamp” for those plants?  If so, Johnny Law may pay you a visit.  wink

    We grew seedlings indoors for giant pumpkins, tomatoes, string beans (Italian-style and standard), and peppers this year. 

    We’ll plant the pumpkins on our front hill, as we’ve done in past years.

  • You could do with 3 inch pots if you aren’t starting the plants too soon.

    Also,  having read your next garden journal,  it would have been better to put cardboard and newspapers under the garden bed rather than the landscape cloth, because those will rot away, and then your plant roots can go down as far as they want, whereas the landscape cloth will keep the plant roots as shallow as the depth of your bed.  Also worms can’t come up through the landscape cloth, and you want worms.

    Please update us. 
    You can see some pictures of my seedlings and garden on my facebook.  I think we are facebook friends.