Tricks to Growing a Square Watermelon

It’s that time of season again when fruits and vegetables are plentiful and it’s time to eat a lot of them before they become scarce again. But would you want to cut into a prized square watermelon?

Just like the earth is not square, it really doesn’t seem like a watermelon should be square. But in Japan, farmers have been growing square watermelon for some time and the reason is that they’re different, and being different can bring you money! In fact, a nice square watermelon can sell for more than $80!

But why can farmers in Japan grow square watermelons and not those in the U.S. Well, I guess they just never thought about it – because it IS possible! Now, instead of just square foot gardening, you can be square watermelon gardening!

Imagine doing it in your own garden. Your friends will be amazed and confused. You could carve all kinds of things into a square watermelon. The main things you’ll want to know before you try growing your square watermelon next year are:

  • Can you do it in your Region?
  • What type of watermelon is best for “squareness?”
  • What tools are needed?
  • How old should the watermelon be before you shape it?

There are a lot of questions and a lot of things to consider if you really want a square watermelon – and not one that just looks deformed. If you’re interested, there is one person who has grown a square watermelon, and has documented it all!

Read more about the square watermelon here!

Planting Your Garden: The First Steps

Spring hopefully, is just around the corner and in anticipation you might be getting ready for some planting or pruning action. I know my husband is, he just pruned the roses, which I thought weren’t supposed to be done until March, but he says any time after President’s day is fine (unless you’re in one of those states that keeps getting hit by snow, then you better hold off a little while longer.)

But if you’re in Seattle (like us), or somewhere just a little warmer, now is the time to start your baby seedlings indoors and watch them grow, flourish, and become big and strong enough to take on the outdoors.

You can begin with seeds from a packet or seeds from last year’s harvest, or you can even take the easy road and purchase pre-sprouted seedlings from your local gardening supply shop. Whichever you choose, you’ll be watching over these little darlings in their first days and weeks of tender life, and that’s a precious time for any gardener.

So first of all, make sure that you have a safe, warm area for your seedlings, one which receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and won’t be knocked over by family members or wayward pets. Usually a window ledge or top of a bookshelf will do nicely.

Once you have the spot picked out, it’s time to set up the nesting area.

Ooh, speaking of nesting, if you have problems with birds (or other creatures) outside being where they don’t belong, here’s a site I just found that can take care of that problem. Get Rid of Birds Here.

OK, anyway, back to the PLANT nesting. . .

You can use a variety of containers for seedlings, anything from a black-plastic flat to Dixie cups to egg cartons. Last year Jeff bought a warmed seedling hatchery.  It was a long flat seedling planter that you plugged in and kept the little plants warm.  Worked pretty well!

But if you don’t have one of those, you’ll really be starting from scratch. So here’s what you need to do: Fill your containers with a little gravel in the bottom to assist with drainage and to keep the container from tipping over easily.

Then fill them the rest of the way with soil, and pop in seeds. Moisten each thoroughly, and cover them tightly with plastic wrap. This will help retain warmth and moisture, and quicken their growth.

Now all they need is sunlight, continual gentle moisture, and time. After a few days, or up to a week depending on the type of plant, you should see little sprouts beginning to peek through the soil. At this point you can remove the plastic wrap and say hello to your new precious babies!

If you haven’t gotten your seeds yet, Gardeners Supply still has their sale going on – Free Shipping at Gardeners Supply.

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Lasagna Gardening AKA No-Dig Gardening

Lasagna, or no-dig, gardening is a revolutionary new way to get great-tasting, nutritious vegetables and gorgeous flowers out of your very own backyard, but without ANY back-breaking digging or weeding. It’s so easy, it feels like cheating!

Lasagna gardening got it’s name because it refers to the layering involved in creating this pressure-cooker of organic power. To start up your very own lasagna gardening bed, you can build on top of an established plot or start fresh right on top of untilled earth. Either way, you’re going to need a few supplies, which you might already have if you’re currently doing square foot gardening.

  • a wooden frame for containment
  • fertilizer
  • compost
  • newspapers/cardboard
  • hay/peat moss
  • mulch

and, of course, you’ll still need shovel or fork to pile it all up with.

Now, you’re ready to start layering.

Build or place your containment box wherever it should go. This will keep the ingredients from falling out of your bed and wandering away. It should be about 8-10″ high.

Begin your layers with a slab of cardboard or thick newspaper mat, totally covering up the inside of the box. This will form the base and prevent grass or weeds from growing up into your bed.

On top of this, pile about 4″ of water absorbent organic material like hay, peat moss, or whatever you can find. This will act like a sponge, soaking up extra water and encouraging your plants to grow down into it.

On top of the hay, spread about an inch of fertilizer, or compost if you have plenty. The nutrients here will give your plants exactly what they need to grow big and juicy.

Above that, pile lots of hay or straw, or whatever you’ve chosen for your absorbency layer, -about six or eight inches of it. We’re keeping the moist levels separated, so they can breathe as they break down into rich soil.

On top of that, more fertilizer and more compost, forming a five- or six-inch-deep level of nutrients. Now it’s ready to plant!

Put your seedlings into this rich bed, and then mulch around them to prevent weeds and keep in the moisture. You shouldn’t plant root crops in a new lasagna bed, but plants with shallower roots will be fine. And after it has “cooked” for a year, it will be ready for root veggies as well.

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Cottage Garden Landscaping

cottage_garden.jpgEach kind of garden has its own function. A flower garden, for example, features vegetation that decorates the area around a house or building. Vegetable gardens provide vegetables for food.

Another kind of garden is called a cottage garden. Originally, they were created for crops. They were immensely useful to stave of starvation of poor workers during the 18th and 19th century.

But hardship did not dampen the workers’ pride. They started to throw handfuls of seeds randomly throughout the garden. Soon, flowering plants sprouted and gave the garden its aesthetic beauty.

Cottage Garden Landscaping Components 

Today, cottage garden landscaping features a mixture of helpful and ornamental plants. In this type of garden, there are more useful plants that are used for food, medicine or animal forage, than decorative ones. The ornamental flowers are added as an afterthought to brighten up the garden.

The idea of cottage garden landscaping is to plant useful and decorative plants in a small area. Unlike cottage gardens of the past, today’s cottage gardens are designed to be pleasing to the eye by carefully arranging ornamental plants, herbs, vegetables and other ornaments. Vacant lawns are quite small since most of the space is attributed to vegetation.

Cottage garden landscaping involves the construction of paths. These are important components in a cottage garden. They are usually straight and they often have a garden island in the middle. The materials for these paths are subtle. Such materials include crushed gravel and old bricks. Pieces of broken pots or terracotta tiles are used to line up the edge of paths and garden beds.

Another important aspect of cottage garden landscaping is the presence of garden accessories. Wooden arches, for example, are built so that climbing plants can grow on them. Picket fences are used for bordering the garden. Sometimes, even weatherproof furniture is placed in a cottage garden.

In cottage garden landscaping, even the most mundane items are used for decoration. Items such as rustic water pumps, weathervanes, sundials and figurines are quite common. The aim is to generate a sense of peacefulness of past times.

Of course, the most important things in cottage garden landscaping are plants. Most gardeners choose fast growing plants so that the garden will look dense. Self seeding plants are also grown to spread the dense effect. A nice touch would be to add scented plants to bring fragrance into a cottage garden.

Truly, cottage gardens are one of the most practical types of garden that a person can make. With it, a household can save money, use the plants and decorate their homes at the same time.



Square Foot Gardening: Intensive Type Of Small Space Gardening

square foot garden.jpgMel Bartholemew first popularized an intensive type of gardening that he called the square foot gardening. The idea was based on his theory that a wide row of traditional home gardening was not appropriate and wasted time, work, water as well as space. He thought it was possible to grow more vegetables in lesser areas by using minimum of effort. The essential square foot gardening involves dividing garden space in to beds and separating them by paths.

Sub-Dividing Beds Into Squares Of Roughly One Foot Each

The beds are sub-divided into squares that are roughly one foot each. It is common to plant one plant per square for broccoli, basil etc; Use four plants per square for lettuce; nine plants per square for spinach and sixteen plants per square for onions and carrots. To prevent the garden soil from being compacted, the beds may be weeded as well as watered from the pathways.

The benefits of square foot gardening include not having to work as much, saving on water usage, fewer weeds and keeping the garden free of herbicide and pesticides. This type of gardening is especially useful for elderly or disabled persons, but is really fun for all ages!

Square foot gardening means much less work since the soil is never compacted and will stay loose as well as loamy and so one does not need heavy tools as is the case with conventional gardening.

Because of the soil and its water holding capacity, square foot gardening does not require much watering and whatever water is placed, is very near the roots of the plant and thus there is very little wastage of water and also allows for rich soil mixture that will increase the harvest. Close planting that is a feature of square foot gardening allows vegetables to form a living mulch and also shades out a number of weed seeds, prior their being able to germinate.

Natural insect repellent methods are a easy for Square Foot Gardens. Just include companion plants- marigolds and other pest-repellant plants that allow for more efficiency in closed spaces. This way there is no need for pesticides.

Another bonus is that the different types of crops in a small space are not conducive to the spreading of plant diseases.

Check out Scenery Solutions for all your Square Foot Garden needs!

How to Choose the Best Plants for your Square Foot Garden

The following article on choosing plants for your Square Foot Garden, or any garden, should be center stage in your design process.  If you’ve been thinking you need to know more about how to choose your plants, here’s your opportunity. Don’t just plant, plant the right stuff!

Many times we buy plants on impulse then find there is nowhere in the garden that really suits them. Before buying plants carefully examine your garden to see how much sun and shade it gets, whether the soil is well drained or waterlogged and whether your aspect is sheltered or windswept. You’ll then be equipped to go and buy the best plants for your situation; shade-loving plants for the sheltered areas, sun-lovers for the warm spots, drought-resistant plants for the parched areas which may be either sunny or shaded, and swamp plants for the poorly-drained parts. Be sure to take note of what kind of containers you have also, you’ll want to get a variety of lengths of plants if you are doing any container gardening.

 But wait! Test your soil first, to determine the pH level of your soil and what kind of nutrients you need to add, if any. Is the soil acid or alkaline? Most plants prefer soil that is slightly acidic, but there are some that must have alkaline soil to grow.  You can alter the soil’s pH level, but it’s much easier to simply plant for the soil you have, and save yourself that trip to the garden supply shop.

If you find yourself confused by what you’ve read to this point, don’t despair. Everything should be crystal clear by the time you finish.
Now you are ready to plant. Well – almost. Will you plant in groups or singly? If you buy ‘one of everything’ your garden may seem rather spotty. Group plantings are organized, harmonious and you can vary the color for interest.

Before planting out, place your chosen plants around the garden bed, or in their containers if you have some container gardening in the works, to see how they will look. Re-arrange them until you are satisfied. Grouping plants in sets of threes or fives usually looks better than planting in groups of even numbers. Be sure that you have an interesting combination of colors and textures of plants. Tall plants should go to the back, or the center if your garden will be viewed equally from all sides. Try to keep your plants away from trees. The roots of trees are fiercely competitive and will steal all the nutrients and moisture meant for your flowers.

The right color scheme is one way to maintain the harmony in your garden. Imagine the color of the flowers when they are in bloom. Some colors may clash with others, but can still be planted side-by-side if they have a different blooming season. Foliage color is also important. Many flower plants have silver, gray or purplish foliage that is just as attractive as the flower. This means that they are still attractive well past the blooming season and so have added value.  And don’t forget, if you want to attract Butterflys or Hummingbirds, you’ll need to read the section on this site about Butterfly Gardening to get the right colors.

 Sometimes it’s tough to sort out all the details related to the right plants, but I’m positive that with this advice, you’ll be able to make a much better decision when you chose plants for square foot gardening, container gardening, or any other gardening needs.  And, you’ll definitely want to check out Nature Hills Nursey for your plant needs.  They have such FAST Shipping, you’ll almost have your plants sooner than if you battled the crowds and traffic to go down to your local hardware store — and you’ll get much better prices too! 

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