Monday, April 20, 2009

Meet the Friends!

Ok- as promised- here are the New Friends that I have acquired.

Now- to some of you- it may seem odd that I name my plants, but it is something that I have always done, and I think that it adds a sense of responsibility to it all, and once you name something it makes you want to try harder at keeping them alive.
I have a few other Friends, but since they have not yet been planted, those will wait for later.

Here we have "Chuck" the Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato. This guy was named for my boss "Chuck" who is a Cherry Tomato fiend and who is anxiously awaiting harvest time.

Over here is my Roma Tomato who I named "Furio". I needed a good strong Italian name to go along with the "Roma" of it all, and if you've seen "The Sopranos" you know that Furio is a good strong fella to take after. Furio will be providing Tomatoes for homemade pasta sauce.

Ahh... the 3 Amigos. Cilantro is a big player in our house- Mr SuperChicken will eat it on anything- Pizza, Salad, Sandwiches, salsa... you name it. It is also a huge fave of our 5 birds. When I walked thru the house with the little plants my birds got quite excited thinking I was bringing them a treat. I really hope that these guys make it and save me the trouble of buying 2 or 3 bunches of them a week.

Over here are the Basil and Chive Plants. The Chives are just regular Chives- not garlic or any of those varieties. I am unsure what I will be naming them... but I think that I will be calling the Chives "Clive" (random side note: If you have not seen the BMW Short films "the Hire" staring Clive Owen- you have GOT to see them! they are great! watch my Fave HERE -also staring is Madonna and produced by Guy Ritchie- I laugh so hard each time I watch it! best 6 mins of video ever!)
Anyway- back to the plants-
The basil is a Sweet basil- nothing fancy or exotic- if you want a great article about exotic and tasty Basil's you can easily grow- visit here to buy the magazine- or you read about a few of them that I found here. No Name for them yet either- but I will get there.

And last but not least is the Strawberry Plant I named "Chandler" (with berries attached!) This is actually a "Chandler" Variety of strawberry-which in this case is a "Everbearing" plant (some "named" types can be bred to be a different "bearer")- Meaning that during the growing season that I can expect a bundle here and there thru the months of the little guys- getting bigger and bigger as the plant matures. If you want to read about the various type of strawberry plants (June-bearing, Everbearing, and Day Neutral and what it all means for you and your plants) Visit here for some good basic info. But being a huge fan of the TV show "Friends" how could I pass up the opportunity to name it after one of them?

But with the magic they can grow now days- you could end up with a "Chandler" that is a June bearing, or a everbearing or so on- so be sure you PAY ATTENTION when buying strawberry plants. You would not want to think you are going to get a bunch of little guys all summer and end up with 20 huge berries in June and see nothing until the next year.
If you are wondering why there are towels under the plant- that is because with strawberries you need to keep the fruit up off the ground to keep it from getting bruised or rotten (hence the name STRAWberry- because it is used to be grown on a bed of straw) but until I get some straw or ground cover fabric, towels it is- which as a side note seems to hold moisture into the ground quite well without staying wet themselves. But I do not want to leave them there to attract bugs- so I will need to get some straw soon.
I also have a few more friends to share with you- but that will have to wait until next time.

Dirt, Dirt & More Dirt!

Ok, Dirt!

Lots of dirt- MOUNDS of dirt! That is how much dirt you are going to need to fill those amazing Raised Beds that you have constructed. How much you ask? Well first you are going to need to dust off those rusty algebra equations that you told your teacher that you would never need, and get counting. Dirt (or "soil" if you wanna get all fancy-schmancy technical on me), is usually calculated in Cubic Feet- now all you have to do is figure out how much dirt that is.

Now the NICE part of building raised beds that are 12 inches tall is that you can just multiply by 1 and have a nice easy number. So for me, one of my beds is 5x4 so that is AxB and then multiply that by the height of the bed "C", so it is (AxB)C or 5 feet long X 4 feet wide (20 feet) x 1 foot high is 20 Cubic Feet of dirt. Now see how easy that is- if I had used a 8inch bed, it would have been a odd amount of dirt, and most dirt comes in 1 CF (cubic foot- feet?) bag sizes.

So you find out all the CF of dirt that you are going to need for each bed, add the number together, and try to not faint. Just for 4 of the beds that I want to build (and they are not all that big!) it will come out to over 70 Cubic feet of dirt! (yikes!)

Also- when calculating how much dirt you are going to need, always use the height of the boards as a guide. Yes, you may want to only have 10 inches high of dirt in the 12 inch bed, but the dirt will settle a bit, and what looks like 10 inches today, will be 8 inches in a week or less. So get a little bit more than you think you will use to be safe, and if you have left overs, build a new bed, or use the nice soil for top soil for some of your other plants.

You now have several options as to what you want to do to GET your dirt (ahem- Soil). You can get it from your own yard (not a option for me), you can go to the home store and buy LOTS, or you can contact your local Soil companies and see what they charge for some soil, and delivery fees. There are bonuses for each option, and also some downfalls.

When you harvest your OWN dirt (from your yard) it may be the easy and cheap option, but it has a few risks. Maybe it is full of weed seeds, maybe there is fungus from other plants that will distroy and rot your new babies, there will probably be rocks, old roots, and all manner of other items. Now, if you are going to the trouble of getting nice raised beds so that you do not have to deal with all that stuff- why would you just fill it with all the stuff that you want to avoid using in the first place? (just sayin' is all....) Cheap but full of pitfalls...

Option #2, you go to the local home center (or nursery) and buy your dirt in a bag. Easier, but certainly not cheaper. It can run you a few bucks a bag for the "ok to good" stuff (the "really good" stuff will really set you back), and when you see that you will need about 25+ bags of the stuff, it really adds up. "Dirt" is certainly not not "dirt cheap"!

Not to mention that I drive a Honda, and it is HARD to carry that many bags in the car (not to mention hard on the back too!), and unless you have a mondo sized car, you are going to need to take several trip to the home store which is hard on the gas mileage and the pollution factor. Also- you may ask about "what do you do with all those bags!?" I will address that at the bottom.

Option #3, You can call your local soil company and see what they charge for some soil. And you can get really picky about what kind of "soil" you want. Screened, enriched, loamy, sandy.... you name it. Also- most places will deliver a truckload (or however much you order) and will dump it on your drive way or lawn and you cart it from there to your new planter boxes. This will be a much cheaper option, but you will have to do some research on your own, and make sure you have a wheelbarrow, a shovel (and maybe a young man around willing to work for a sandwich and Oreo's for some hauling labor). You can also go pick up the Soil from most places, but you have to have a car that will haul that much weight around and that you do not mind getting dirty.

To be honest, I have only built 2 boxes so far, and I used Option #2. It was a long, slow, and heavy option, and it worked for what I needed, but for all future gardening I think that I am going to be going with #3. But I won't judge no matter which option you pick- you gotta do what is best for you.

I am SO not a expert at soil, but you can find good info here or a TON of info here. There are ENDLESS books and websites about Soil- so do some reading on the kind of soil that YOU will want\need based on what option you chose above (and what you will want plant in it).
And if you are curious as to what I used for my planter already, I used Miracle Grow Organic Choice Garden Soil (check it out here). But they want you to mix it with "Local Soil" and not just use it alone, so I DID do some digging around in a weed free soft area of the yard, but it is about 80% MGOGS.

Ok- back to those bags I mentioned. If you should end up with a lot of bags, you can find many uses for them. They are pretty strong and can be used to carry around with you when you are weeding, or use them to cart compost from the composter to the beds. You can save them, and winter comes you can cut a few holes in the tops of them and place them over some plants that need wind protection, and some extra heat and stake them into the ground to hold them in place- or some places will recycle them for you. Worst comes to worst- just don't use trash bags in the house for awhile, and use the bags instead. (just be sure you wash them off first so that you do not track anything in the house!).

What ever option you use, you will also need to check on the PH levels of the soil from time to time, as well as check the nutrient levels to make sure the soil has enough to give the plants so that they don't starve. Since I have used a "bag" mix, all my PH's and food levels are A-ok when I checked them. You can always send your soil samples off for testing, but you can buy a inexpensive PH and nutrient tester and do it yourself. Any Problems that you find can be corrected, but it will take time. You can always find info at This website on how to fix your dirt, or there is usually some info in the PH tests. Any Garden center will have a PH tester kit. They range from a $7 kit to $200 Digital readout fancy stuff- but for the at home mini garden, I will stick with the $7 tester.

So I am sure that you are now wondering when we are going to get to the Plants..... That is next!
I will introduce you to all the new friends that I am planting out in the garden. Stay Tuned!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Building The Garden

When I started to get down to business with planning how, when and where I was going to start my garden, one of the things that I needed to figure out was WHERE to put it. All of our "planter beds" that are already in the yard were either full of plants, full of shade, or baked to rock hard dirt. So after some research, I decided to put together some Raised Planter boxes, and just put them on top of the grass.

Not only do we not have any Dog, Cats, or Kids, but the Grass is a HUGE drain on our water resources, as well as a drain on our time (since it needs to be weeded, mowed, and fed from time to time). And to be honest- we never go out in the backyard, and so it was not doing us any good.

So after reading about planting on top of grass (without even needing to pull it up first!) I decided that I would go for it, and just plop them out in the lawn. (NOTE: if you suffer from Crab grass or other hard core weedgrasses, read up on how to distroy them first. Regular happy sod grass will just die and turn to mulch under there, but weedgrasses will continue to grow up into the planter and try to choke out the plants!)
Mr SuperChicken is also excited about the idea- since that now cuts his mowing by 1/3 and I am now in charge of keeping that area weed and grass free. (I will get into how i do it, and what I have planned, at a later time).

I decided that I would build 4 beds. (2) of them would be 5x4 feet, and the other (2) would be 5x3 feet. I had full intentions of having a "herb bed" a "veggie bed" and so on- but I learned how that was not the best Idea when trying to grow a Organic garden, but more on that later.

I did some research on how to build beds from some books and mags, (Better Homes and Gardens had a great article in the Magazine- you can find a ELink Here ) and the Pioneer woman has a how too on her site Here. (she uses 2 sets of smaller boards, and I use 12 inch, but it it really up to you!)

I learned that in order to keep the beds strong and to keep the boards from bowing or cracking under pressure, that you need thick lumber. So I went to the Home Depot and purchased all my wood as 2 inches thick, and 12 inches tall. I could have used 4 inch, 6 inch, 8 or Even 10 inch, but I wanted tall (and sturdy) beds, so I went for the 12 Inch. I had them cut the lumber for me there at the store- and I have to say- if you do not have a saw that would handle the 12 inch wood- just have the store do it! Yes, they give you 2 free cuts, and then charge a $1 for each extra cut- but I went home and all I had to do was get started. No measuring the wood, setting up a saw, cutting it, cleaning the sawdust.... and all that jazz. (And it didn't hurt that I was a girl and the guy decided to not charge me anything for the cuts!) But my take on it is- Just pay your extra $5-$10 and save yourself a headache of work once you get home. (Plus I drive a Honda Accord and all the wood fit MUCH better than if I had to haul 10 foot planks around!)

I then Mapped out in posts and surveyors string.
And then had Mr SC hook up his air compressor for me, and I used a Air Nail-Gun to put it all together. You can see that I used 4x4's in the corners for support, and this made the beds really, really sturdy (also VERY heavy). I would advise getting some help if you were to do this alone. I was sore for a few days since I made those boxes all by myself (little pat on my back here) so I would try to get a friend to help you out if you can!

Here are the boxes in progress. The large one above is the 5x4 and you can see the start of the 3x5 in the left of the photo. Also- ignore all that brush on the lawn above. Mr SC was doing some pruning of the bushes the same day so I ended up taking pics while he was still doing cleanup.

(now thats better! cut grass and no bush residue)

Next post will be about all that dirt!

Hello! Welcome!

Hi there! Welcome to "SuperChicken Gardens"!

First off- I will tell you that I have a black thumb. Yep- tarnished black. Cactus, Bamboo, and weeds alike, have all died when I try to take care of them.... well as far as the weeds go I was trying to keep the pretty ones alive, but all I ended up with was dandylions.... so even weeds are scared to see me come at them.

But I was walking thru Coscto one afternoon, and I spotted a Magazine that said "GROW your own Veggies!" and since I had been thinking about it, I decided to buy the magazine and see what it had to say. Well it had a LOT to say, and most of it was cool and interesting, and not a least bit scary. Then I went out to the back yard with some tape measures, a notebook, and tried to see what I could come up with.

This will be a following of that adventure. I will be sharing the highs and lows of it all, and hopefully learning to grow tasty goodness by the time that I am done. When it comes time to harvest all the goodies, I will creating posts over in my SuperChicken Cooks Blog, and showing you all what you can do with the tasty bounty that you slaved over. (you can find all my blogs over on the right hand side of the page... over there, your OTHER right! ------> or Click here for my "Life & Stuff" blog, or Here for the Cooking Blog)

Join me will you!? And if you have questions, or want to know where I found anything, or how I did something, just Email me or leave a comment :)

Lets get Started!

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