Experiments: No Dig Gardening, Square Foot Gardening

I’ve been hobbling, crawling, sliding and scootin’ for the past 3 weeks now – after this fall and a front-jump-kick that ended up as a front-jump-FAIL in Tae Kwon Do class, I needed surgery to replace my ACL and repair a torn meniscus in my right knee.

Because of travel and hosting the Dumpling Festival (btw, we raised $46,000 for the Food Bank for NYC, beating out our last year record of $44K! woohoo!) I did manage to delay the surgery for 2 months — I can’t believe that for an entire 2 months, the only thing that was holding my leg onto my body was probably just a 1/2″ piece of ligament. Oh, scary, right!??

The surgery went well, I’m such a lightweight on meds that the relaxing pill they gave me PRIOR to the anesthesia knocked me out and all I remember was a flurry of nurses tending to other patients in the recovery room.

So I’m on a full leg brace and crutches for 6 weeks, I even traveled to Nashville to host Food Blog Forum last week in full leg gear (more on FBF in next post). I’m not so great on crutches (uh, duh! it’s my uncoordination that landed me in this spot in the first place!) and so at home I go barefoot, even when outside.

The problem with barefoot outside is that on our property, from

HERE………………to……………..THERE, where I need to go to feed the chicks……

……live approximately 500,000 fireants. You know, the ones that swarm your body and bite you, injecting their hate-juice that make you do that freaky OW! OW! OUCH! dance and itch for the next 19 days.

But I had to take the risk – Scott was taking the boys to school, the chicks were starving and the garden plants were sagging from extreme thrist. Okay, I had to dramaticize the scenario to amp up my bravery for hobbling into the ant field, barefoot, on crutches (bravery or stupidity???) Oh, I forgot to tell you, I was also on some niiiiiicccceeee pain meds, so I justified that I probably wouldn’t feel a thing even if I did get bit.

Garden Experiments

Speaking of garden plants, here are the 6 raised garden beds that Scott built for us last month. We’re experimenting with lasagna gardening a.k.a. sheet mulching or no-dig gardening, where you layer cardboard-straw-grass-manure-soil in the garden bed. The straw and compost will break down, providing an entire season of rich soil without having to dig, mulch, fertilize or weed.

We combined this method of preparing the beds with Square Foot Gardening (I highly recommend this book) – where you divide the bed into square foot sections – each section can be planted with 1-4-8 or 16 seedlings, depending on what type of plant. For example, carrots, onions, beets and radish take up very little space, so in 1 sq.ft., you can plant 16. Lettuce and corn is 4 to a square, tomatoes and other large plants are 1 per.

This method not only makes the most of your garden space, but also prevents weeds too. We’ll be able to 16x our yield vs. traditional gardening in the same space. The vegetables will grow so lush  and full that there’s just no room (or sunlight) for weeds underneath. I’ll report back our progress in our experiment throughout this season.

As for seedlings, I’ve found another use for my mason jars – they’re currently protecting the very delicate seedlings in the garden.

The jars protect the babies from the wind, hard rain and also traps in the moisture for humidity. I’ll remove them when the seedlings get a little stronger.

As for the Earthbox garden – things are growing so FAST! I took this photo a few days ago, but this morning the cucumber plants have just about doubled in size! We’re already harvesting Japanese cucumbers after just a month (they were itty bitty seedlings just a month ago!)

The zucchini is flowering, edamame is popping….

….bell peppers are growing. We’ve already been getting lettuce leaves for our salads and I just planted more  pea plants…..

….because they can’t seem to grow very well. Everytime a new set of leaves grow, the very next day, they get chomped! At first, I thought it was caterpillars because of the bite marks.

But then the other day, I found this gal pecking at and eating the leaves of my cucmber plants, lettuce and peas!!!!

To my horror, she called her friends up.

AAAAACCCCKKKKKK!!!!!! Naughty birds! You’re supposed to eat the BUGS off the plants, not the plant itself!!!!

Dear World….

…. come meet my friend John Gregory Smith from London. He’s a spice dude and you just have to watch his pilot to see how vibrant, handsome and talented he is. John just came out with his first book, Mighty Spice (gorgeously photographed!) and I helped with setting up a television spot in Tampa, which really was just my way of making him stay with us for a few days and cook for me while I was healing after surgery. Sneaky me!

We made him play farmer too – it was his first time holding a live chicken. No, John, you can’t cook her!

This is Oreo, by the way– isn’t she HUGE!???

Here’s her baby pics from just 2 months ago!

And this is Fireflapper, the most friendly of all of them. She eats treats (bugs) out of our hand!