Z. ditched me at the last minute. Change of plans. Shame, too. . I had everything out and ready to go. Guess it’ll be another week or two before we make duck sausage.
Checked the weather and saw that we were looking at a very un-February-like weekend . . . blue skies, highs in the 70’s, light breeze. Sitting in the garage on sawhorses were six 10′ cypress boards already treated with water sealant, waiting on the expansion I’ve been promising myself. I’ve been in the house almost two years now. Since we bought it in May – and it, of course, came with no garden space – then I lost my first growing season. Last year, I only had the one bed and got the garden in too late. Priority, though, was getting my blackberries transplanted and the compost bin up and producing.
Back in November, I decided to write a few excel formulas to help my timing. I plotted out the square foot garden on Excel and have been using it as my guideline. Each square represents 1 sqft. Yesterday and today, I pulled those cypress boards out of the garage and cut a couple of them into 4′ sections to make another 10x4x2 bed. For my knees and my back, as well as for the visual aesthetic, I like the high raised beds. The picture on the left is my general plan of companion plants. Each code correlates to a table on another workbook page.
So here’s a few tricks, if you’re any good with Excel. I named the First and Last Frost dates a LF and FF so that the table below can reference it in a formula. Over the winter, as I was planning out my garden, I ordered my seeds and plugged in information from the seed packet – such as when to plant and how many days until maturation. Under Seed Plant the value is just a formula based on the seed packet information. So, for instance, my Red Cherry Tomato says start the seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost. In the cell I typed: =LF-(6*7) then told it to format the answer as a date. I then filter by date and it tells me when I need to start putting seeds into my little peat cylinders in the greenhouse.
This weekend, I expanded my growing space by adding not just the 40 sqft bed, but the smaller medicinal herb bed (6x2x1) and the tall sunstealer bed (10x2x1) for a total of 72 extra square feet. Because I only want a growing medium about a foot deep, I filled the big beds with a combination of old mulch and rotting straw I recycled from someone’s Halloween porch decor. I’ll keep adding worm castings and compost to the bed as the straw continues to rot.
Since I’m now working with 112 square foot of happy suburban homestead growing space, I really needed a way to not miss anything. I made another table.
So for this table, I just copied and pasted the Key column from the other table. For Plant and PerSqFt I used Index(Match) formulas to pull the information from the first table so I really only have to enter it once.
=INDEX(Plants[Plant], MATCH([Code], Plants[Key],0))
=INDEX(Plants[PerSqFt], MATCH([Code], Plants[Key],0))
Now, the really fun part comes when I told it to count and let me know how many plants of that type are in my pretty little map (which I told Excel was a range named GardenMap).
And then, finally, a little bit of simple math to tell me how many healthy plants I need to end up with in order to fill each assigned spot. =[@PerSqFt]*[@Plots]
Today, I added a final column to indicate how many seeds I’ve set. Someone was throwing away a whole mess of those little dehydrated peat disk planter sets at the end of the year last year and I traded some blackberries for them. You can see from the table what I planted this weekend. I may have gone a little crazy with the peppers – but I’m hoping to maybe plant a few more than is currently in the GardenMap and either trade or give away the extra plants.
Other things I accomplished on this Spring-like, but still technically Winter weekend:
- Dug out 2 wheelbarrow loads of compost from my biggest bin. Dug out one of the two smaller ones that had gotten a little too compacted and anaerobic. Relocated the two small ones so that now I have an easier 3-tier system. Raw in the first. 1st turning in the second. Final composting in the big hotbox.
- Emptied out a tray of worm castings from my vermicomposter. This is the first “batch” from my winter project. I have about 1500 worms in it right now, give or take. Some of them fell out into the raised bed and quickly dug in. I’m cool with that.
- Cleaned up the last of that massive Halloween decoration I recycled. Other than picking up a fieldmouse from one of those bales of straw, that has been a pretty good find. I ended up with eight rectangle bales of straw all for the cost of hauling it off. What I didn’t use in the compost bin or for fill in the raised beds has been used as mulch around my new fruit saplings.
- Put two sets of shelves into the greenhouse to hold the seedlings. I am currently using it as storage for things that could probably move into the garage while I’m nursing seedlings.
- Ordered a plastic ammo can, small resealable baggies, and labels. Going to use that for seed storage. No way am I going to need all the seeds I currently have. (Well, I don’t anticipate needing them.)