A few weeks back we posted part one of a Square Foot Gardening FAQ put together by Emily Peery, author of the eBook “Gardening For Beginners“. Today we are going to give you the second half of the questions asked by our Facebook Fan Page readers.
What are some tips for planning your garden if canning is your end goal?
First, do you have a pressure canner? Because if you don’t you are limited to canning mostly fruits (remember, tomatoes are a fruit!) and pickles. Salsa also works, since there is enough acid to can it safely with the boiling water method. If you are interested in canning, I suggest dedicate most of your garden to canning veggies. To maximize your yield, grow as much vertically as you can. By trellising cucumbers you can plant 8 per square, compared to 4+ squares if you let them sprawl out.
Which type of tomato plant is better for canning?
In general, paste tomatoes (like Roma) are good for canning. The flesh is more firm, so it holds up to all the heat, and it is less watery, so you have more pulp per tomato. But Roma’s are a little smaller, so it’s more peeling compared to other varieties. I grow Roma, Early Girl, Better Boy, and Celebrity. For salsa I use an even mix of tomatoes, but I can whole Roma tomatoes for sauce.
When purchasing tomatoes, ask around. What do your friends and neighbors grow, and why? I don’t usually ask at the nursery or home and garden store, because I’m almost always advised to purchase what they have on the shelf! You can call your local extension office for a list of suggested varieties for your location. At many places the plants have tags on them, indicating if they are good for slicing, salads, canning, etc. Also look for disease resistant varieties.
How many to tomatoes, peppers, etc. should I plant if I want to can?
If this is your first year growing a garden, I suggest you start small and increase with time. Otherwise, you’re likely to take on too much, burn out, and never can a single jar. It’s just impossible to know until you try it, and see how much your garden produces.
What are some tips on how you should rotate your garden plan each year?
If you SFG and use compost or Mel’s mix, you will need to replenish it with compost every year. As long as you didn’t have any diseases, there is no need to rotate your crops. Unless you get bored, like me, or become obsessed with finding the perfect gardening layout (also like me).
Do you have any detailed info on companion planting?
Companion planting is the practice of growing plants next to each other for mutual benefit. Read all about it in this post.
What plants grow best in desert climates?
Everything! You may have a hard time with cool-weather plants like broccoli, spinach, and peas. But if you give them an early start and shade from the hot sun, even these will grow well. Things like tomatoes and peppers do particularly well, since they can tolerate some heat and love the sunshine. I suggest everyone do a little research on their local extension website (www.extension.org) and/or check out a local farming supply store for varieties developed specifically for your climate.
Do I need to fertilize?
I believe in fertilizing. This can be organic or chemical, but I don’t feel Mel’s mix provides sufficient nutrients for my gardens. Now, you have to be careful because if you fertilize with too much nitrogen you will have big, leafy plants and little fruit. I sometimes use an all-purpose fertilizer (20-20-20 or 10-10-10), but I really love one called Blooming and Rooting (9-59-8). I use it when starting seeds (about 4 weeks after germination) and on all my veggies that flower (squash, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers) every 6 weeks.
Don’t forget to check out Part One of the Square Foot Gardening FAQs and also check out the great Garden Box Tutorial put together by Jodi’s husband.