Square Foot Garden Update – 6/14

Here’s the weekly update on my first attempt at a DIY garden using the square foot garden method.

Every Tuesday I host a live video update on Facebook to share what I’ve learned about bugs, plants and general gardening tips. This week’s video delves into bolting. Are those flowers in your garden or is your plant abandoning you? Learn how to tell the difference between a bud and plant that is done growing for the season.

Starting a Raised Bed Garden


Every morning I look out on my estate with hands at my waist a la the King of Siam and comment how all is right with the world. It is currently misting and the temperature is hovering around 50 degrees in Chicago. Normally, this would make me grumpy and research cheapest airfares to sunny locales. But this is just what my garden needs. My priorities have shifted to my raised bed garden.

A few friends inquired how to make their own raised bed garden. It is quite simple and could be setup on one weekend morning. The source text for this project was:

Front CoverAll New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space


I got mine out of the library, but you can snag a copy for the cost of shipping. Owning the book would be helpful as a resource when new issues arise. I grew up gardening with my mom and now that I have a yard, I wanted to setup my own garden.

How to Make Your Raised Bed Garden


You only need a few items to make your box. You can fancy it up if you want or go the cheapest route like I have.

  1. 4 pieces of lumber 4ft in length. Avoid getting pre-treated lumber. You don’t want the chemicals to leach into your dirt and veggies. The wood cost about $9. I found 8-foot long planks and had them cut in half at the hardware store.
  2. Wood screws. I bought a small bag of 2-3-inch screws for about a dollar.
  3. 6 nails or screws. These are for separating the box into the grid. Not totally necessary but it helps to divide the space when planting.
  4. Twine. My mom had some extra twine, so FREE!
  5. 1 bag/3cu. ft. of Peat Moss ~$8
  6. 4-5 bags of compost. I bought an array, mushroom, cow manure, organic hummus (not for dipping). These totaled ~$10.
  7. 1 bag of vermiculite. This was the most expensive of the soil components at ~$20.
  8. Newspaper

Raised bed gardening


  1. Build yo box! It had been at least 10 years since I took shop. Drill pilot holes in the edges of the wood. Assemble the box by screwing one piece into another. Follow the pics if you need guidance. I used two screws on each joint.
  2. Decide where you want your garden. They advise to place the garden somewhere visible so you can see your progress. You want an area that gets a lot of sun and potentially somewhere within hose distance.
  3. Make your expensive dirt. The goal is equal parts peat moss, compost and vermiculite. I combined mine in an old storage bin and used a shovel to mix the mix. This wasn’t the most effective method but it got the job done.
  4. Fill your box. If you are putting your raised bed garden on grass, it’s best to put a barrier between the grass and your garden. Eventually the grass will die off. You could use a weed barrier cloth. That costs money. I used newspaper to cover the grass after I decided digging up the grass was too much effort. Start shoveling the dirt mixture into the box. The soil mix should fill your box to the brim.
  5. Water. Water your dirt mix.

Planning and Planting

The book provides great advice on when and how to start certain plants. Some are best to start from seed (radish, lettuce, beets, beans). Others can be started indoors and transplanted. Plants like tomato and peppers are best to buy at the store and transplant into your garden. They take too long to grow from seed and our climate isn’t stellar to allow for that time.

raised bed gardening

After I planted my first seeds I woke up the next morning to gaze at my handiwork only to discover someone else was also a fan of the garden. An animal had come in the night and dug out all the seeds I planted. How rude and impatient! If they just waited 6-8 weeks they could have had a full, ripe vegetable instead of a dried seed. Savages!

I wasn’t about to let an animal eat my seeds. After researching local ordinances on having an electric fence on private property I decided to scale it back and fashion a chicken wire enclosure for my garden box. Be sure to use gloves when handling chicken wire. And maybe make sure you are up to date on tetanus shots. There are some plants that deter animals, so i’ll have to grab some of those this weekend. Marigolds are a front runner for repelling most garden-loving critters.

What did I plant, you ask?

There are 16 1×1 boxes to fill with veggies and herbs. My game plan is essentially to grow a salsa garden.

Row 1: Tomatoes – roma, beefstake, cherry and herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, oregano) in the corner.

Row 2: Peppers – Bell, Poblano, Tomatillo, Jalepeno

Row 3: Salad Bar – Romaine, Arugula, Spinach, Kale

Row 4: Miscellaneous – Sugar snap peas, radishes, beets, cucumber & zucchini


About a week after planting more seeds, they are starting to grow! Back to patrolling the vegetable cage.

Cold-Pressed Juice Cleanse | Garden of Flavor

cold pressed juice cleanse

When someone publicly says they are doing an cold-pressed juice cleanse the following questions are guaranteed:

“Do you have enough toilet paper?”


“You mean, no solid foods for how many days?”

“But, really, are you good on toilet paper?”

When Garden of Flavor approached me to review their juices and 1-day juice cleanse I figured I owed it to you loyal readers to take one for the team to see about all the hullabaloo. We will get to the answers to all the above questions in a minute. Continue reading Cold-Pressed Juice Cleanse | Garden of Flavor

3 Tips to Find Your Wine Spirit Guide in Napa


For all those not blessed to live in California, this place exists.

This place is Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, just north of Napa.

Currently looking out at a vista of gray snow, I write this about one week after visiting their scenic grounds and I still regret not exploring and staying longer, which only means I will have to go back…permanently. Full disclosure: I did offer to stay and help pick grapes. That offer might have been more valued if there were grapes to be picked.

If you’ve never been to wine country, it should be on your list. Whether you like two buck chuck or are an expert on tannins and terroir, there is always something to be learned from a visit. Plus, the weather is relatively stable all year, making every time a great time to visit. Renting a car is the cheapest option to get to Sonoma and Napa, but if you plan on visiting more than two vineyards, it will be safer to get an Uber or limo for your chariot.

There are two ways to visit wine country:

  1. Responsibly, like a civilized person
  2. Chugging samples like it’s Welch’s and you’re next in line for a liver transplant

My preference is for the former, but I recognize the appeal of wildin’ among the wines.

Much like Walmart bingo, you can modify the game for Napa and Sonoma. Here are six things you’re guaranteed to see while sightseeing and sampling:

  1. Symmetrical rows of vines that disappear in the horizon
  2. Gorgeous vistas of hazy hills
  3. Party buses
  4. Limos
  5. People who have no clue how loud they are talking
  6. People who have no clue they have purple lips

If you are like me and are interested in savoring the experience and the wine, I have one simple tip:

Go early, before the bachelorette buses descend on wine country.

My girlfriend joined me for the trip and we aimed to arrive at Frog’s Leap at 10AM for our tasting. Be sure to setup a tasting beforehand to reserve a spot on their porch. We had a bit of a delay at the car rental place and arrived closer to 10:20. Arriving early ensures tasters aren’t fully tanked when you’re there. Plus, you can aim to avoid the exodus of limos and caravans leaving the wineries as they close for the day.

We called to notify Frog’s Leap we were running a bit behind and they said it wasn’t an issue. Driving to Sonoma or Napa is a scenic drive. Similar to the rolling hills in Florence, you look around and just marvel at the difference in topography from the flat Midwest.

Our GPS guided us along Route 29 to the gravel parking lot at Frog’s Leap. With minimal traffic, you can make the drive in about an hour from downtown San Francisco. Since it was early in the day, the parking lot was devoid of limos and party buses. But Frog’s Leap is also a more intimate winery catering to smaller groups. We walked into the Welcome Center, which looked like a page from a West Elm or Pottery Barn catalog, and were greeted by one of the staff members. She directed us to a table on the back porch and offered my girlfriend a blanket. We came from Chicago, a land of black ice and broken thermometers. The chilly morning on the porch was comparatively an ocean-side resort in the tropics.

Kevin was our wine spirit guide for the morning. He inquired if we had previously been to Frog’s Leap and if we ever had their wine. Potentially making us the worst visitors ever, neither of us had done either. A college friend highly recommended visiting and that’s all I needed. One of my trepidations prior to my first vineyard visit a few years ago was not knowing much about wine. I knew some of my preferences, but not much beyond that as to what makes a wine more full bodied or what sort of weather grapes love.

I feared vineyards would be pretentious. While I’m sure some of them give off that vibe, Frog’s Leap definitely does not. Kevin was approachable and happy to share the story behind their wines. He detailed the four wines we would be sampling as he poured them in the four glasses in front of us. Kevin also acknowledged that people sample at different paces, so he presented and poured the wines, allowing us to drink at our leisure. There was a petite snack plate of cheese, dried fruit and nuts to nimble on as we sipped and swished.

Cabernet sauvignon is my standard choice when selecting a wine to drink, cook with or bring as a gift. Each of the wines sampled was distinct. At other wine tastings, different varietals tend to blur or don’t stand out. Frog’s Leaps offerings all had a different taste and mouth feel. Frog’s Leap uses organic growing methods and is part of the California Certified Organic Farms (CCOF). Their Vineyard House was the first Silver LEED certified winery in California. So, not only is the wine delicious, the vista breathtaking, but the end product is organic.

I seldom drink chardonnay, but theirs was different than others I have had. They don’t age it in oak, preferring to let the flavor of the grapes shine, versus the barrel’s. The zinfandel was again distinct and enjoyable from others I have swished. Kevin suggested that the mild flavors of the zin made it well suited for multiple foods, including spicier options. The merlot was a step up from the zin, as far as body, and led well to the the cabernet.

After we ran out of questions for Kevin, he left us to enjoy the wines and the view. Leann and I looked at each other, gently clinked our glasses together and toasted to the good life. I walked around the garden and took a few pictures.

Come harvest season, if they need another set of hands or someone to supervise, they know who to call.