Shorewood Illinois Square Foot Garden


  • Location: Shorewood, IL
  • Gardening Year: 2013
  • Planting By Color group: Yellow, Maroon


Rolly-Pollie damage

Rolly-Pollies are eating my strawberries!

Let me start by saying I am a complete newbie to the garden world.  I am a 33 year special education teacher, wife, and mother of 2 boys, 5 and 1.

We recently moved from a smaller duplex, to a large house with a large yard, and one of the first things I wanted to do was have a garden.  So, in my google-searching, I happened upon Mel’s Square Foot Gardening method, bought the book, and am hooked.  His book was so easy to follow and easy to understand, and it makes so much sense!   I tried explaining the method to my father (who is a very “set in his ways” traditional kind of guy).  He’s not so sure about the idea, and thinks there is no way in heck that I will be able to grow watermelon’s vertically…. but…. by the end of the summer… I hope to prove him wrong!

So, I drew out some plans,and  purchased all the supplies.  My wonderful husband did all the building of the boxes, I painted them, he built the trellis’, we filled the boxes together with help from our eager son, and my hubby also built chicken wire “tops” to protect the newly planted seeds in the beginning.  The personal satisfaction that you get from creating something that is “yours” is pretty cool.

Box before planting

One of the boxes, ready to plant!

My husband built the left "topper" using 1" chicken wire.  The "topper" on the right was made with "hardware cloth" and is much sturdier.

My husband built the left “topper” using 1″ chicken wire. The “topper” on the right was made with “hardware cloth” and is much sturdier.

April 28

Garden on April 28

May 20

Garden on May 20

The sugar snap peas are starting to climb the trellis!

The sugar snap peas are starting to climb the trellis!

My husband built a fence around the garden to keep out the bunnies.  We have so many!

My husband built a fence around the garden to keep out the bunnies. We have so many!

It's not a great picture, but you can see that some of the leaves are yellow and dying... not sure why

It’s not a great picture, but you can see that some of the leaves of this cucumber plant are yellow and dying… not sure why

Garden Layout

I had a ton of “questions” about when to plant, etc. etc., and I was kind of obsessing about when to put my first seeds and transplants into the ground.  I’m always so worried that I will do something “wrong” and screw it up.   I was  very “iffy” about planting so far ahead of the “last frost” date like the books suggest, however, I decided to just trust the book, and plant my early spring vegetables 6 weeks before the last frost date.  So, on April 7, I was pretty much the only one in the neighborhood out planting my broccoli, lettuce, carrots, radishes, and strawberries.  And then came some pretty cold nights and about three weeks of cold and rain.  I covered the garden a lot of those nights with plastic…. and I was so worried that all my seeds would “wash away” or die because it was so cold…. but…. it’s May 20… and I have a pretty great looking garden right now… so I’m very happy and learning as I go!

Some questions:

1.  I tried to do a bit of research on “companion” planting… but it’s so hard to keep everything straight.  Does anything look out of place, or should I not put certain things next to each other next year?

2.  Any suggestions for what to put in the two open spots?

3.  Any ideas why my cucumbers have yellow/dying-looking leaves?

4.  Any ideas how to keep insects off of my strawberries??  Rolly-Pollies are attacking the berries as soon as they turn red.

Thanks for your help!

Happy Gardening!

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4 Responses

  1. daniel says:

    How is the rolly polly invasion progressing? I am a huge fan of “polyculture” (a fancy way to say companion planting for getting rid of bugs, at least in theory (I cant start my garden until next year so i have obsessivley researched everything on the internet.

    According to the following help repel them: horseradish, bush beans, cilantro, corriander, tansy, and marigold (they have some other great tips on there as well).

    I would highly recomend you plant these companions on the north side of your plots to avoid shading your strawberries whihc need 6-8 hours of full sun per day. I would also recomend that you use every plant on this list that you enjoy eating. On one hand, the more sdifferent smells, the harder it is for pests to “hone in” on what they are looking for. On the other hand, why grow something you don’t like when you could just as well use the space to grow MORE strawberries (a little bit for the bugs and a little bit for you!).

  2. Ponyryd says:

    I have the same problem this year with rolly-pollies eating my strawberries and cucumber starts. After a little google research I have been using diatomaceous earth on my strawberries and cucumber starts. Seems to be working, but the problem has been the rain, feels like Seatlle here in the midwest. I put on the diatomaceous earth and the rain washes it away and back come the rolly-pollies – ITS WAR I TELL YOU! :)

  3. Kris says:

    I too am having problems with rolly-pollies (aka tank bugs) in my strawberry bed and whole garden. We also have raised beds and have noticed that where they rolly-pollies) are, so are ants. Does anyone know if there is a connection? The ants have been HORRENDOUS here in SW MO. I can’t even find the big black ants anymore that used to open the peonies. We are currently redoing the whole outside of the house area in hopes of erradicating the ant problems. They are even in the lilacs and apple trees! We also have very small slugs which I have found eating the strawberries also. I did the “beer in a saucer” thing yesterday – so will see how that goes.

  4. Marion says:

    Wow ! I hope my first SFG raised bed will look like yours. I only sowed the seeds a few days ago so I will keep my fingers crossed. Thank you for sharing your garden and giving me hope. Take care now. Marion x