Jun 22, 2011

Adventures in Square Foot Gardening

I first heard about Square Foot Gardening a few years back and thought little to nothing about it. At the time I had no garden and little out door space...although, that didn't stop me from trying to grow tomatoes in a planter on my balcony ledge. One good gust of wind had those babies crashing down to the sidewalk 10 feet below...I am happy to report their were no injuries other than the 2 baby tomatoes I had been watching grow for weeks. : ( It was a dreadful start to my gardening career.

Last year we moved to the house with a nice big 18x24 ft plot already sectioned off from the rest of the yard and previously used as a vegetable garden. Though the land was vast (to us city dwellers) it was also dull and boring - just a big plot of dirt. I took a lot of time using landscaping bricks and borders from other parts of our yard to create paths and a workable layout. Throughout the season I sweat, cursed, weeded constantly, and nearly got malaria from the swarms of mosquitoes but overall my attempts were rewarded with a great harvest from a job well done. As excited as I was I thought this year I could push to make it even better. Sq Ft style...

For those of you who have not heard about this hang on to your seats...or office chairs. Square foot gardening can be done ANYWHERE as long as you have the space for a small planter box at least 6 inches deep. That's it - 6 inches deep! All you have is a balcony? No problem! You can fit a 2x3 sq ft garden or even a 1x2 or 2x2 or whatever configuration you would like. The book suggests a 4x4 starter box but since when do ya'll pay attention to the rules?

Since reading the book I have been dreaming of a luscious vegetable garden with little to no weeding and nice wide paths to move around in. Not only are the raised beds more beautiful but this method is a more efficient way to garden which uses less seeds for planting and less water for, um, watering...sounds pretty good, right? Well...the only downfall to Square Foot Gardening is the immense start up cost to build your boxes and more importantly the soil which is a custom blend called Mel's Mix (check the book for further details...your library should have it!). To defray the initial start up costs we decided to use a more expensive wood (we choose cedar which should last a long time and resist rot) and skimp on some of the soil ingredients using a premixed organic soil as well as worm castings, peat moss, cotton burrs, and vermiculite. So far so good.

Here is where were 5 weeks ago...

Everything was planted and starting to grow. Then we had some major rain and weird highs and lows n the temperatures and things stopped looking so peachy. I thought it was perfect timing to throw caution to the wind and make the big switch...much to E's dismay, of course. Regardless, most everything did OK and here is where we are at today...

I have transplanted some things into the first two boxes while the other two sit waiting for B's Mix...yes...I stole the whole Mel's Mix idea and created my own! :) We are waiting to transplant the rest of the peppers and the Swiss Chard will soon be gone so I felt no need to move it. Lettuce does not transplant well...take it from someone who knows...

Since this little project has taken most of my free time in the past two weeks I thought it best to dedicate next week to the entire process step by step. Our new layout will allow for 80 square feet of gardening plus an additional 48 next year for a total of 128 square feet of planting room. Not bad when you consider that a 4x4 plot of land can harvest the following in one spring season (Pg. 44 in the book!):

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 4 heads of romaine
  • 4 heads of red lettuce
  • 4 heads of leaf lettuce then 16 scallions after the lettuce is out
  • 4 heads of salad lettuce
  • 5 lbs of sugar peas
  • 8 bunches of Swiss chard
  • 9 bunches of spinach then 9 turnips
  • 16 small ball carrots
  • 16 beets plus 4 bunches of beet greens
  • 16 long carrots (you will need a deeper box for those - 12 inches as apposed to 6 in)
  • 32 radishes

That's a whole lotta greens! Interested in following along and/or building your own? Check out your local library now or grab Mel's latest version of the book off Amazon HERE. FYI - I don't get paid anything to promote this book - I just thought it helpful to some of my readers who have taken an interest in our garden!

Next weeks posts will include everything you ever needed to know on how we started our Sq Ft Garden including:
  • Deciding the Best Layout for Your Garden
  • Building your Square Foot Boxes and Prepping the Garden
  • Buying and Mixing your Soil
  • Building Your Trellises
  • Prepping for next Years Seedlings
  • Making Your Grids and Planting your Seeds and/or Seedlings

So what's growing in your garden this year? Trying anything new or sticking with the same old same old? This is my first year trying beets as well as watermelon...I CAN NOT WAIT to see what happens!! Feel free to leave a comment with what you are up to in the garden this year...

**Update**  See how to choose a layout and build your beds HERE, See how to make Mel's soil mix HERE, and See how to grid your garden HERE!

Bianca Square Foot Gardening, Mel's Mix,

PS - I was not paid, perked, or bribed for this endorsement...though I am currently taking cash, bribes, and perks for future endorsements! :)
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