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5/23/08

I'm in the mood for gardening now...Carrie are you with me?

I stole another post.  This time from this delightful page...




i have been researching a method of growing fruit, vegetables, and flowers called square foot gardening. and i am so super stoked about it. i meet once a month with a few ladies in my church ward that are passionate about thrifting, deal finding, food storage, gardening, and in general living providently. most of the women in the group are much older than me, some grew up on a farm, and they all are so wise. they have been gardening for years and at our last meeting they literally spent two hours giving me personal instruction on a perfect growing season and they all swear by the square foot method. it's no fail, easy, and super cool. i don't have a green thumb, and i really believe i can do this! there's a book that goes in depth (and a dvd too) that you can get at any library or purchase on the website.

basically: 1. you don't waste space or water or backache by planting rows. 2. you don't use your own soil, you use perfect organic soil in a box and never mess with it so it grows amazing plants and anyone anywhere can have one because it's portable. (you can put it on concrete, a table, whatever, it just needs to be away from trees and get 6-8 hours of sunlight a day). 3. there's no digging, weeding, or one time harvesting. you just go pick a little of everything you want when you want it (as in take a big bowl out every evening, make a salad right there, and pick a few other yummies). when a plant has finished its course, you pick it out, use it in your compost and plant something else in that spot- so it's tilling and crop rotation with literally no work. 4. you compost for your soil and use no pesticides. it's the healthiest, freshest, most earth friendly way to garden. you plant a flower crop or two (a square foot space is a crop) that repels pests and you are good to go. 5. you can make a 2x2 box, 3x3, or 4x4, or any combo, as many as you'd like. a 4x4 box will feed my family salads all growing season with fresh flowers on the table and plenty to share. 6. you only plant a few seeds because every seed you plant will grow. therefore, we start at the "thin to" phase- saving tons of work and space and seeds. 7. kids can successfully grow anything in their own box. cate is so pumped. there's so much cool about it i can't even tell you.

i decided to document the process here, and i'd love it if anyone would like to garden along with me. we can compare notes, share pictures and learn from each other all summer. if you already garden this way, please share your info!

if you want to do it, here's THIS WEEK'S WORK (next week i will have pictures of our boxes and composting, share what we will plant, and then next week's work will be to plant!):

first get the book/ dvd. watch and start reading and/or read the whole website.

then we need to start composting immediately, although we'll have to buy some organic commercial compost for the first planting as our own won't be ready quick enough. but we will continue to use it all summer, so we need to get on it quick. (the book tells you how to compost- it's very easy). then you'll need to build your box and decide what to plant. that's what we are going to accomplish this week. the website has the easy instructions for building the box. free wood can be found on craigslist, any construction site, local classifieds and classified website.


1 - LAYOUT. Always think in squares: lay out 4 foot by 4 foot planting areas with wide walkways between them.

2 - BOXES. Build garden box frames no wider than 4 feet, and 6 to 8 inches deep. The length is not as important, but a recommended size for your first time is one frame 4 foot by 4 foot. You can, of course, go smaller. A 2 foot by 2 foot works great on patios and 3 foot by 3 foot box is ideal for kids. Frames can be made from almost any material except treated wood, which has toxic chemicals that might leach into the soil. 1 by 6 or 2 by 6 lumber is ideal, and comes in 8-foot lengths. Most lumber yards will cut it in half at little or no cost. Exact dimensions are not critical. Deck screws work best to fasten the boards together. Rotate or alternate corners to end up with a square inside.

3 - AISLES. If you plan to have more than one garden box, separate them by 2 or 3 feet to form walkways.

4 - SOIL. Fill frame with Mel's Mix, a mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite (no dirt needed). A blended compost made from many ingredients provides all the nutrients the plants require (no chemical fertilizers needed). Peat moss and vermiculite help hold moisture and keep the soil loose.   It's best to make your own compost from many ingredients but if you have to buy it, make sure it is truly compost. Some stores sell mulch or humus and other ground covers but call it compost. Most commercial compost is made from one or two ingredients so to be  safe, don't buy all of one kind but one of each kind until you have enough for your garden.

It's really best to make your own compost, then you know what goes in it. When buying vermiculite, be sure to get the coarse grade, and get the more economical 4 cubic foot size bags.

If placing frames over grass you can dig out the grass or cover it with cardboard or landscape cloth to discourage grass and weeds from coming up through your new garden soil.

5 - GRID. On top of each frame place a permanent grid that divides the box into one foot squares. The grid is the unique feature that makes the whole system work so well. To show you why the grid is so important, do this little demonstration: Look at your 4 foot by 4 foot box with the grid on and imagine up to 16 different crops. What you see before you is a neat and attractive, well organized garden, that will be easy to manage.

Now remove the grid. Could you organize and manage this space without dividing it up into squares? Besides, without the grid you will be tempted to plant in rows, which is a poor use of space.

Grids can be made from nearly any material; wood, plastic strips, old venetian blinds, etc. Use screws or rivets to attach them where they cross. On a 4 foot by 4 foot frame, the grid divides the frame into 16 easy-to-manage spaces, for up to 16 different crops. Leave the grid in place all season. The grid can be cut long enough to fit across the top of the box or cut shorter to lay on the soil inside the box.

6 - CARE. Since you will NEVER walk on or depress the growing soil, don't make the frames any wider than 4 feet (2 feet, if only one side is accessible). Any wider makes it too difficult to reach in to tend the plants.

7 - SELECT. Depending on the mature size of the plant, grow 1, 4, 9, or 16 equally spaced plants per square foot. If the seed packet recommends plant spacing be 12 inches apart, plant one plant per square foot. If 6 inch spacing; 4 per square foot. If 4 inch spacing; 9 per square foot. If 3 inch spacing; 16 per square foot.



1 comment:

Elena said...

Those gardens are gorgeous! We haven't planted ours yet, but I think I am tempted to try this square thing. Of course, I have a plot already in the yard, so it won't be as pretty as these are, but I love the sqaure look. I LOVE the flowers mixed in!!!! Thanks for sharing. I'll post pictures when/IF we get ours in. (And don't be offended, I'm not making my own compost this year. Maybe next.)