Saturday, April 25, 2015

Square Foot Gardening 5 of 5: Success!

Most everything in my Square Foot Garden was up two to three weeks after planting. Now it was a matter of lightly watering close to the soil. One beauty of Square Foot Gardening is that you're only watering the plants themselves, not the weed seeds in the outlying dirt. Weeds within the squares are easy to pull out of the nice, loose soil when they're little. This seems pretty efficient to me.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Square Foot Gardening 4 of 5: Filling the boxes

Before placing the 4-foot-square boxes for my Square Foot Garden, I laid landscape cloth where each box would be. This would smother out any weeds in the soil underneath.

Then Muscleman Ed and I mixed the soil for two boxes at a time. We loaded equal parts vermiculite, baled peat moss and compost onto a large tarp, picked up the corners and slid the ingredients until they were combined, then dumped it in the boxes. (Be aware that this stuff is really heavy, so it's good to have help.)

The day after my helper went home, I watered in the soil and nailed 4-foot stakes across the boxes to form the planting grid. (Cue the Wonder Woman music.)

Everything I planted was from seed. Each square foot contains different vegetables, flowers and herbs arranged so they help each other resist insects and diseases. This is called companion planting. Craft sticks are handy markers. But get it down on paper first and stick to your plan.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Square Foot Gardening 3 of 5: Building the boxes

Once I decided that I needed four boxes for my Square Foot Garden, I enlisted Muscleman Ed and The Tattooed One to make my 4-foot-square boxes out of 1x6x16 cedar boards. Cut the boards into 4-foot lengths. Sometimes your hometown lumber store will do this for you free.

If I were doing it again, I would make each box 10 to 12 inches deep instead of 6 inches deep as recommended in the All New Square Foot Gardening manual. This is a VERY intensive way of gardening, so you want your plants to be able to get lots of nutrients and develop deep root structures.

If you're going to plant root vegetables (carrots, onions, potatoes and the like), I would recommend making your boxes 16 to 20 feet deep. I actually stacked concrete blocks around to make a deep bed. This had the added benefit of providing holes for my herbs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Square Foot Gardening 2 of 5 - Planning

Detail people, rejoice! You are going to love Square Foot Gardening!

You should draw up a schematic and decide what you'll plant in each 1-foot square of your Square Foot Garden. Do as much research as you can about growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in such an intensive manner. I recommend consulting "All New Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew.

I promise that you'll be amazed at how intensively you can garden. Here are some examples of the numbers of vegetables that can be planted in each square:

16 plants per square foot:
Carrots (deep soil needed)
Onions (deep soil)
Radishes (deep soil)

9 per square foot:
Bush beans

8 per square foot:
Pole beans (provide support for vertical gardening)
Sugar snap peas (vertical support)

4 per square foot:
Dahlia (small)
Dusty Miller
Marigold (small)
Potato (deep soil)
Swiss chard

2 per square foot:
Cucumber (vertical support)

1 per square foot (Compared to the others, this seems like not very much, but keep in mind that you can still have 16 plants in your  4-foot-square box.):
Basil (large)
Dahlia (large)
Marigold (large)
Tomato (indeterminate - vertical support)

Root vegetables MUST HAVE very loose soil that is at least 16 inches deep. Mel's Mix, being nice and loose, is perfect, but you will have to build your boxes a lot deeper than the usual Square Foot Gardening box. And it will take a lot more soil.

Vining vegetables can be grown UP, so be sure to provide tall supports.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Square Foot Gardening 1 of 5 - Intro

Do you like a well-planned, orderly place? Then Square Foot Gardening may be ideal for you. This method is also great if, like me, you enjoy detail and general persnickityness.

Square Foot Gardening is wonderful for the new gardener or one whose space is limited. As long as it gets at six hours of direct sunlight per day, you could grow a charming little Square Foot Garden on your apartment balcony.

Several decades ago, Mel Bartholomew developed Square Foot Gardening and wrote a book by that name in 1981. Two million sold copies later, gardeners are still adopting his method, which has been updated in “All New Square Foot Gardening" (2006).
Square Foot Gardening is great for small spaces.

If you decide to give this garden method a try, you will build 4-foot-square wooden boxes and fill them with a special growing medium. Within each box you will grid out veggies, herbs or flowers, with each section 1 square foot.

Now, if you're a math whiz, and I know you are, you'll realize that each box will have 16 squares for planting. And if you take square foot gardening on faith, you will grow a crazy number of plants in very little space.

“All New Square Foot Gardening” lays it all out, and I have scoured the book many times. There seem to be so many advantages that I thought, “Why not?”

·        Watering - A square foot garden uses a lot less water than a traditional row garden.
·        Spacing - Instead of planting excess seeds then thinning them out to a specified spacing, in a square foot garden you plant them at that spacing. 
·        Lots of plants - you'll be amazed how many plants you will get in one square.
·        Weeds inside the box - You won't have many weeds within the box, and those you get will be simple to pull because the soil mixture is so loose.
·        Weeds outside the box - You're not watering surrounding weed seeds; correspondingly you won't have many weeds around your boxes.
·        Garden space - Square Foot Gardening takes up A LOT less space than conventional long-row gardening.
·        Planting medium - It uses a nutritious “soil” mixture that you never have to change or fertilize -- just add to it.
·        Portability - The boxes can be moved around.

·        Other - You'll be able to very easily conduct a system of companion planting and natural crop rotation. Plus you'll never have to till again.

Disclaimer: Since I bought a chest freezer (no wait, I mean a freezer that is a chest), I have much more room for my harvest, so I have gone back to the crazy yields of row gardening.

Monday, April 20, 2015


I'm pretty sure this is English ivy.
Ivy climbs more than a 3-year-old, but it's the growth along the ground that's the hardest for me to keep in check. Unless you want ivy to fill in a certain space, which is pretty, you had better keep ivy reined in, or in my case, pulled up. Ivy is insidious, and thus is on my list of Plants That Take Over the World.

Ivy has about a dozen species and originated in Europe, northwestern Africa and Southeast Asia. My ivy likes dappled sunlight, or at least shade some of the day.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Useful tools 1

For the klutz who has everything, and too frequently cuts herself in the kitchen, here is a pretty good accessory:
G&F 57100 CUTShield Classic Cut & Slash Resistant Gloves on Amazon.

For the spray-paint project:  
Spray trigger at Big Box Land