Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Square Foot Garden

Square foot gardening was a great experiment this year.  I had read about it before and really wanted to get into it.  Luckily one of my friends also wanted to and having a friend support you really helps to get things done.  It was already late in the year for starting a garden (mid June), but we decided that if we don't do it now we may just procrastinate until this time next year.


We set out with the latest edition of Square Foot Gardening in our hands and got our material together.  My friend already had two plots set up in 4x8 patterns instead of the standard 4x4, so that helped simplify some of our needs.  We just needed the following

  • Wood (2 6x2x8)
  • Wood Screws
  • Weed cloth
  • Soil
  • String
  • Net
  • Electrical Conduit
  • Seeds
Except for the Net and Electrical Conduit, which I bought later, we worked out the math for our plots for the amount of soil and split the cost based on him using one of his 4x8 plots and my newly constructed 4x4 plot.  The funnest part was probably buying the seeds.  You start to have dreams of all the vegetables that you are going to eat, and calculating out how long it will be before you begin to have your first harvest.

There were some items that we also had to purchase on top of all this which included gloves, garden shovel, and a 5 gallon bucket which we used for watering our garden.


Mixing the soil was probably one of the hardest parts.  We laid a tarp in the bed of my dads pickup and slowly added one bag and a time and used a shovel and a rake to turn it over until we felt there was an even mix.  The manure was the worst to mix in because it likes to clump and not break a part so much.

Even with our superior math skills and following the design laid out in the book my 4x4 plot ended up being something more like 4'1"x3'8" or something along that line, not exactly as large as I was hoping for.  Previously I had taken a bit of the landscaping in back and flattened out one portion and raised another in hopes that next year the raised portion may be used for another garden.

After laying down my squarish box and applying the weed cloth to it we filled it with the soil that we had just mixed.  I think we should have left another wheel barrel full or an extra 5 gallon bucket that we could have used to replace the soil after our first dousing of it with water, it compacted about an inch or so which left us with a little less depth for our carrots than we wanted.


Now with our accumulative knowledge and arm chair warriorness we split to attend to our personal plots.  I came out with a grid network and a solid plan to allow for a full summer and constant supply of lettuce and carrots along with some of my wife's Chinese plants.

Being naturally smarter than all other information I read, I reasoned that places where it said four meant I could add a fifth right in the center.  Also that I could add more cucumber plants and peas than was recommended.

After about two weeks and little showing of anything coming up I faithfully planted my next set of Iceberg Head lettuce and continued to water.


We had some pretty good results, my wife had a lot of her plants come up well, our carrots were producing sky high green stems, and with the help of a little coaxing, our cucumbers and peas were growing up to around four feet in height. 

As it turns out iceberg is great to buy in the store, but didn't seem to do that well growing in our garden, we had much more success with leaf lettuce, especially after I informed my wife we should prune the leafs, not pick the whole plant.  Our carrots were a mix of nice fat lengthy ones and skinny white roots. Not sure what caused some to grow and others not so much.  I was a little disappointed in the ball carrots that really didn't seem to be worth it to grow.

What we learned

One of our biggest caveats was location, our garden happens to be in between our house on the west and the neighbors on the east.  My friend and I both had some banana pepper plants, and while his flourished and had more than he could eat, ours produced minimal results at best.

Another problem I saw was when we tried to use the garden hose for watering.  Despite its name it is not very suitable for this task.  Our soil is fairly loose and the pressure from the hose caused a lot of it to be pushed away and blown out of our square garden.  Later we switched to using a 5 gallon bucket and an old salsa tub to lightly dispense the water.  This gave us much greater control as to which plants got more water, plus it didn't disturb the seeds or push the soil out of the box.


Start early and you can enjoy your vegetables much longer.  I believe it was still worthwhile even as late in the season as we started.  I kept telling everyone that this year was just an experiment, I just wanted to see what would happen.  All in all it cost me about $100 and we got quite a bit of food out of it, although not quite a return on investment.  The great thing is this soil can still be used next year along with the box, netting and electrical conduit, greatly reducing our cost, and because we used the one hole one seed method we still have plenty of seed stored up for next year.  I fully expect to make a good return on investment next year, and may possibly think of expanding our plot to two plots after moving them to an area with more sun.

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