Friday, May 23, 2008

Square Foot Gardens

SlavicMermaid ( aka Polish Pixie )
Date: May 23, 2008 4:00 PM

thank you: ~*SUSAN*~
Thanks to:

Good Cat Good People
The Jaded Bastet
Citizen Quasar
Mudd (R-Pa.)
Eddie NWO Censored

Mel Bartholomew, Originator and Author of Square Foot Garden

Square Foot Gardening - Mel Bartholomew's Official Site

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Square foot gardening Intro

Square foot gardening - picking plants

Square foot gardening - Less weeding

Square foot gardening - what materials are needed

Square foot gardening - How to assemble pt 1

Square foot gardening - How to assemble pt 2

Square foot gardening - Layout Tips

Square foot gardening - How to Make Grids for Square Foot Gardens

Square foot gardening - What soil to use

Square foot gardening - How to layer soil

Square foot gardening - How to Add Compost to Square Foot Gardens

Build a Square Foot Garden


http://howto. wired. com/wiki/Build_a_Square_Foot_Garden

When you think of growing your own food, you probably think of endless rows of corn, the middle of nowhere, people in overalls and dial-up internet..

You're also probably thinking about hours spent planting seeds, mulching leaves and plowing soil

But there's a better way to harvest your own crops that works especially well for those of use living in urban areas (with high-speed internet and no room to drive a tractor)..

It's known as square foot gardening

Square foot gardening is a variation on what's known as the French Intensive or Biointensive method of farming..

Mel Bartholomew helped popularize the "square foot" name and even has a book on the subject

The concept is pretty simple, and you don't need a book or a change of national status to get a highly productive garden going..

We'll walk you through the basic steps to getting started on your own tiny plot of land

1 - Square Foot Gardening in a Nutshell

The square foot concept is simple. First we'll build a raised bed. That way there's no need to worry about poor soil (or total lack of soil -- you can even build a raised bed atop a concrete patio)..

We'll use our own soil mixture

Next, you divide your bed into sections of one square foot each -- hence the name -- and then plant vegetables in just the amount of space they need..

For instance, while you might only be able to fit one tomato plant in a square, it isn't hard to stuff in a whole bunch of carrots, onions or other smaller vegetables

The main advantages of the square foot system are less watering (great for drought areas), easier weeding (no long rows to wander down), and a greatly reduced workload

On the downside, you won't be able to create a corn maze come October
But with a little work, you should have fresh veggies on the table well through the end of summer

2 - How to Proceed

The first step is to pick a decent section of your yard for gardening..

Look for an area that gets enough sunlight for all the plants you'd like to grow

Once you've selected an area you can dig down for an added bit of depth if you like (you can even double dig the soil if you're looking for a workout)
You can achieve a perfectly healthy garden without digging

3 - Get Your Wood

The next thing to do is construct your beds. You can make the beds whatever size you'd like, but for beginner we recommend a 4' x 4' plot. It's small enough that you won't feel overwhelmed and big enough to yield a decent crop..

It also just so happens that most lumber comes in 8' lengths, so you only need to buy two boards and have your local hardware shop saw them in half for you

Tip: Since your garden will be out in the elements all summer, you might think about getting pressure treated wood which is better at repelling water -- You may want reconsider. Not only is pressure treated wood much more expensive, it has a number of chemicals in it that can leech into your soil..

It is possible that a small quantity can leach into your vegetables (see this study for more information)

Make sure you get something thick enough..

A couple of 10 x 2 x 8' boards should do the trick

TIP You can buy a small roll of strap metal that is about 1/2" wide with holes in it (to nail through). Nail about a 1' section around each corner of your box..

This is what holds my garden box together after several years' of heavy use

4 - Put It Together

Screw your boards together and build the box. You'll just need a drill and some good size screws. Sink at least three screws at each end..

When soil gets wet, it's quite heavy and you don't want your garden to burst at the seams

Next, fill your new box with soil. Mel Bartholomew sells a special mix of soil tailored to square foot gardening. His mixture is 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. With the exception of vermiculite, it's pretty easy get the other ingredients on your own..

In fact, even regular old potting soil will work though you may need to fertilize a bit more

Tip: Many organic markets like Earth Fare compost their leftover and unsold vegetables. Try asking your local market if they have some compost you could buy on the cheap..

Or start your own compost

The next step is to mark off your grid. You might be able to find a wooden grid at the lumbar yard, or you can make your own. If you're lazy, you can use string, which works just as well..

Just make some marks at one-foot intervals along each side of the garden
Then use either some small screws or nails to hold your string in place and stretch them across your garden, creating one foot squares

5 - Planting

Now the fun part. If you're starting from seed, make sure you start early enough -- just after the last frost..

Check with your local nursery if you're unsure when to plant in your area

Planting a square foot garden properly depends on what you're planting. Consult the directions on your seed packets to see how far apart the plants need to be in order to thrive. Generally you should plant in a grid of either 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square foot..

If you feel like you've packed the plants too close, you can always thin them as they grow

As for what you should grow, that's up to you..

Plant things you like and don't limit yourself just the vegetables -- herbs and flowers will work as well

Then just sit back and wait for nature to take it's course. Water your garden by hand with a watering can..

You probably won't need to fertilize since we used such rich soil to begin with

When you harvest a particular crop, go ahead and dig out that square foot and replenish the soil

Plant again if there's still time left in your growing season

5 - Tips and Tricks

Stuck in an upstairs apartment which no space at all? All is not lost. It won't offer as much space, but you can check out container options, which work something like a square foot garden. You can get good results from plants grown in large self-watering pots on a patio or balcony..

Check out this Guide to Container Gardening for more info

If you want to get really fancy with your garden (or if you happen to travel a lot) you can hook up an automated drip watering system. It isn't too hard to do, and some hardware stores even sell complete kits that contain everything you need..

Check out this photo series on Flickr, which covers the essentials to setting up a small drip irrigation system

And there you have it. Sit back and enjoy a summer full of fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers without the back-breaking work. Once you've done it for a while, you may want to expand your garden. Perhaps next year do two plots or even three..

Just remember to leave some room between them so you can get to your plants easily for watering and harvesting..

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