Square Foot Gardening

It’s Hip (and Healthy) to be Square

This weekend Joy and I decided in an effort to be healthier to start our own garden. Joy’s sister Julie has had good success with what they call a planter or raised garden down in Texas so we thought we’d do a little research and try one ourselves. I had heard of this type of gardening before and it’s supposed to be much easier and more productive than regular row or large-scale gardening.

So last weekend, we bought a few books at the local B&N and have decided to try Square Foot Gardening. SFG was developed by Mel Bartholomew as a more efficient and easier way of gardening. Instead of tilling up 200 square feet of soil, planting long rows of one type of plant, and wasting 80% of  your garden space with empty space between the rows, Mel’s method advocates setting up smaller 4’x4′ boxes that are 8″ tall. Instead of tilling the soil to a depth of 6″ and testing the soil, adjusting the pH or adding more nutrients, you create a box on top of your existing soil and fill it to a depth of 6″ with a perfect mix of soil that’s ready to plant.

Since we were new to this and a few weeks past the planting season, we opted to build four 4×4 boxes for a total of 64 sq.ft. We spent most of our Memorial Day weekend buying supplies, building boxes, and laying out our garden. Our garden boxes are placed smack dab in the middle of our backyard. Aside from being too large and hard to work, Mel says most people put their gardens in the furthest corner of their yard, practically on their property line, which leads to neglect. Since we already have a smallish back yard, we decided to make our garden the focal point. We stained the boxes and added nice roomy walkways between and around and covered them with mulch.

Our herb planter

Once our garden boxes were filled with Mel’s mix (which is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite), we went to Lowe’s and Wal-Mart for seeds and potted plants. We opted for as many potted plants as we could since we’re new to this and a little late in the planting season. We’ve got 4 different kinds of tomatoes, some green, red, and yellow bell peppers, watermelon, cucumber, zucchini, squash, carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, and even a jalapeno plant! We also threw in some marigolds, two mosquito plants, lavender, and dusty miller for color and to attract good bugs and repel the bad ones.

Finished Square Foot Garden!

We probably could have skipped on the mulch walkways and edging and stuck with seeds instead of potted plants to keep the cost down, but we knew if this was going to work, our garden had to be something we wanted to spend time in and care for. Even though my 3-day weekend was mostly consumed by starting our garden, I didn’t seem to mind. The weather was great, we got some fresh air and sun, it was nice being outside with my wife and dogs playing in the dirt. Hopefully I’ll still feel that way when it’s 95° in August and it’s time to “harvest our crops.” Actually, if we get to harvest anything to eat that isn’t fried or covered in sugar, I’ll consider this whole endeavor a success.

Here’s some photos from our weekend setting up our square foot garden.

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