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Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Square Foot Garden

I like to garden. Last year I had a really good crop of tomatoes, some pumpkins, spinach and carrots, but I felt I wanted to do more this year. With plans to build a second 16 ft by 4 foot bed on the opposite side of my yard, I began looking for a good gardening book.
I found Mel Bartholomew's book The All New Square Foot Gardening. I was intrigued with Mel's notion that you could grow more stuff in less space. I also didn't relish the idea of digging out a fairly large bed, amending the soil, and rearranging much of my backyard landscape.

The idea of square foot gardening (SFG) is that you build a box 4'x4', 2'x2', 2'x4' or other measurment divisible into even square feet. You then create grids using slats, wire or whatever else that works into 1'x1' squares:

Notice also that the plants, (green beans in the photo) are then planted in a grid as well. Based on the size of the plant you grow 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in any given square foot. It is a very organized approach to planting, and very easy to maintain. I also like the neat, orderly aesthetic of the SFG.

This is a considerably different approach than the rather chaotic results of my more traditional bed. I have planted my traditional bed as well to see which approach I prefer and the square foot method is winning out so far. Below is a side by side photo of one of my SFG beds. The left image was taken on May 25th and the one on the right was taken this morning, June 7th.

Progressing nicely if I do say so myself. . .

I decided to put in two 4'x4' beds using the SFG method. I thought it would be easy to fill them with crops and with 32 square feet to fill I was wrong. I still have a couple of empty squares that I may use for some later season crops(like fall spinach)
I have done three plantings of cabbage and two plantings of beets and radishes offset by 10-12 days so I will not have too much stuff ready to harvest all at once. I've also done two plantings of green beans with a third planned this week. Additionally there are 3 bell pepper plants, an Anaheim, two jalapeno plants, some icicle radishes, 3 tomato plants, and a third planting of spinach. The first two are in my traditional beds along with my carrots, pumpkins, and additional tomato plant and my sunflowers. I also started two watermelon plants indoors and transplanted them. One of them has died and I'm not too sure the second will survive either. We'll see.

I also planted strawberry seeds, both in my SFG beds (2 SF) and some indoors. I've only had 3 plants come up inside and none outside. I will probably be transplanting those soon.

I'm really liking the SFG method and I'm seriously contemplating turning all my traditional beds into perennial beds next year and building a couple more smaller, but deeper SFG boxes for carrots, beets and other root vegetables.

Here's one last photo of my other bed, the one with the tomatoes and peppers:

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