The premise behind square foot gardening (SFG) is that by eliminating rows, and the walking paths between them, you economize on space and soil. Apparently you can grow five times more food in an SFG than you can in the same-sized traditional garden.
This, by the way, was the first DIY carpentry project GC and I ever jointly undertook. Neither of us had much independent carpentry experience either. But we slapped that box together like old pros, and told each other carpentry jokes while we were at it. (“I see,” said the blind carpenter, as he picked up his hammer and saw.)
Next comes the soil. But you don’t use ordinary soil. No siree. You make your own soil, and it’s crazy rich stuff. It consists of equal parts compost, vermiculite and peat moss. However the compost has to consist of five different types of compost. We used sheep manure (of course), moo poo, shrimp compost, mushroom compost, and all-in-one. We mixed it on a big tarp just outside the community garden, and then trucked it in in a wheelbarrow.
Here it is in the box, which we then sectioned off into distinct square feet with a grid made of pink nylon cord. The book says to use lath, but Lloyd at Home Depot said nobody carries lath because it warps so easily. White cord would have been cheaper, but Lloyd said pink would be more visible and would also keep the birds away. So we splurged.
Next we had to figure out where we were going to plant everything. We had three heirloom tomato seedlings of various types (compliments of Robin’s lovely partner, Judy), a broccoli seedling, a green pepper seedling, and a fistful of seed packages.
We thought and sketched and planned and planted. But we made one fundamental mistake: We didn’t know that peas grow to be two meters high and need supports. If we’d known that, we would have planted them in the back row, where we’re going to build a climbing frame. Oh well. We’ll figure something out soon. So the back row has tomatoes in three spots and cucumbers in the other. The row in front of that has peas, beans, lettuce and broccoli. The second row from the front has nothing, carrots, something else and a geranium. The front row has swiss chard, onions, beets and mesculin mix.
There’s something indescribably thrilling about seeds sprouting and little plants growing. This little guy’s going to be a cucumber when he grows up. The beans are the craziest though – you can practically see them growing before your eyes. (I could have sworn I took pictures of them, but apparently not. However, you can clearly see them in that top picture, which was taken about a week ago.)
Here’s the half-size square foot garden we put together at GC’s house. We planted chives, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley and lettuce. All the herbs have been doing really well, except for the rosemary, which has had to compete with a chipmunk for real estate in the back square on the left. The chipmunk won, so the poor battle-scarred rosemary has been relocated to a square shared with the thyme.