Watch my life unravel...



Top Canadian Blogs - Top Blogs

Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


Look what we made!

garden11This is our Square Foot Garden. We built it ourselves. It lives in our community garden plot. We also built a half-size one that lives at GC’s place and is growing herbs and lettuce.

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.

garden101First you build the box. It’s four feet by four feet, and six inches deep. It doesn’t have a bottom. You place it in your garden on top of some landscape fabric.

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.)

garden103Next 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.

garden106 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.

garden108 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.

garden12There’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.)

herb gardenHere’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.

7 comments to Look what we made!

  • SWEET!!! We’re doing one too – We’re just about ready to plant. I’ve spent a little too much time drawing on graph paper for our various squares of garden-y delights :)

    Question for you – how did you attach your cord? I can’t quite tell from the pictures. I was thinking of using little eye screws.

    Thanks! Kate

  • This would be my absolute dream. I have a certificate in horticulture that I got over ten years ago that I haven’t been able to use, and I’m here to tell you that if I had the room, I would have a million of those. My dream job would be working in a green house. That’s how much in love with growing things I am. So thank you for posting about this. I hadn’t thought of that and it’s a real neat idea. Good luck with your new gardens.

  • Your peas will be fine. Two meters seems optimistic – but maybe that’s because mine never get supported in any way.

  • Greencolander

    You have a chipmunk in your garden?! I am so jealous.

  • Kate, yours are gorgeous, and I love the backdrop too. We attached the cord to nails. We just hammered in flat-head nails (I think they’re called that) every twelve inches on all four sides, almost all the way in. We just left enough space to wind the cord around under the nail head. Eye screws would work too – we might have done that if we’d thought of it.

    Jessica, we don’t have the space – that’s why we’ve hooked up with the community garden. Have you considered that option? We get a little plot of land (10×12 I think) and the use of communal tools and water and hoses, all for free. We just have to donate 10 hours of volunteer labour to the project each year.

    Colette – you don’t support them at all? Don’t they crawl all over the ground?

    Greencolander, what can I say, I live a charmed life. :)

  • Anne Onimos

    Ten minutes ago, I had never heard the term “square-foot gardening”. Since then, I’ve bumped into two blogs items concerning it: this one and How a “mad viking” saved a crime-ridden park in San Francisco, on Boing Boing.

    Most interesting!

  • I’m not sure if we have a comunity garden where I live. I’ll have to look into it. I guess my only concern with that would be who else would have access to the things I’m growing, if it’s comunity. It’s a great idea other than that though.