Eco-Friendly Living, Gardening

Gardening: Square One

This is a garden.  A square-foot garden.  It just might be the easiest garden ever invented, and it’s the perfect non-invasive solution for renters!When my college roommate made a surprise visit, I rewarded her spontaneity by putting her to work helping me create my very first “square foot garden.”  I was following the method outlined in Mel Bartholomew’s book, All New Square Foot Gardening.  Here’s an overview of how we built it, but for all the nitty-gritty details on the method, I’d recommend buying his book.

After obtaining the supplies (wood, plants, dirt ingredients), the actual assembly of the garden took no more than 2 hours.  And I was glad it went quickly, as we were racing against an angry, overcast sky.

building a Square Foot Garden

The great thing about this garden system is that you don’t have to till a huge plot of ground – saving you time, money, and a heck of a lot of effort.  This garden method works on top of your yard, patio, driveway, or even roof.

We assembled a 4 foot x 4 foot box frame out of untreated 2×6 boards.  The garden only has to be 6″ deep, using a recipe for the perfect soil mix that will nurture and feed your garden in that shallow an area.  I then carried it over to a sad patch of dirt on the side of my house.  It gets great sunlight and could use some healthy, growing plants.

After we set the frame in just the right spot – a level spot with no soggy areas – we lined it with weed blocking fabric.  (I bought the most eco-friendly stuff I could find.)

Then it was time to mix the soil.  To ensure success with the square foot gardening method, it’s best to follow the recipe for “Mel’s Mix,” a particular blend that is 30% vermiculite, 30% peat moss, and 30% compost from several sources.   I did my best to adhere to the recipe . . . for maybe the first time in my life!  We mixed it, one small batch at a time, in a big Rubbermaid container.  In the future I’d mix it all at once on a huge tarp, as suggested by the book.

Yeah, it’s definitely harder to mix it in the little rubbermaid, like this:

Regardless, once we’d mixed enough batches to fill the 4×4 garden frame, it was time to lay out the grid.

Using some biodegradable twine (because I certainly don’t want to leech any chemicals into my garden), I created a grid of 1×1 squares.

Once the garden was divided into 1×1 squares, I consulted my book to see how many plants could be fit in each square.  For example, large plants such as tomatoes and broccoli are planted one per square, while swiss chard and Brussel sprouts are planted 4 per square.

. . . and as the rain, which had threatened us all day, began to fall, we wiggled the last few plants into the garden.  Perfect timing.

A weekend spent with visiting with good friends, wielding power tools, and playing in the dirt?  Now that’s what I call a great weekend.

I couldn’t believe how quickly and easily it all went together.  Have you tried this method?  If so, were you pleased with it?

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  • Reply Robin at 1:20 pm

    I love your garden!! What did you plant? Casey and I went to a free community gardening class that was all about the square foot gardening method. We’re sticking to container gardening for now until we have more outdoor space. I can’t wait to see how your garden grows!

  • Reply Jane at 2:12 pm

    Oh! I forgot to list my plants 🙂 Heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, brussel sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, beets, and swiss chard.

    The square foot gardening method works great for container gardening, btw. I’d recommend following his recommendations for soil mixture because then you could guarantee that your plants get all they need from the container. And you could do veggies in the containers!

  • Reply Emerald at 7:02 pm

    Gorgeous effort! I tried square foot gardening, but I chose the location poorly (way too much sun) and my plant-lets fried. After that is became a baby-tree nursery for the free baby trees I got after joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Yours looks awesome!

  • Reply Sunny's Life in Rehab at 5:39 pm

    Well done! I’ve been meaning to try this, and you sure make it look easy.

  • Reply Amalea at 8:36 pm

    You and Andrew must be planting soul (or soil?) mates. This is how we’re doing all of our expanded veggie gardening at the farm this year and we’re IN LOVE. Andrew bought the book right before we moved into the townhouse. We’ve got four so far. Plus we’ll be doing it in our own yard, just because it really is a great system and we think it will be relatively puppy repellent (although Maddock did try to eat the soil through the deer netting we put up yesterday at the farm). Enjoy your square foot garden!

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