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Square Foot Gardening for Hard Times and Survival

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posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:11 PM
We have a few gardening threads, but I'm going to focus on the square foot method of gardening geared towards small and urban gardeners..
Lessons Learned from a Backyard Gardener
Growing your own a small space?
Grow Your Own ... Self-Serve Produce Market

I've been container gardening for a while now and finally decided this year that I would start a raised bed garden. I did my research and found Mel Bartholemew and his Square Foot Gardening method. Being that I'm in an urban area and don't have any real yard space, this method seems to fit my needs the best. Now in the square foot gardening books, the author says you can use only 6 inches of dirt to produce crops, being that I'm looking for longer term and feel plants need more space for roots, I changed the plans and made my box 10 inches deep. The soil mix is made up of 3 parts, vermiculite, peat moss and compost and you need weed barrier fabric.

First the costs:
Roughly $25 including taxes for (2) untreated 10x2x12 foot planks were both at Lowes, they also cut them into size for me, I wanted a 3x6 box.
$16 got us a giant roll of weed barrier fabric, I have lots left over, but it will be used at my grandmother's garden.
$40 covered the cost of peat, vermiculite and compost. I bought the peat and vermiculite from Home Depot and bought compost from 3 different stores.
Seeds I picked up end of last year for 10 cents a packet at Walmart on clearance.

I followed the directions in the book and these were our steps and end results:

We laid the weed barrier fabric digging or grass removal.. recommended by the book.. works for us.

My husband built the box and we laid it on top of the weed barrier

We then started filling the box, layering and mixing as we went along

I used string to mark out my boxes within the box (cheap and free)

now it's all ready for planting, I planted spinach, lettuce, scallions and carrots that same day. In my next post I'll discuss what else I'm growing and post current pics.

[edit on 2-22-2009 by worldwatcher]

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:40 PM
I too utilize raised beds. I pick up scrap lumber from construction sites and the like to lower my costs however.

Great way to keep a garden, large or small while reducing overall work. Sure the setup is a little time consuming if you build alot of these things, but less weeding, better drainage, no tilling, etc... pay huge time dividends over the course of the growing season.

Must say I am very jealous of you having green grass and the ability to plant in January. My garden wouldnt do well at -40F.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:40 PM
The depth you chose will limit growth on tubers such as carrots and potatoes. With proper care and soil depth, your carrots can grow up to 14 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. If you plan on growing potatoes they will be much smaller in shallow soil as well. If you had a box about 12 to 14 inches deep you could also grow corn easily.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:41 PM
Now Square Foot Gardening is nothing new and a really just a variation of a french intensive gardening method, meaning you grow more in smaller spaces, while harvesting consistently and replanting as you harvest. Being that I'm in South Florida and have a longer gardening season, I hope to be able to produce something from my square foot garden every month.

Choosing plants or seeds.. carefully read the package and spacing requirements, things like melons and potatoes wouldn't do well confined to just one square foot and while I have a hard time believing tomatoes and zucchini will do well, it's recommended by Bartholemew and so I will try it.

Based on a grid pattern of 3 wide by 6 long, this is what I plan on growing.
rows 1-3 already planted
Row 1: Radish, Carrots, Scallions
Row 2: spinach,spinach, spinach, I will plant alternate spaces, weekly to keep a consistent crop
Row 3: Lettuce, bush beans, marigolds
To be planted by mid Feb to mid mar
Row 4: Jalapeno pepper, Marble pepper, bell pepper
Row 5: Basil, Lettuce, Cilantro
will be trellised
Row 6: cucumber, eggplant, tomato

I'll post pics tomorrow of current growth of the first 3 rows. Now the last three row, I'm doubtful, while the book says it can be done, I'm not sure if the spacing is enough. I was lucky enough to pick up all those seeds on clearance because I have varieties that say bush and space saving, so hopefully it will work.

I'd love to hear from anyone who is practicing or is currently planning to try the square foot garden method.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:49 PM
that's one of south Florida's perks, but don't worry I'll be envying you in August when my garden is cooked or being torn up by a hurricane and yours is flourishing. I'd love to hear about your experiences or see pics if you have any about your raised bed garden.

Annubis, is 10 inches depth enough for corn? I want to do another box and just plant corn and watermelon for the kids. I have a "potato bag" found in a garden catalog that I'm going to attempt to grow potatoes in this year too.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:52 PM
It looks beautiful so far.

I hope that you send pictures when things have come up.


posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 05:59 PM
reply to post by worldwatcher

It should be sufficient, but the roots like to spread out a lot. You have to make sure they have enough room or they will choke the roots of other plants. You need to also look at nutrient requirements for the various plants your going to raise. Certain things like potatoes require lots of potassium, but too much can kill or stunt the growth of other veggies.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 06:17 PM
Nice setup. I and many of my friends are small-time farmers as well as part-time hunters.
Nothing tastes better than veg that you grow yourself or game that you bring down yourself.

If you're up for more work, you can convert your whole backyard. Time consuming, but your yield will be reward in itself.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 06:35 PM
We're planting about 100 strawberry plants this weekend.

My garden is not nearly as pretty as yours.

I'll be ordering my tomato and corn seeds next week.

There's nothing better than fresh veggies.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 06:39 PM
I've tasted homegrown.. last summer I harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and a variety of herbs from my container garden. I also have key lime, mango, barbados cherry and other tropical fruits growing in containers. I also have a few medicinal plants in containers. I refuse to put anything into the ground here, not only because of the poor soil, but also in case of sitx situation, certain plants can be brought inside for temporary shelter.

btw,,this the website for the sq ft gardening method and the spacing recommended as you can see very tight quarters, much different from the row method I'm familiar with.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 06:43 PM

Originally posted by worldwatcher
that's one of south Florida's perks, but don't worry I'll be envying you in August when my garden is cooked or being torn up by a hurricane and yours is flourishing. I'd love to hear about your experiences or see pics if you have any about your raised bed garden.

Would love to post pics, but I didnt get my digital camera figured out until I harvested, I suppose I could take some now for you, but unmarked mounds of snow really dont convey much of a message.

August is my best month, not quite a full 24 hours of daylight, but 20 isnt bad, and just enough rain to keep me happy.

I will look around and see if I have any photos of how mine are built, if not, maybe this weekend Ill dig one out of the snow for you.

posted on Jan, 29 2009 @ 07:32 PM
I plan on doing this once spring comes. Thanks for the links they will be great help!

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 10:56 AM
this is great! I too, am planning to grow this season. I am going to build above ground. I will try and get some pics posted as soon as I get everything going- great thread. this will be my first time, so wish me luck!

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 11:04 AM
Excellent looking garden! What awonderful way to teach your kids the wonders of abundance. Gives me chills...

And it looks like you have much more room to place more boxes! The good thing is that they will be a one time purchase.

Do you have a compost bin yet? I love composting, and within no time youll ahve the richest more nutrient filled soil.

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 01:43 PM
reply to post by antar

Hi Antar, I was curious if you could tell me about composting... do you have to buy one of those expensive compost bins, or is it something I can easily, and fairly quickly, do in my back yard? I've read about it some, but not sure exactly how to start. thanks in advance.

oh and I cant wait until my son is old enough to help me in the garden, to teach him about all the stuff I am learning. I think that is the main reason I am doing it, so in the next 20 years, he will no how to be at least somewhat self sufficient.

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 02:21 PM
I'm waiting for my compost bin to be built by my husband. We're going to use chicken wire or some sort of fencing material(I think, he's supposed to be figuring that out) to make a box. I wanted a pretty looking one, but the ones I've seen in catalogs and online are a little too expensive for my budget.

as for the room, I don't have much space left, I'm right on a canal and the rest of the area is "community owned" not mines. I do plan to bring up the question of me replacing some lawn with plants in the common grounds at the next hoa meeting.

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 04:25 PM
I have a raised bed garden. I used wood from a tree that we cut down (free) and placed it in nice organic planter shapes. The good thing about using small logs is that you can build on it with more logs using compost and water for mortar.

Hack your yard.

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 04:45 PM
reply to post by worldwatcher

Have you ever considered hanging your tomato plants?You can invert them in pots and hang them in out of the way sunny places.
As far as compost,you can compost in the same type structure that you are planting in.You just have to turn it over every few days with a manure fork.I always add just a little lime and ammonia nitrate to my compost,it aids in the breakdown.
I have had some sucess planting corn in a block pattern.Spaceing the plantings eight inches apart.You have to keep them watered,as the roots will intertwine. Over 200 ears in a 6ft by 10ft rectangle.

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 10:29 PM
A little over two weeks since started, you can see that the radishes, carrots, spinach, lettuce and bush beans have all sprouted.

btw thanks for ideas.. as for growing tomatoes from those bags, I have no real place to hang them from. I've had success with them in containers but for this experiment I am going to plant and trellis them as the author suggest. I'm just waiting for this cold front to pass and then I'll put in a transplant.

[edit on 1-30-2009 by worldwatcher]

[edit on 2-22-2009 by worldwatcher]

posted on Jan, 30 2009 @ 10:58 PM
I heard straw bales work great too

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