Today, I want to share my garden with my friends! I don't know why but whenever I think of the garden the Creedence Song comes to mind (which has nothing to do with gardens)
Just got home from Illinois, lock the front door, oh boy
Got to sit down, take a rest on the porch Imagination sets in, pretty soon I'm singin' Doo, doo, doo, lookin' out my back door
For years, Annie and I tried growing a maintaining a garden. It was hit and miss. One year we'd have tomatoes and zucchini and the next year, nothing was shaking. What happened was the veggies grew but the deer munched on them while we were sleeping or the soil wasn't right. Sometimes we'd have enough tomatoes to feed the city of Shorewood and other times, if we had to depend on our garden, we'd be lined up at the food shelf.
Last year, while bicycling on Madeline Island, one of the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior, we stopped to admire a woman's garden. It was fertile and overflowing with a plethora of every kind of veggie you could imagine - green and yellow zucchini, beef stake and cherry tomatoes, onions, beets, cucumbers, green beans, dill, cilantro - I mean EVERYTHING! We asked her how she did it. She told us to get a book on square foot gardening.
So we did. We had someone build us some big planter boxes that are above the ground. We had a very tall fence built, to keep out the critters and followed the instructions on how to prepare the soil.
This year Voile! We have a neat garden with lots of veggies. Anyway, just something I wanted to share! Below is more info on SFG!
Square Foot Gardening is the practice of planning small but intensively planted gardens. The phrase "square foot gardening" was popularized by Mel Bartholomew in a 1981 Rodale Press book and subsequent PBS television series. The practice combines concepts from other organic gardening methods, including a strong focus on compost, closely planted raised beds and biointensive attention to a small, clearly defined area. Proponents claim that the method is particularly well-suited for areas with poor soil, beginning gardeners or as adaptive recreation for those with disabilities.
The original square-foot-gardening method used an open-bottomed box to contain a finite amount of soil, which was divided with a grid into sections. To encourage variety of different crops over time, each square would be planted with a different kind of plant, the number of plants per square depending on an individual plant's size. A single tomato plant might take a full square, as might herbs such as oregano, basil or mint, while moststrawberry plants could be planted four per square, with up to sixteen radishes per square. Tall or climbing plants such as maize or pole beans might be planted in a northern row (south in the southern hemisphere) so as not to shade other plants, and supported with lattice or netting.
The logic behind using smaller beds is that they are easily adapted, and the gardener can easily reach the entire area, without stepping on and compacting the soil. In the second edition, Bartholomew suggests using a "weed barrier" beneath the box, and filling it completely with "Mel's mix," a combination by volume of one third of decayed Sphagnum "peat moss", one-third expanded vermiculite and one-third blended compost. For accessibility, raised boxes may have bottoms to sit like tables at a convenient height, with approximately 6" (15cm) of manufactured soil per square foot.
In this method, the garden space is divided into beds that are easily accessed from every side. A 4' x 4', 16 sq ft or 120 cm x 120 cm, 1.4 m2 garden is recommended for the first garden, and a path wide enough to comfortably work from should be made on each side of the bed, if possible, or if the bed must be accessed by reaching across it, a narrower one should be used so that no discomfort results from tending the garden. Each of the beds is divided into approximately one square foot units and marked out with sticks, twine, or sturdy slats to ensure that the square foot units remain visible as the garden matures.
Different seeds are planted in each square, to ensure a rational amount of each type of crop is grown, and to conserve seeds instead of overplanting, crowding and thinning plants. Common spacing is one plant per square for larger plants (broccoli, basil, etc.), four plants per square for medium large plants like lettuce, nine plants per square for medium-small plants like spinach, and sixteen per square for small plants such as onions and carrots. Plants that normally take up yards of space as runners, such as squash or cucumbers, are grown vertically on sturdy frames that are hung with netting or string to support the developing crops. Ones that grow deep underground, such as potatoes or carrots, are grown in a square foot section that has foot tall sides and a planting surface above the ground, so that a foot or more of framed soil depth is provided above the garden surface rather than below it.
The beds are weeded and watered from the pathways, so the garden soil is never stepped on or compacted. Because a new soil mixture is used to create the garden, and a few handfuls of compost are added with each harvest to maintain soil fertility over time, the state of the site's underlying soil is irrelevant. This gardening method has been employed successfully in every region, including in deserts, on high arid mountain plateaus, in cramped urban locations, and in areas with polluted or high salinity soils. It is equally useful for growing flowers, vegetables, herbs and some fruits in containers, raised beds, on tabletops or at ground level, in only 4 to 6 inches (150 mm) of soil. A few seeds per square foot, the ability to make compost, to water by hand, and to set up the initial garden in a sunny position or where a container, table or platform garden may be moved on wheels to receive light is all that is needed to set up a square foot garden.
Benefits of Square Foot Gardening
- Much less work. Conventional gardening requires heavy tools to loosen the soil, whereas in this method, the soil is never compacted and it remains loose and loamy. Weeding takes only seconds to minutes, due to the light soil, raised beds, and easily accessed plants. Harvests per foot of garden are increased due to the rich soil mixture, well-spaced plants, and lack of weeds produced when following Mel Bartholomew's method.
- Water Savings. The soil mixture that is advised has water-holding capacities, so that the garden needs water less frequently, and in much smaller quantities than when using other gardening methods. Water is also spared by hand-watering directly at the plant roots, so that there is very little waste and tender young plants and seedlings are preserved.
- Very little weeding. One benefit of this close planting is that the vegetables form a living mulch, and shade out many weed seeds before they have a chance to germinate.
- Pesticide / Herbicide Free. Natural insect repellent methods like companion planting (i.e. planting marigolds or other naturally pest-repelling plants) become very efficient in a close space and thus, pesticides are not necessary. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily.
- Accessibility. A plywood bottom can be attached to the bottom of a box, which can then be placed on a tabletop or raised platform for those who wish to garden without bending or squatting, or to make gardening easy for wheelchair, cane or walker users.