|Nasturtium, parsley, and carrots in front right bed. Zuccini and cukes in left hand bed.|
I have four raised beds in my kitchen garden, each measuring 4 feet by 8 feet. I couldn't grow much in them using the traditional single-row method. There was a lot of wasted space, because each row was spaced as much as three feet apart. If the plant packet says thin to six inches apart, for example, you can plant four per square foot, according to Bartholomew. This means there are six inches all around each plant, with no need for the three-feet row space.
It is not square-foot gardening if you don't have a grid. The grids are easy to make yourself, according to the book, but H.H. and I decided to invest in ready-made ones, as we are not very 'handy' and had limited time -- they were a bit more expensive, but we can use them year-after-year. The grids made it easy for me to visualize the harvest.
Before laying down the grids, we prepared the soil. Bartholomew recommends building on top of the ground rather than digging, and this works for me because of the proximity of a walnut tree. The tree puts poison, juglone, into the soil killing tomatoes and other plants. (That is why we built raised beds in the first place.) Bartholomew's growing mix is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost. I decided I couldn't afford to buy vermiculite, so I used two types of compost instead: my home-made compost and mushroom compost that I purchase from the garden center.
|My Composter (I'd love one that you turn with a handle.)|
There is no need for fertilizer with this growing mix. As an organic gardener, this is important to me.
Planting the squares couldn't have been easier using the plant-spacing charts provided in Bartholomew's book. I had started some plants indoors from seed, and planted them after the first frost. With seeds -- I planted just a pinch right in the ground. I planted peppers, beets, carrots, zucchini, cucumber, snow peas, bush beans, parsley and annual flowers (zinnias, marigolds, and nasturtiums) in the squares. I grew tomatoes, onions, and herbs in grow boxes.
|Carrots, parsley, and nasturtium.|
|Peppers, marigolds, and beets.|
|Snow peas are planted vertically (in the bed behind the grow box). Bush beans in front.|
|Beebalm, strawberries, and blueberries in the raised bed along the fence.|
Growing more was the biggest success of my experiment, especially for my canning purposes. Look at the two pictures of beets below:
|Beets planted in traditional rows, though with less than 3 feet between.|
|Beets planted in squares.|
|2010's canned beets. I more than tripled the amount in 2011.|
Overall it was a good harvest. The carrots were a bit small, but that may have been because a pesky rabbit repeatedly munched on the tops. So what will I do next year? I will definitely try square-foot gardening again. I would like to add vermiculite to my growing mix if I can afford it. I will plant a bigger variety and try staggering the harvest. It's fun pouring over the seed catalogs and planning!!
How was your 2010 vegetable garden?
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