Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Square Foot Gardening

This spring, I did something I have been wanting to do for ten years.

I planted a vegetable garden in my own yard.

While we were renting, we were limited to growing tomatoes in pots on the deck. Two years ago, I added some peppers. It was more for fun than for food. Space was at a premium.

Last year, I was stuck in bed and didn't get to grow vegetables. (I grew two people, though, so we'll call it a net gain.)

This year, I am so excited to get to garden again...sort of for the first time.

Since we weren't sure of the soil quality, I decided to go with a raised bed. We built it 4 x 4 feet, a small size that I felt sure I could handle with everything else that is on my plate. I wanted to be sure this project would feel fun and manageable.

A friend of mine who has gardened a lot suggested looking online for "intensive gardening" tips. Since we are using such a small space, we will not be growing things in traditional rows. I learned that intensive gardening is popular in urban areas and is just starting to really catch on in the United States (though it has been used in France for hundreds of years). Some advantages of intensive gardening are that it saves water and cuts down on weed growth. You can grow a lot more vegetables in a lot less space. Although we have plenty of space in the yard, I'm excited about using this technique and hope it will keep the garden feeling like a fun project instead of like one more thing on my to do list!

A specific type of intensive gardening is called square foot gardening. The plot is divided into 1 foot by 1 foot squares that are planted with one, four, nine, or sixteen plants (depending on the type of plant). I found a wealth of information on this site, My Square Foot Garden. Emily has so much advice based on her own experience, complete with photos and videos. The Square Foot Gardening Foundation (founded by Mel Bartholomew, who literally wrote the book on square foot gardening) has a lot of helpful information, as well.

The Boy helped me lay out the twine to mark our squares and write labels on popsicle sticks to mark the plants. He kept asking about the chicken wire fence we were putting up..."why do rabbits eat veggies, mama? What if rabbits eat our squash? What else do rabbits eat?" He seemed concerned that if we denied the rabbits access to the plants, they might get hungry. I think he'll be a great garden helper as long as I can convince him that we need the plants more than the rabbits do!


We missed the cold weather crops for spring, but we will try some in the fall. For now, we have planted tomatoes (bush variety and cherry tomatoes), cucumbers, squash, zucchini, basil, pole beans, bush beans, and orange, green and yellow peppers. Most of these were plants already started and transplanted into the garden, but we put a few seeds straight in the ground to see what happens.

So far, the garden work feels refreshing and restorative...so I don't think this will add to the feeling that I'm doing too much. Besides, it will be so great for The Boy to be able to eat veggies that he helped to grow. Stay tuned for garden updates...