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I have been square foot gardening for years...well, at least that is what I thought I was doing. However, late this winter I attended a seminar on square foot gardening and realized some errors I had been making. This seminar renewed my enthusiasm for gardening and I was ready to start square foot gardening the right way. Here is what I learned (see below for more resources on square foot gardening):
1. If you plant your boxes in rows, it is not square foot gardening. I was not really taking advantage of the space I had available. So, this time around I went to Lowes and bought some vinyl weather stripping that I was able to easily cut into strips to make the 12' planting squares. (If you notice from the picture, my boxes ended up being a little short of 4x4 and so I only have 9 planting squares per box).
2. Use 4x4 cardboard sheets on the bottom of each box. I found these at Sam's Club. I put these in the bottom of each box before adding the soil. It is a great way to keep weeds from growing up through the bottom of your box. As my garden boxes are next to a weedy farm field, this seems like a great idea to me.
3. Soil is everything. I had made a huge mistake here. We just put in some topsoil mixed with mushroom soil. Sure, things grew okay in this soil but during the hot summer months this ground became rock solid, making weeding a dreaded chore. But at this seminar, we were recommended to use 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost to fill our boxes. This will keep the ground from hardening and can be used for many years. The only thing that should be added each year is some extra compost. More details about this breakdown of the soil are in the book.
4. Try something new. I have always been more interested in growing flowers, but was encouraged by the seminar teacher's success with vegetables. I decided it might be fun to grow some vegetables again. The only thing is, I was pretty much stuck in a mold when it came to vegetables - green beans, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes. This year I am going to try some new things. If my family (or at least me!) will eat it, it is worth a try. After all, what do I have to lose but a couple of dollars if it doesn't work?
I will try to give some updated pictures occasionally throughout the growing season. I would love to hear any suggestions or ideas you may have regarding square foot gardening. Have you had success with this method? Or are you still gardening the old-fashioned way? (which is a good method, too, by the way!)
Here is the link for the book:
Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
And here is the link for a few helpful websites: