One of these years I’ll hopefully be able to have a vegetable garden where I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch. It seems every year I try something new, either by choice or necessity (like moving). This past year was using the Square Foot Gardening Method.
This year was no different. My parents came up to visit and my mom and I were able to put together some raised beds that we were convinced would revolutionize my gardening endeavors. Hmmm..
Mel’s Square Foot Gardening… was it worth it?
Anyone interested in square foot gardening should get this book available at Amazon either in paperback or Kindle: All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space. By the way, this makes a great Christmas gift as it gives the person a few months to read before the season hits.
Gosh, where to start? There are some pros and cons. The bottom line question is, “Would I recommend this technique to anyone else? The answer is “Yes, BUT…”. The book I referenced above was a huge help and taught me a lot. It really steps you through everything.
SFG (square foot gardening) takes a lot to set up. First, you need to build the boxes. Then you have to go get the right quantities of each ingredient (peat moss, vermiculite, compost (5 different sources) to make the right mixture. Peat moss was easy, vermiculite was expensive, but was found at Home Depot. The compost was difficult to find.
I didn’t source the compost from 5 places as recommended because I only wanted organic sources and that’s hard to find. Without an organic farm or nursery near by I had to rely on Home Depot which had far more organics than Lowes. I even found some at the local Meijer store.
So many bags of compost, and this was only for 4 boxes. And to top it off, my compost must not have been very potent because everything grew spindly and weak. Finally half way through the summer I started adding organic fertilizer to feed to my plants and that did help tremendously. However, since the Mel’s mix was so porous and we had soooo much rain this season I had to keep reapplying it almost every other week or so.
I recommend joining some gardening forums and reading as much as your brain can handle without getting overwhelmed. Here are two sources I used to post on to ask questions and got great advice from fellow gardeners.
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums: This website is actually through houzz.com which is a cool site.
http://www.gardening-forums.com/: Good useful information.
So the main con was that it was a huge learning curve through experimentation and that takes time, even years to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The other con was the whole mixing the mix together. The book makes it looks so easy but it isn’t. The mix was heavy! And to roll it back and forth and back and forth on a tarp as described took a lot of strength and at minimum two people. It was very awkward.
The pros were that once done it looked pretty. I agree with the premise that being able to use 4×4 boxes definitely made it easier to access all parts of the garden simply by reaching and I never had to step in the dirt, but could walk around the boxes instead.
The other pro was that I didn’t have to do any tilling with my yard like I thought. I had had a landscaper come out to give me a quote to do the work of digging up our clay yard so I could use it as a garden and it was reasonable in price, but I just hate to dish out money when I can do the job myself.
In the end, the garden fared well, not great and certainly nothing to brag about. We got our tomatoes and some lettuce and the eggplants only grew half their size. I kept my tomato seeds and will grow them from seed next February, and this means these will be second generation organic tomato seeds which is awesome. These are the most flavorful sweet tomatoes anyone has ever had.
Future plans – my future plans are to break down the boxes, and use rows and in the spring till the mix into our clay soil. I will only grow tomatoes, Italian zucchini, basil and lettuce and hopefully squash. If I can master those, I’ll be very happy. This weekend, assuming my sprained wrist is back to normal, will spread create the rows and plant organic annual rye grass in them for the winter which will then give the nitrogen back in the soil when it dies next spring and I till it in using my Earthwise TC70001 11-Inch 8-1/2 Amp Electric Tiller/Cultivator. I’ll be sure to write more about that as I can’t brag about it enough and I’ll shortly tell you why.