Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Frequently Asked Square Foot Gardening Questions

If you have been following this blog you will know that I garden organically using a modified version square foot gardening method combined with companion planting and a bit of the Mittleider method tossed in. The square foot gardening method is a modified version of the French high intensity gardening method and popularized by Mel Bartholomew. Mel Bartholomew answers the most frequently asked questions about square foot gardening in this video clip with Patti Moreno the Garden Girl. Following the video is a brief summary of Mel's methods and how I have modified them to suit my needs.

Mel uses mainly wood to construct his raised beds that can be on the ground or raised to create sit down or stand-up beds. The wood can be anything preferably free as long as it isn't pressure treated wood. He recommends using 1" x 6" or 2" x 6" wood to construct the beds. The wood can be painted on all sided except the inside. He is rather specific that the beds should be 4' x 4'. On ground beds have the grass and weeds removed then the bottom is covered with gardening cloth. Each bed is separated by a 3' pathway. Off ground beds have a plywood bottom with drainage holes 1 per square and 1 in each corner. The beds should be placed where they will receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. The biggest thing Mel stresses is his growing mixture that consists of equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite and compost. When a square is replanted additional soil mixture is added so there is a constant turn-over of the soil.

I've been using a modified version of the square foot gardening method in raised on the ground beds for about 12 years now. I buy 2" x 8" or 2" x 10" spruce to construct my beds. My preferred size is 4' x 10' with 4' being the critical size to allow easy reaching from both sides of the bed. I also like to tuck square foot beds in smaller areas like the narrow space between a sidewalk and the house. I don't remove the grass from inside the bed before filling nor do I use gardening cloth. Here a square foot bed can be as narrow as a foot running the length of the house. My reasoning is my beds are deep enough to prevent any problems and the grass below will simply breakdown providing more nutrients to the beds. The second major area that I modified is the soil mixture. Vermiculite is expensive with a small 9L bag costing $7.99. Using enough vermiculite to fill each of my raised beds a third full of vermiculite would not be cost effective. When setting up new beds as I will be doing shortly I end up buying compost and peat moss then mixing both with sandy loam. This has worked quite well for me. Some vermiculite and pearlite end up in the beds via the potting soil in purchased plants. I also use vermiculite in my seed starting mixture. I use companion planting which is something Mel doesn't talk a lot about. I also use aspects from the Mittleider such as using organic fertilizer and epsom salts.

The important thing to remember with any gardening method is no one method works perfectly for everyone. Borrow from established methods those tips and ideas that you need to make your garden. Modify to suit your growing conditions, spacing and even the produce you want to grow. Remember to have fun and enjoy your gardening experience.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome


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