Gardening . . . I think it is my favorite hobby. I wish summer could last forever!
This year is my third year of Square Foot Gardening. I just like it better and better! The key to a great Square Foot Garden is putting out the initial investment in the special soil required. You can’t just do it in your regular old garden dirt and get the fabulous results. You have to create a blend of vermiculite, peat moss and several types of compost (described in detail in the book, Square Foot Gardening) to get the nutrient-rich soil that produces high yields.
My favorite part of Square Foot Gardening is that I don’t need tools anymore: no shovel, pitchfork, or rake. No sore back. Carrots can be wiggled out of the ground easily with your finger. No, my favorite thing is that nothing “gets lost” anymore, it is so organized and compact. And even the tiny seeds germinate so I am growing all my own fresh herbs as a result. Or maybe my favorite part is that you never walk on—or water or amend—all that space between plants. Instead the good stuff and water goes in the boxes along with all the plants, and you walk on the walkways around the boxes, resulting in a huge reduction—or extinction—of weeds! Weeds don’t really stand a chance. There is simply no room for them!
This year, I planted half of my garden in Square Foot boxes, and I seriously ran out of vegetables and flowers to grow before I ran out of space. The author of Square Foot Gardening claims you grow twice the food in half the space, conserving water by 80%. I have been gardening for 40 years, but this is the most fun and success I’ve ever had gardening. No more rows!
The other half of my garden, I covered with black plastic in anticipation of all those big sprawling plants that take so much room. Last autumn, my husband loaded this area up with all the bags of fall leaves the neighbors were setting out for the garbage man, plus he cleaned out the chicken coop and dug it in. In about March, we spread a big sheet of cheap black plastic (3 mil) over the entire area, laying carpet strips down every 4 feet to serve as walkways. We did it early to heat up the ground quicker. Then we cut an “X” in the black plastic and insert the seedlings we had started earlier indoors.
In each 4 foot wide bed, we put posts in at each end and put up some flexible wire support or netting with big openings, so vines could grow up it. Normally the melons, cantaloupes, squash and other big sprawling plants overtake the beds they were planted in, and by mid-summer, I can’t locate a path to walk on anymore. So this year, I decided everything was going to have to grow UP! This takes a bit of training, directing the growing vines through the wire fencing. But it leaves the pathways open and makes it all so neat and compact! What surprised me, though, was to see huge Sugar Baby watermelons hanging along the fencing, 3 feet off the ground. I sort of hold my breath when I walk by them, hoping they won’t let go and splat to the ground!
Even yellow squash is growing up, up, up the fence, with a little prodding from me. It really saves so much space, and keeps the melons from getting soggy or bug-eaten on the bottom, too! My tomatoes are tucked in the fence on their row. Cucumbers grow straighter and are easier to find on a fence. So growing “up” has really worked well to keep the vine crops neater and more manageable. The black plastic heats the ground for earlier yields and weeds can’t grow in black plastic, yay!
This year I tried some new varieties for fun! I mixed a few “Carnival Morning Glory” seeds with my pole beans to show off their big striped blossoms. I also planted “Fairy Tale” eggplants—very unique and prolific!
I tried mixing flowers and veggies this year, and it really makes the garden so much more delightful! In one Square Foot bed (4 feet x 4 feet), you have 16 square foot planting areas. That’s a lot! 16 different crops can go in just one box! So, I planted two or three squares of flowers intermingled with my vegetable crops in each box. I put the trailing flowers on the outer edges of the box so they could drape over the edge. And I put the tall cosmos, zinnias or marigolds in the center squares so their height would not block access to the other crops. Having lots of flowers is wonderful! I keep them on my table and give them for gifts.
I love summer and I would be completely content to eat garden-fresh food all year round. While the growing season is here, enjoy the beauty, the taste, and the nutrition— to the fullest!
You might enjoy: