Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Square Footin' it

It's September and most people are winding down their gardening year. Not so at the Harried Homemaker Acres. We're working our tails off getting our garden ready for next year.

First a little background. We have very unfortunate soil. Think about the most hard packed clay you can imagine - that's about what we have. We've lived here for three years and despite our efforts to improve the soil, we aren't making much progress.

Exhibit A:

That was our pitiful stand of corn in late June. It should have been taller, greener, and much more filled in by that point. All we seem to be able to grow is weeds!
We decided to experiment with a way to circumvent the soil and weed problem all together. We didn't abandon our traditional row garden completely this year but we decided to try out Square Foot Gardening.

First we made a 4' x 4' garden box.

It was constructed out of cedar 2x6s and wood lathe. The wood lathe grid is to divide the box into square feet. You can plant a certain number of plants per square foot, depending on the type of plant and its growing habit. Square Foot Gardening allows you to grow much more produce in a smaller area.

Then we had to mix the soil, which is a special preparation called "Mel's Mix", named after the originator of the Square Foot Gardening concept.

Mel's Mix consists of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. You'll notice that we have several types of compost materials. This is to insure that you have a wide variety of nutrients available to your plants. Ideally, you'd have 5 different types of compost if you aren't using your own. We could only find four types.

Then, you spread out some little weed cloth, put the box on top, and fill it with Mel's Mix. We decided to plant our Square Foot Garden with two varieties of green beans. We figured we would have to do better than the previous year. In 2009, we harvested exactly 3 green beans out of our two rows.

Yep, we did better this year.

Exhibit B:

This was taken at the same time as Exhibit A, several weeks before our bountiful green bean harvest. We actually had enough beans to eat fresh and can. And weeds? We pulled a total of 15 the entire season.

Right then and there we decided to completely redo our garden for next year. We spent Labor Day weekend creating this:

That is the equivalent of 19-4'x4' boxes. It takes up less than half the space of our previous garden and yet it should yield much more food. We need to make a ton of Mel's Mix to fill the boxes.  Unfortunately you can't buy it premixed in bulk around here like you can in Utah. Everything is better in Utah! We intend to cover the weed cloth on the pathways with mulch or gravel. As you can tell, Hubby Dear and I have a lot of hard, dirty work ahead of us.

Next year we plan on doubling the size of our garden yet again.

If you're interested in growing lots of vegetables with less effort in little space, check out Mel Bartholomew's book, All New Square Foot Gardening. Plan your garden and get to work now so that when springtime comes, you'll be ready to roll.

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