Saturday, February 23, 2013

How To Build a Square Foot Garden

Square Foot Gardening is the easiest, most rewarding, least weed invasive form of gardening I have ever tried!  It uses less space and less water, you don't need machinery - ie rototiller, it's easier to cover and protect your plants in case of cold weather than row crop gardening, it's easier to contain and protect from varmints, it yields more produce per square foot than a traditional row garden, and again, my favorite reason for square foot gardening -it requires almost NO WEEDING!

If this is something you'd like to try this year, but aren't sure how to begin, here's a step by step plan for building and planting a square foot garden:

Materials Suggested:
*Optimum: 4 Pressure treated 5/4 board decking.  Anything else for one season will do.  The width on decking is 5 1/4 inches. Since the boards will be turned on end to contain the soil, that will make your soil depth 5 inches. Except for root crops like carrots and  potatos, this is enough depth for growing all other annual plants. The boards should be 4 feet 1 1/2 inches in length. When you overlap one end of each board it will give the interior of your garden space a full 4 foot dimension.
* Landscape fabric. Because it is sold in 4 foot wide increments, you will need two pieces approximately 4 foot 10 inches long.
*  Fasteners to hold the corners together: A minimum of 16 galvanized drywall screws 1 1/2 inch long.
* Soil: 5 cubic feet of finished compost.  A good mix would be 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite.

Step 1:
Track the sun one day to find a spot that gets as much full sun all day as possible.  Remember in the summertime the sun will be higher as it tracks across the sky.  This will change the shadow area on your garden a small amount.

Step 2:
Pre drill two - three holes in one end of each board. This will prevent the boards from splitting when you put the screws in.  Attach the ends of the boards to form a 4 feet X 4 feet square.

Step 3:
Place your garden box in your chosen location on the ground.  Lay the landscape fabric so that it covers the bottom and sides of the box to contain the growth medium and overlaps in the center to prevent incursion of weeds.

Step 4:
Fill the box with your growth medium

Step 5:
Mark the division of the box in four foot squares. In the past we've used string, PVC pipe, weed wacker cord, baling twine and other cordage, but now we temporarily darw lines in the soil to mark our planting areas.

Step 6:
Pant your seeds/ transplants according to specific spacing needs

Here is how you should space your plants:

Beans, Bush - 9 per 1 foot box (3 rows of 3 )
Beans, Pole - 8
Beets - 16 per square foot box (4 rows of 4)
Broccoli - 1
Cabbage - 1
Carrot - 16
Cauliflower - 1
Corn - 4
Cucumber - 2
Eggplant - 1
Lettuce - 4
Okra - 1
Onion - 16
Sugar Snap - 8
Pepper - 1
Radish - 16
Spinach - 9
Summer Squash - 1 per 4 sq ft. (I plant 5 squash plants within an entire box)
Tomato - - 1 per 4 sq ft (I plant 5 tomato plants within a 4ft X 4ft box)

Vine or climbing plants can be trained to go vertical to produce more fruit without taking up your square foot growing space. To do this, position wire, screen, trellis or anything sturdy to give your plants stability.  We place a 4 foot length of field fence, held in place by two or three tee posts along the north side of the garden box so as not to shade out the other plants. This would be used for cucumbers, vining squash, tomatoes, pole beans etc.

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