Square foot gardening is a handy, well-known method for figuring out how to cram in a bunch of edibles into a small space, and I admit it, I also like how visually tidy the results are. I really wanted to try it out with our raised veggie beds this year, once we rebuilt them from scratch.
If you’re not familiar with square foot gardens, they’re pretty simple: a raised bed, marked out in a grid with 1’x1’ blocks, with a certain number of plants per block depending on their size. For example, you could place 1 tomato plant in a block, or 4 lettuces, or 9 garlics. It’s a useful set of guidelines for growing the maximum amount of veggies in a small space.
The main sticking point is that it’s rather intensive, so you need to make sure the soil is well-watered and well-nourished. Compost, coir peat and mulch will help with both of those. When we built our raised beds, we used the existing soil from the previous beds, plus a thick layer of compost and sprinklings of blood-and-bone raked in.
(I did some reading on permaculture and sustainable gardening, as well as “official Square Foot Gardening” — blergh — and wow, that hole goes as deep as you want it to. I’m happy to pick and choose which bits I’ll keep in mind; while I’d like to, you know, successfully grow a few veggies, I’m not going to stress about having the highest-yield, most-biointensive garden ever.)
Feeling excited about the design of the thing, I drew up diagrams for our two 4’ x 8’ beds. Like I said, excited.
The shadier bed is home to greens, onions, and peas, while sun-loving plants like tomatoes, zucchini and strawberries will go in the other. Hash marks mean they need trellising or staking. Planning it out in advance allowed me to make adjustments based on factors like sun/shade requirements and plant heights.
I made a suuuuuper ramshackle trellis for the back of each bed, using steel fence posts and galvanised 6mm steel section cut to size with bolt cutters. It’s, well, a work in progress. I need another couple fence posts to go in between them both and additional steel section (making 8 rows rather than 4), but hey, I’m figuring it out as I go along.
One trellis is wrapped in twine to encourage pea plants, while the other trellis is going to be used for tying tomato stalks in place.
I stapled down some twine to mark out the 1’x1’ grid squares, as I wanted the whole thing to be easily removable when top-dressing with additional compost. One benefit is that it helps keep the sugarcane mulch in place. (Hey, spring winds, thanks for making sure I can’t have nice things.)
So yeah, Jamie and I have been adding plants here and there over the past few weeks. The bed with the garlic in it still needs a few plants, but the greens are settling in really well! Lettuce, kale and spinach all already have leaves ready for picking. Awesome.
Jamie clipped and stored all of last year’s strawberry runners in our little greenhouse over winter, which meant that we had a ton of strawberry plants right out of the gate. A friend of mine also gave us a couple of Ichigo strawberry runners to add to the collection. I’m eager to see how they go!
This adorable idiot thinks we planted a garden just for her. She doesn’t eat the plants or make a mess of things, but apparently sugarcane mulch is fantastic for curling up on and taking long naps.
I’m hopeful about getting a nice little harvest off our veggie beds this year. We’re putting in lots of work on it now, because in a couple weeks’ time we’re actually stepping away from the garden for six weeks in order to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family back in the US (eeeee!). We’ve got a buddy of ours to house-sit for us when we’re away. I feel confident that the house and garden will be in good hands, and we’ll have tomatoes and pepper plants and barbecues when we get back.
It’ll be nice.