The first time I heard about square foot gardening I knew I had to give it a try! I found everything about it to be utterly appealing and completely fascinating. What could be better than growing more fruits and vegetables in less space with WAY less work than traditional gardening methods? I had to know more.
I immediately began scouring the Internet to learn all that I could about the SFG method. Soon I had my first raised bed in place. Because DH’s job requires him to travel each week, we purchased raised bed kits from the local box store vs. building them ourselves. It was just easier to pull them out of the box, snap them together and get gardening! My first raised bed was a double decker 4’x12′ that I filled with tomatoes.
The next year I expanded with two 4’x4′ beds and decided the double-decker bed was overkill. A second, identical bed would be much more useful. So I pulled it apart and made another 4’x12′ bed. Sadly, this is the only picture I could find of the second year configuration though, thankfully I’ve become much more dutiful about snapping photos as you will soon see. There’s a bit of lettuce growing in the square on the left and we’re just getting reading to fill the font bed when the photo was taken.
My research did me little good these first two years because I didn’t bother to follow Mel’s method, but rather mixed up my own soil using just dirt the first year and purchased compost, peat moss, and the earth from under the bed the second. At this point I hadn’t purchased Mel Bartholomew’s book and didn’t fully grasp the concept of the benefits of using Mel’s Mix. I found composted cow manure and peat moss at the local box store, no problem. But one look at the cost of vermiculite and bags of other composted material and I knew these were out of the question. After all, my previous gardening experience was to simply plunk the plant in the dirt, give it a drink every now and again and my plants grew just fine. I had to be miles ahead of the game with the composted cow manure and peat moss, right?
Not so. My plants did not thrive the way I thought they should, and in fact were very sad and scraggly looking. I don’t have any photos of the garden growing last year, perhaps partly due to the fact I didn’t want a record of how pitiful my “prized” garden looked. The tomatoes plants were downright ugly and the quality of the fruit was mediocre at best. Fortunately, I was rewarded with a fairly bountiful harvest. But it was certainly not the lush, beautiful garden I had expected. I have been told by other gardeners that last year was a terrible year for gardens in our area and not to base anything off of that experience.
Even though the experience was not all I hoped it would be, I absolutely fell in love with gardening and became even more determined to get it right. So, this year I actually purchased the book and I am attempting to implement more of Mel’s method into my garden. Thinking a large part of the problem with last year’s garden was skipping the addition of vermiculite, this year I was determined to try to find a cheaper source for the stuff. After letting my fingers do the walking and lots of Googling I finally found a garden center not too far away that carries 20 pound bags for $20! Perfect!
My plan for this year’s garden was to double the size by duplicating the configuration from last year. However, I immediately ran into a problem when the box store informed me they stopped carrying the raised beds I had previously purchased. Oh no! Not good! I really wanted the whole thing to be cohesive and using the same material was crucial to my design plan.
Now, lest I go down a rabbit trail and lose you completely, I will skip all the travel log about how I searched and searched until finally finding what I was looking for. So on to the punch line, so to speak. My box store customer service rep discovered that another store location happened to have twelve packages left in stock! This was more than the eight packages I was looking for, but when she informed me they were selling them for half off I decided to take them all! I was just plain giddy over my find.
So now, you’re just about caught up with my whole square foot gardening adventure to date. Let’s pick up with the garden as of this spring. With 12 new 4’x4′ box kits ready to be assembled and filled I redesigned my original garden plan and began filling the beds.
The first new addition was for our long awaited 4’x12′ strawberry patch! I added this bed and filled it with bare root strawberry plants on March 22.
Here’s the garden configuration as seen from the deck that same day. Pretty boring so far.
But on March 29th a little excitement came our way as we discovered this guy growing in one of the beds. It must have been a stray seed from last year. Very cool!
On April 3, I added another long bed and a small square.
Here’s a photo of the progress the strawberry plants are making as of the 3rd. I was so tickled that the bare root plants were growing so fast.
Some onion plants…
And some arugula transplants I started from seed indoors. (Weed wacker conked out so we had to wait for DH to come home to fix it.)
On April 13 I added another long bed and another square. Bit by bit I am getting my garden where I want it to be.
Here’s the shot from the deck.
I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of some shallots growing in the herb garden. They didn’t grow for me last year and I am so excited that I have lots of them growing this year. I adore shallots!
By May 11 I had all of the beds filled and lots of stuff already growing. I decided to start putting my transplants in the ground even though we aren’t officially past the last frost date. The 10 day weather forecast was looking good so I decided to take my chances.
Here’s what it looks like from the deck after everything went in the ground that day.
And this takes me to yesterday when my step-son built the trellises for our squash, watermelon, pumpkins, cukes and the like. It should be interesting to see how we fare with vertical growing this year. I’ve ordered the netting from Amazon and expect them to arrive today. DH added the tomato cages over the weekend.
My engineer husband will be so proud of his son. He actually used a level to get the trellises just right!
The highlight of the day was discovering this little gem, our first red strawberry, hiding in the strawberry patch. If the bunnies or birds haven’t snatched it away, I’ve promised it to my littlest one.
Time to wrap up this post and head out the the garden for more planting and another big adventure: composting! Yep, I finally broke down and bought a composter so we can make our own black gold! More about that coming soon…