Saturday, January 28, 2012

Garden Plan

The Layout
I thought that today I would discuss the plans we have for our garden, this year. Our square-foot garden plan calls for each of our six family members to have their own 4’ x 4’ garden plot. The layout will be as follows:

Each box will be approximately twelve feet in length, separated into three approximately-four-foot sections. The beauty of working with plants is that we aren’t all that concerned with precision. We will put a parent in each middle section, with a child on either side. That way, if someone needs help, we’re right there. Also, it will help to prevent quarrelling. Of course, you can never completely prevent it, but we do what we can to maintain harmony in the home. By making each section four feet square, you never have to reach farther than two feet to get to any part of your garden. Thus, you avoid compacting and disturbing the soil unnecessarily, thus helping it to remain aerated and healthy. I found a great resource for anyone looking to start a garden of your own, even a small one. The website is Garden Girl, by Patti Moreno. In particular she has a video explaining how to build a raised-bed garden. I also like the fact that she also raises small livestock and rotates the raised beds between using them for vegetables and using them for animals. This allows the soil to be continually fertilized (she still composts, though) and tilled. Talk about using nature to fullest! She has many other great tips on gardening and related topics. I highly recommend you check out her website!

The Soil

I’ve been refreshing myself on Mel Bartholomew’s techniques for Square Foot Gardening. Previously, here’s what my mind understood: You mix equal parts of Compost, Peat Moss, and Vermiculite to make the soil. I didn’t even know what the peat moss and vermiculite were for, but I was trying to follow instructions. Unfortunately, my efforts were a dismal failure, because I FAILED TO READ FULLY! There are quite a few details that I just plain missed. For example, it wasn’t until years later that I learned the peat moss and vermiculite are not for nutrition or fertilization, but for water retention. Also, I when I mixed my soil, I just did my best to mix it all up and then dump it evenly in my frame. I had read that with SFG, you don’t have to water as much. What I failed to read was that you DO have to water a lot at the very first, in order to saturate the vermiculite and peat moss!
Another important detail I missed was about the compost. When I read “equal parts” of the three ingredients, I went down to the store, and bought some of each and mixed them up, in roughly equal amounts. What I failed to pay attention to was the fact that one single type of compost is not sufficient. Mel advocates mixing compost from at least five different sources, including mushrooms, animal manures (from animals that do not have meat diets), and other sources. So, needless to say, this year will be a bit different.

The Seeds

We sat down as a family a few weeks ago to decide what we wanted to plant this year. Each of us picked at least one thing in particular to grow in our own section. My second daughter, Faith, decided she wants to grow pumpkins. Why? She’ll only have one plant to take care of. Yeah, we’ll just have to see about that. I mean she’s going to have sixteen square feet to work with. Pumpkins are typically thought of as sprawling plants, but they can actually be grown as a climbing plant, just like any other vine. You just need a frame that is strong enough to handle the heavy fruit. Here is a great video I found that discusses this, as well as some other great ideas. The best part (in my opinion) of the two videos that I have linked in this post is that they both show people growing very successful gardens in urban areas, with small amounts of space to work with. Also, while they use brand new materials that they have purchased at their local hardware store, you do not have to buy everything new. Many things you see can be made with substitute, scrap materials that you find. Use your imagination, but remember to match what you’re building to the size of the plant you will be growing on it. Also, if you use wood, be absolutely sure that you follow their counsel NOT to use treated wood. Treated wood will leach chemicals into your soil and by extension your vegetables. Untreated wood does not have this problem.
Ok, I kind of got away from seeds, there. Sorry about the digression, but I think it’s okay. Another aspect of gardening that I want to work with is companion planting. This is an aspect I have read and heard a lot about, and I have talked with people who have used it. I don’t know enough about it to comment at this time, but I will be spending some time educating myself. The one thing I do know is that my carrots and radishes will be planted together, mostly because my wife says so, LOL. So the plants we have decided on are:
·         Tomatoes (just can’t have a garden without these babies! Sam will be growing these)
·         Pumpkins (mostly for Faith)
·         Watermelons (Alexandria)
·         Carrots (Me)
·         Radishes (Also me, although Heather is the one who insists on them)
·         Eggplants (Billy, although we may decide not to do these)
·         Corn
·         Green Beans
·         Peas
·         Spinach
·         Cucumbers
·         Onions
We may choose some others, but that’s the list we have so far.

One Final Note

Well, that about wraps it up for this post. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them. I may not be a complete newbie at gardening, but I still have a lot to learn. Any help, advice, personal stories, etc. are most welcome. Thanks for reading!


  1. The reason for the carrots and radishes to be put together is simple. Carrots take a long time to grow and radishes do not. The radishes will mark your rows and will finish growing about the time you can find the carrot tops. So two crops in the same spot and easier to find your rows. Heather

  2. Ok, so maybe I won't be growing radishes with my carrots, then. With SFG, "row marking" is not necessary. Also, I plan to use gardening label sticks as markers. I'm not a huge fan of radishes. They are fine once in a while, but not often. You're welcome to grow them in your area, Honey!

  3. plant spuds next to onions that way when the potatoes eyes cry they will water the onions. ;)