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In the beginning

June 19, 2010

Square Foot Gardening?

Before I started this backyard boondoggle, I came across “Square Foot Gardening”, a method pioneered and promoted by Mel Bartholomew.   Mel believes that traditional row gardening is inefficient and labor intensive and that most gardeners can enjoy higher yields with less frustration using the SFG method.

The basics:

  1. Use a “perfect” soil free growing mix (“Mel’s mix” is 1/3 each peat moss, compost & vermiculite)
  2. Put the mix in raised beds so that it is never compacted and doesn’t need tilling
  3. Plant intensively (tight spacing) in individual square foot spaces lined off in a grid
  4. Inter-plant for reduction of disease and pest issues

Hop around his website some and buy his latest book if you are interested in more information. http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

A year ago I decided to take the plunge and I used Mel’s blueprint for 5 beds inside of a 20×20 spouse-approved space in the backyard.  I rented a sod cutter for an hour (followed by lifting and moving sod for about 5 hours) and the adventure began in earnest. I was getting a late start and knew it, but I have learned over time there is “no time like now” to begin.

I had collected a substantial amount of cardboard and used a couple layers of it as the initial light / growth barrier to keep the turf grass (and weeds). Why not weed block fabric? A) It costs $ and B) It doesn’t work. C) Cardboard becomes part of the soil when its job is done.

I didn’t 100% buy into this at the beginning and tried to use it around the edges as can be observed below. Trust me, cardboard or several layers of newspaper is the way to go.

A thick layer of shredded cypress mulch in the filler space and I was on my way, ready for mixing the “soil” and filling the beds:

A year later I see this picture and realize just how little sunlight I had to work with; the sides of the beds and larger square are oriented N/S E/W and conveniently shoehorned into the June midday sun. I didn’t stop to think that the summer solstice is a June event and that this sun foot print (sun-print?) would be as good as it would be all year.

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