I have only been experimenting with square foot gardening since December 2008, but my efforts and investment have already paid off. We moved to a townhouse, which has a very small back yard. Prior to that we had a very large yard with many fruit trees and a large garden. Trying to economize was a bit humbling but has been very educational.
My husband put together a square foot garden frame, which was 4 x 4 feet with a wooden frame to divide the 16 evenly spaced squares in which to grow my produce. We originally invested in some perculite to mix with the soil.
Also we added some compost from a local farm, which contained scraps from vegetable peelings and such. I got the vegetable seeds from a local shop and made sure they were not expired.
I learned that I needed to read the instructions carefully to make sure they were evenly spaced and at the correct depth. Also some plants do better in direct sun and others do better in shade.
First I planted tomatoes, pak choy, lettuce, yellow peppers, long beans, peas, green onions, carrots, swish chard, corn and cabbage. I was so excited when the first small sprouts came up after about a week. I had to let them grow a bit to distinguish between the actual vegetables and the weeds. I had a watering can that I filled up each night so that it would be warm when I watered my baby plants.
Of all the vegetables I planted, the ones that amazed me most were the tomatoes, swish chard, pak choy and long beans. They seemed to do well without a lot of care other than watering and occasionally spraying for the insects.
Since I love making stir fried meat with vegetables, we had some very healthy meals from our garden.
I purchased some insecticide but found that mixing a little dish washing soap (1 oz.) with 6 oz. water and spraying the plants weekly, the pests stayed away as well being much more economical. I also didn’t have to worry about being poisoned by the insecticides.
I did plant some marigolds, which insects do not like, and they add a touch of color. I also splurged and bought a small seedling from a local shop of a tomato plant. It only cost about $2.50 and produced well over 10 times that worth of yummy tomatoes. The thing I learned from that is to only plant one large seedling in a box so it won’t be crowded as it grows. I also learned to only water the roots since watering the leaves too much promotes diseases and insects.
From this experience I learned that corn needs a much larger place to grow – it will take over and cast too much shade on the other vegetables. We did have a few very delicious sweet ears of corn, but lost some other vegetables like the cabbage because they were shaded too much. Another thing I realized is that I need not be scared to thin out the carrots and green onions otherwise they won’t grow too much.
I am really enjoying my square foot garden. I will be experimenting with flowers next and let you know how that goes.