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Any tips for "square foot gardening"?

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by Blackjack, Jul 20, 2008.

  1. Blackjack

    Blackjack Monkey+++

    My sister is planning to try square foot gardening next spring. Shes got a compost pile out back and is planning everything out and reading up on it.

    I figured some folks on here have probably tried it, and wondered if they/you might have some tips for the first timer.
  2. NVBeav

    NVBeav Monkey+++

    I have the book and read quite a bit of it. 3 or 4 years ago I planted a great garden using many of the suggested methods, and we had a great harvest that year.

    If you have good soil, you're going to have a lot of produce! We have about the worst soil I've ever seen; adding 1-yr-old compost helped a lot, and steer manuer seems to help quite a bit too. Next year I'm going to dig out 6 4x4 areas and add completely new soil (Lord willing).

    Anyway, even with our terrible soil we had a huge amount of certain veggies. Here in the high desert, just missing one day of watering can ruin a lot of your crop.

    The book seemed to be emphatic about just planting 2 or 4 4x4 squares for a small family. They're probably right, but it's nice to have extra to give away or can. Believe me, a lot of stuff grows in each 4x4 plot. When one item finishes growing (i.e. lettuce or radishes), you can plant another tiny crop in its place.

    Here are some of the things I liked about SFG:
    • It's easy to weed out the unwanted growth
    • You don't waste a bunch of seeds by "sowing to the wind"
    • It takes very little space
    • You can get as fancy as you have time (e.g. growing vines for cucumbers, squash, etc; special plants that complement each other)
    • If you have problems with bugs, you only need to contain them from that area (we still have a bug problem in only one area of our yard)
    • The amount of equipment and labor is small
    Even if you don't do everything the way to book say, you'll still get a big return -- of course, I trust the author's judgement about growing things better than my own.

    Hope this encourages your sister to go ahead with it -- She'll really like it because you see results...
  3. walden3

    walden3 Walden3

    Start as early in the season as you can - even use black plastic to warm the soil.

    Get your soil tested and add amendments as directed.

    Plant successive crops.

    Use mulch - holds in water and keeps down weeds.

    Weed regularly before they go to seed - they steal from the good guys.

    Grow vertical when you can - anything that wants to climb use a trellis.

    Rotate your plants from sowing to sowing.

    Pay attention. Inspect everyday to remove bugs or weeds.

    Get more compost piles going so you have a newbie to dump your scrapings and scrappings, one cooking and one ready to add to the garden.
  4. NVBeav

    NVBeav Monkey+++

    Hey Walden3 --
    Great tips! Thanks for contributing...

    Any suggestions for earwigs?

  5. Blackjack

    Blackjack Monkey+++

    Yes, thanks for all the tips...... Fresh veggies from the garden next year :)
  6. walden3

    walden3 Walden3

    Earwigs don't eat much do they? Actually, earwigs are good in your garden. They eat aphids and mites.

    My garden is kind of small, only a couple hundred square feet. The advantage is that I can really pedicure it. I've been doing it organically for 20 years. The whole thing with organic gardening is about growing the soil not the plants. I grow soil and the soil grows plants. Stay away from water soluble fertilizers and systemic pesticides. It's also about sharing. I just figure that I'm going to lose, errrr share, some stuff with bugs and critters. I'd rather share than spray everything I'm gonna eat with poison.

    My main methods of pest control are -
    Inspecting and picking. You gotta look at your garden everyday or at least every other day. Learn which bugs are good and which ones need to be killed on the spot.

    I also use dish washing soap mixed with water to spray on plants. The mixture tastes bad to bugs too. You have to reapply after rain and be careful not to apply in bright, hot conditions or the plants will be burned.

    I use diamaceous earth rarely to kill soft bodied creepies, but it kills the good guys (worms) as well as the bad.

    There's all kinds of tricks you will learn like putting little rings around the base of plants to prevent cutworms, using trays with beeer to catch sluggos or using human hair on the ground to scare off four leggeds.

    You should start looking at the garden as it's own little world. You need bugs in it. Don't aim to kill everything. Also, just accept having to share a bit with creatures.

    I had an aphid problem with my lettuce this spring. I was freaking out because I don't want to spray poison on lettuce I'm going to eat. Because I didn't go nuclear, within a day or two I had a bunch of lady bugs doing their helpful thing.

    Plant some flowers in your garden to attract bees. Do some research on companion planting. For instance, marigolds are great in the garden. They make some stuff that grubs don't like.

    If there's an organic farmers' association in your state join it. For me it's NOFA. It costs $30 a year and we get to join in the bulk order for amendments, seeds, sets and supplies. They also have a ton of classes on everything from making cheese and pickles to raising chickens and bees. It's a great source to learn from. If you really want to be successful I can't stress this one enough. Join, join, join. You will learn so much and get to know some great folks. You'll be plugged in to the farmer's markets too.

    Overtime you'll learn what likes to grow in your space and what doesn't. Don't force it. Try to grow everything, but you'll have different degrees of success so go with what works for you.

    Grow some herbs. Fresh herbs are great, but they can also be dried and saved and herbs are expensive.

    Remove dead stuff from the garden and compost it or burn it.

    Be mindful of growing stuff too close together too. Plants like a breeze also. It helps to dry them out.

    Don't water at night so that your plants are wet all night. They may catch the mould or fungus. Water the roots not the plant.

    Don't work your soil if it's wet. It will compact your soil and you want loose friable soil.

    Don't pull up your legumes (peas and beans) when they're done. They fix nitrogen in the soil so leave their roots in the soil. Another reason to rotate your crops.

    Don't work with beans and peas when they're wet because it can spread disease.

    If you smoke be careful to wash your hands before working with your plants, particularly tomatoes.

    I don't turn my soil every year. When you turn the soil it brings weed seeds up to the surface where they can sprout. Turning the soil overtime will also compact the lower layers.

    Gardening is kind of a state of mind. Don't move too fast or overdo it. Learn from your failures. What I like about it is that it's one of the few things in my life that forces me to have a multi-year view. Everything we do today is so fast and fleeting. A garden is never complete.

    Learn, learn, learn. I was pulling up two plants for years that I thought were weeds. This year I learned that they were purslane and lambs ears which are both great eatings and survival food so now I'm cultivating them. Remember, a weed is any plant growing where you don't want it.

    "But tho' an old man, I am but a young gardener"
    Thomas Jefferson
  7. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    Wow! Great advice, w3!

    I highly recommend SFG! You can get great results and a lot more food from a little space than you think. It's perfect for raised beds (IMO).
  8. zarraza

    zarraza Survivalist in training

    i had a coworker return from a trip to boston a while back and she mentioned that the pilgrims planted in a unique way - but i couldn't remember how, so i googled and found this.
    (she said everything was planted in mounds so each mound would grow out several different types of crop)


    some unimportant info was removed

    i also found info on hydroponic growing while searching for a growing plant GIF file! here
    skyking likes this.
  9. dragonfly

    dragonfly Monkey+++

    About that smoking in your garden....
    Let me tell you, it can be devastating!
    Do NOT step on cigarrette butts, then walk thru the garden!
    I wiped out 90% of my garden 1 year doing that one!
    The disease that killed most of my plants, was caused by the mold found in cigarrette tobacco..known to me now as: "Tobacco Mosiac"!
    I took the plant sample's to the county extension agent....He said: "you smoke don't you"? ( How'd he know?)
    I learned that it is easily transferred from your hands and any tobacco remnants in your shirt pockets as well!
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