Square Foot Planting of a Vegetable Garden

Quilting designs can extend to a vegetable garden. By using a square foot garden to create a vegetable garden in essence I am creating another landscape quilt in my yard. And why not. The principle reason to do an intensively planted square foot vegetable garden is to create dense block of colour and height. Looking down from a two story window in late August reveals a splendid eatable quilt.

Exactly what is square foot planting? Well, to answer the question let me refer to Wikipedia. The information is so well done it is worth a copy/paste effort on my part.

See: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_foot_gardening)

Square foot gardening is the practice of planning and creating small but intensively planted gardens. The practice combines concepts from other organic gardening methods, including a strong focus on compost, densely planted raised beds and biointensive attention to a small, clearly defined area. This method is particularly well-suited for areas with poor soil, beginner gardeners or as adaptive recreation for those with disabilities (Bartholomew, 2005). The phrase “square foot gardening” was popularized by Mel Bartholomew in a 1981 Rodale Press book and subsequent PBS television series.

Mel Bartholomew

After retiring and moving to Long Island Mel Bartholomew was eager to start investing time on his new hobby, gardening. He led a community garden project following the typical gardening style by planting in rows. However, as the growing season progressed, Bartholomew was not entirely pleased by the results. He then began to question the way in which gardens are designed because for him, this typical row gardening only seemed to invite weeds, waste space, and cause a lot of frustration.[1] Through many travels Bartholomew concluded that gardening by rows was inspired by our farming system in which room is needed between the rows for machinery. But this wasted space does little in a garden. Through a little bit of garden experimentation Bartholomew discovered that an efficient garden would be one that was easily accessible and used space resourcefully. He wrote of the evolution of his thought process in his book All New Square Foot Gardening.[2]

Mel used a 12’ by 12’ square and used a grid that divided it into 9 squares with equal lengths of 4 feet on each side. Each of these 4’ by 4’ squares were invisibly divided into sixteen one foot squares that were each planted with a different species. However, the size you use in your garden depends on the space that is available and how much you want to grow. From Bartholomew’s experience, it’s shown that the same number of crops can be grown using square foot gardening method as in the conventional rows method but in 20% of the space. He suggests carefully spacing seeds rather than planting the entire seed packet. In this way fewer but stronger plants will grow. In smaller square gardens the grids may simply serve as a way to divide the garden but in larger gardens the grids could be made wide enough to be used as narrow walkways. This would prevent you from having to walk on the soil to reach the plants and compacting the earth.[3]

Lawn to Garden Why not convert your unused lawn into a beautiful and productive garden. Decide how big you want your garden to be and mark out an area. An ideal spot would be one that receives sufficient sunlight and is relatively flat. One way to begin your garden is to smother the existing grass that is already there. This can be done by laying out newspapers or cardboard onto the ground to block out the sunlight. By placing layers of organic material on to of this the moisture of the ground will be locked in and this will quicken the process.[4]

Conventional gardening can require heavy tools to loosen the soil, whereas in square foot gardening methods the soil is typically not walked on and thus not compacted, and it remains loose and more easily workable due to the composition of the recommended soil mixture. Weeds may be easier to remove due to the light soil, and accessing them can be easier as raised beds bring the soil level closer to the gardener.

Using specific soil mixtures within the beds can help to increase water-holding capacities, so that the garden needs less additional water than in systems reliant on the native soil. In the “All New Square Foot Gardening” book, Mel Bartholomew recommends the following soil mixture: one-third compost, one-third peat moss, and one-third vermiculite. Water is also spared by hand-watering directly at the plant roots, so that there is very little waste[5] and tender young plants and seedlings are preserved.

Densely planted crops can form a living mulch, and also prevent weeds from establishing or even germinating.

Natural insect repellent methods such as companion planting (i.e. planting marigolds or other naturally pest-repelling plants) become more efficient in a close space, which may reduce the need to use pesticides. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily[6]

A plywood bottom can be attached to the bottom of a box, which can then be placed on a tabletop or raised platform for those who wish to garden without bending or squatting, or to make gardening easily accessible for wheelchair, cane or walker users. According to Bartholomew, gardeners wishing to utilize this “raised” method of gardening should install the SFG on a very stable surface, preferably with four legs and not just a center support as tipping can occur. Sawhorses may also be used to raise the SFG.

Since the beds are typically small, making covers or cages to protect plants from pests, cold, or sun is more practical than with larger gardens. To extend the growing season of a square foot garden, a cold/hot frame may be built around the SFG, and by facing the cold/hot frame south, the SFG captures more light and heat during the colder months of spring and winter. Black&Decker’s, “The Complete Guide to Greenhouses & Garden Projects,” offers a fairly easy to make cold frame pattern with instructions and materials needed.

Mel Bartholomew’s synopsis

The phrase “square foot gardening” was popularized by Mel Bartholomew in a 1981 Rodale Press book and subsequent PBS television series.[citation needed] A full-length companion DVD, “Square Foot Gardening” (2010), was released in collaboration with Patti Moreno, the “garden girl”.

The original square-foot-gardening method (per Bartholomew) uses a four-sided box with no top or bottom to contain a finite amount of soil, which was divided with a grid into sections. To encourage variety of different crops over time, each square would be planted with a different kind of plant, the number of plants per square depending on an individual plant’s size. A single tomato plant might take a full square, as might herbs such as oregano, basil or mint, while most strawberry plants could be planted four per square, with up to sixteen radishes per square. Tall or climbing plants such as maize or pole beans might be planted in a northern row (south in the southern hemisphere) so as not to shade other plants, and supported with lattice or netting.

The logic behind using smaller beds is that they are easily adapted, and the gardener can easily reach the entire area, without stepping on and compacting the soil. In the second edition, Bartholomew suggests using a “weed barrier” beneath the box, and filling it completely with “Mel’s mix,” a combination by volume of one third of decayed sphagnum peat moss, one-third expanded vermiculite and one-third blended compost. Bartholomew also recommends buying at least five varieties of compost as this will give the soil mix more nutrients as one variety of compost may only be made with one type of material such as sawdust. New compost should be added and mixed in each year. To save money on compost and to recycle, gardeners can make their own compost using vegetable scraps, eggs shells, coffee and tea bags, leaves and grass clippings. Beginning on page 92 of the “All New Square Foot Gardening” book, Bartholomew gives instructions for compost making. For accessibility, raised boxes may have bottoms to sit like tables at a convenient height, with approximately 6″ (15 cm) of manufactured soil per square foot. For some plants, such as carrots or asparagus, it is recommended to build areas deeper than 6″ in order to facilitate a deeper root requirement.

In Bartholomew’s method, the garden space is divided into beds that are easily accessed from every side. A 4 ft × 4 ft (1.2 m × 1.2 m) garden is recommended for the first garden, and a path wide enough to comfortably work from should be made on each side of the bed, if possible, or if the bed must be accessed by reaching across it, a more narrow one should be used so that no discomfort results from tending the garden. Each of the beds is divided into approximately one foot square units and marked out with sticks, twine, or sturdy slats to ensure that the square foot units remain visible as the garden matures. Bartholomew suggests putting the SFG closer to the house as this will be more convenient for the gardener to attend the SFG during the growing season.

Different seeds are planted in each square, to ensure a rational amount of each type of crop is grown, and to conserve seeds instead of overplanting, crowding and thinning plants. Common spacing is one plant per square for larger plants (broccoli, basil, tomato, etc.), four plants per square for medium large plants like lettuce, nine plants per square for medium-small plants like spinach, and sixteen per square for small plants such as onions and carrots. Plants that normally take up yards of space as runners, such as squash or cucumbers, are grown vertically on sturdy frames that are hung with netting or string to support the developing crops. Ones that grow deep underground, such as potatoes or carrots, are grown in a square foot section that has foot tall sides and a planting surface above the ground, so that a foot or more of framed soil depth is provided above the garden surface rather than below it.

The beds are weeded and watered from the pathways, so the garden soil is never stepped on or compacted. Because a new soil mixture is used to create the garden, and a few handfuls of compost are added with each harvest to maintain soil fertility over time, the state of the site’s underlying soil is irrelevant. This gardening method has been employed successfully in every region, including in deserts, on high arid mountain plateaus, in cramped urban locations, and in areas with polluted or high salinity soils. It is equally useful for growing flowers, vegetables, herbs and some fruits in containers, raised beds, on tabletops or at ground level, in only 4 to 6 inches (15 cm) of soil. A few seeds per square foot, the ability to make compost, to water by hand, and to set up the initial garden in a sunny position or where a container, table or platform garden may be moved on wheels to receive light is all that is needed to set up a square foot garden.[citation needed]

Square Foot and Raised Bed Gardening

Square foot gardening is similar to gardening with raised beds. Both methods do use a raised bed in which to grow plants. By growing plants above ground level the plants become more accessible to work with. It has also been shown that plants grow better in raised beds because the soil is deep, loose, and fertile with good water drainage. Growing in raised beds can also help in situations where the local soil does not meet the requirements of the plants that one desires to grow. In both types of gardens, one can monitor the plants so that they continue to fill empty dying spaces with new crops. In this way you’ll have a continuous harvest throughout the season.[7] As seen by many gardeners who use these methods, raised beds help save time because the plants can be grown very close together reducing the amount of space and resources that need to be spent on the plants. However, this does not mean to crowd your plants, pay attention to the spacing they require to grow to their mature size. Also keep in mind biodiversity. Gardens may be healthier if compatible plants are grown when intermingled. One example of a set- up is the three sisters, an arrangement of corn, beans, and squash used by Native Americans.[8] However, in addition to using raised bed, a square foot garden uses a grid. A grid is placed on top of the garden to divide it into equal plots that can be used to organize and diversify the plant arrangements. So the first step would be to build a box. There are many dimensions that can be used but it is important to think of what size will be the most manageable and easy to reach across to access the plants. There are also many materials that can be considered. For instance, the walls could be made from trimly cut pieces of wood or recycled from various materials like sticks, tree trunks, cement blocks, or sand bags.

Before filling the box with soil, place a sheet of weed mat at the bottom. This will prevent weeds from growing. A suggested soil reciped is 1/3 coarse grade vermiculite, 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, and 1/3 blended compost. There are many different forms of compost like worm castings, green waste, or manure. Next, place a grid on top of the box. This will evenly divide your square box into equal smaller squares. Placing the grid on top is the key in the difference between square foot gardening and gardening with raised beds. Research the plants you want to plant to decide how much room they’ll need to grow to figure out what the spacing in the squares should be. Here are some advantages of using a raised bed for gardening:

– Prevents grass from growing in your garden space

– Water drains more easily[9]

– The soil warms faster the ground soil meaning that your growing season can start earlier

– Offer easy access to you plants

– No wasted space[10]

Cover Crops

Using cover crops in a raised bed has many benefits for the garden. There are a variety of plants that can be used for cover crops. Two grass types are oats and rye. These plants are generally planted a few weeks before the first frost of winter. As they grow they absorb nitrogen that would be leached from the soil and their roots also prevent any soil erosion that may occur from winds and snow melt. Rye, like buckwheat, are beneficial plants to use to prevent weeds from creeping into the garden by competing for resources. To break up compacted soil consider using annual ryegrass before winter sets in.[11]

Urban Food Production

Gardens have increasingly been seen in urban areas. They can be used to grow local food to create a localized food system. This increase can specifically be seen in Cleveland where vacant building lots have been converted into urban gardens. There are about 200 community gardens that are contributing to this evolution in this city. This efficiency has been created through efficient gardens. As seen by Bartholomew, efficiency depends on reworking designs and questioning the norm.[12]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The pictures show several variations and charts for creating your very own square foot garden. Have at it, and enjoy the adventure.

veggies 3

To begin you’ll want to build a square foot garden enclosure. This gives you an idea of material thickness you may wish to use.

Square-Foot-Gardening-Layout

you can use string to section off the square feet in your built bed or do some lattice work. What is important is to make sure reach section is one square foot for planting of desired vegetables.

grid

this shows a layout of pvc pipe suitable as irrigation for a square foot garden.

squarefoot-gardening

square-foot-gardening-layout-companion-plants

chart #1: number of vegetable seeds per square foot for each vegetable.

veggies 6

chart 2: number of vegetable seeds needed (per vegetable plant type) per block of 1 square foot per vegetable.

ABIGAIL

abby2How I miss this little girl. She’s a chip off the old block, i.e. little ole me, her grandmother. I never knew anyone other than myself (well, and my cousin Herald when he put his mind to it) that could catch a chicken with ease. The silly things seemed to migrate to me when I was a kid, following me around the yard like I was Mama Hen. I think they do the same with Abigail.  Abby, as we call her, may grow up to be a chicken farmer, but I wish for her to grow up to become a famous surgeon — like Christiaan Barnard or William DeVries,  or a university professor — nothing big just a member of the Harvard  faculty. Why? Why not! I wish for Abigail the best of the best because she can catch chickens just as good as her grandma, and that’s a fact.

Identity Theft on the Rise

ImageIdentity theft is rampant in this county.Don’t think you are safe because you shred like a pro or refuse to provide your social security number at the drop of a pin. Thieves are savvy folks bent on earning a buck at your expense. No stone is unturned to find their next victim.

I thought I was safe. I am not. Unfortunately, in 2013 earned income was earned using my social security number. I say this because a federal tax return has been filed with my name and social security number. I have been a tax consultant for many years. I filed taxes for hundreds of clients over the years. In order to have a tax return accepted by the IRS the name and social security number must match, otherwise the tax return is rejected and the preparer is asked to check the name against the social security number and reenter the return. It must match exactly! It is a fail safe way to know that multiple tax returns are never filed (which was an old fraud issue with the IRS). It’s a good thing.

Identity thieves are savvy though because they know —- apparently with help —– who to target when lifting someones social security number to sale for illegal purposes. They look for someone my age or a child who has no credit history and who has no income to report on a tax return. In my case the last tax return I filed was in 2011. It showed no taxable income. It was my final return. The paper told the tale. I’d not be — given lack of a Lotto win — filing a future tax return, unless I returned to work, which at my age would seem unlikely to a thief. Running a credit history on my number would have reviled another fact. I’ve been cash and carry for years. Nothing there to make a bank stand up and applaud me! I am not the person a bank likes. Not because I am a poor credit risk, far from it, I pay my bills on time. I simply decided years ago not to pay extra for the things I provide to myself every month. In my mind if I don’t have the cash I don’t need it all that much. I have never regretted that decision. I’ve lived well because of that choice I made years ago.

But, I am a Identity thieves dream come true — so much so I probably give him/her a wet dream — no tax return, no credit score. I am what they are looking for, bless their little hearts.

Image

Amazing isn’t it! Data breaches — e.g. for slipping a buck from one hand to another — are a real issue in America.

Because you have one of these: Image you are entitled to work in the USA. And so is someone else! Apparently!! When I telephoned the Social Security Administration I learned a few facts. First up: the 2013 reports are not available until the fall of 2014. Even then I may never learn who this culprit who use my number to earn a buck is. The only thing the nice lady at the SSA said was that I could monitor my credit reports to insure no credit had been issued in my name using my number.

Imageand it seems it works for more folks than the one it was first given to!

And, trust me on that one, I will be monitoring. Image already has my case started and will be reporting out to the other two agencies. Do I feel safer? Hell No! I envision Royce and I walking into the bank for a loan and walking out shaking our heads, in shock. It could happen. And if it does this is going to be one unhappy southern woman who can spit cotton as good as anyone.

The Federal Trade Commission will take a report but they are data collection agency and little else. Image so if you are thinking some Po-Po will pull up in a black SUV with tinted windows and hall the suspect off in handcuffs, think twice. Most likely it will never happen, although i wish it would.

Image In case you are wondering, the IRS takes this sort of thing seriously. If anything will be done with the silly-Nelly who used my number to earn a wage it will be the IRS doing it. But, again that is a long shot. The most that is likely to happen is that the filed 2013 tax return will be voided and a letter sent out stating so. I feel good that someone who is looking for a tax refund will not be receiving one. There is actually more to it than that but I won’t get into it here for fear of boring you.

Image Now, one last thought …. it occurred to me that my Medicare card also has my social security number on it followed by the letter A ….. hello y’all hearing this???? …. oh yea, this makes me fell all warm and fuzzy,

Image

DON’T THINK YOU ARE SAFE — never place your personal information in the trash bin, shred it instead.

 

Being Irish in America

Irish6 Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

According to my grandfather James Brittan Wehunt, there were only two kinds of people in the world, The Irish and those who wish they were Irish. He wouldn’t boast of his Irish heritage but was sure to let you know that he hailed from County Cork at the southern tip of Ireland and was Orange instead of Green. It took me years to understand the distinction between Orange and Green Irishmen. Nonetheless, both are Irishmen and on March 17th of each year both are prone to celebrate. My grandfather was no exception. What I remember most about my grandfather was his curly red hair and his big smile. Always wearing his oversize-overalls and big boots his smile was 24/7 and he whistled nonstop. I dearly loved that man. He passed away right before my seventh birthday but his presence during my first years of live made its indelible mark. 

When my first child was born on this blessed day (Saint Patrick’s Day in 1967) I sent a silent prayer to Heaven and I swear to you that I heard bells ring in my ear. It was like my grandfather was smiling down on me and saying —–Irish 7—— ‘the clan lives on’. 

My daughter has been a blessing for forty-seven years so I’ll take this time to wish Lisa Marie a —- Lisa B-Day—- although, truth be told, when she was a youngster she hated sharing her birthday with St. Patrick. And she hated all those shamrocks I’d toss about on the table, on her birthday cake, on her! What can I say, the Irish rubbed off on me for sure and for certain.

For  your pleasure here are a few old Irish sayings for the day, some of which I heard many-a-time as I was growing up:

 

 

# You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your father was.

 

# Irish diplomacy is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.

 

# Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighbor. It makes you shoot at your landlord-and it makes you miss him.

 

# May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.

 

 

# Lose an hour in the morning and you’ll be looking for it all day.

 

# May the Good Lord take a liking to you… but not too soon!

 

—- being Irish in America —-

  • Orange and Green swirls around us like loose ribbons
  • binding our Irish hearts together, mine and thee together
  • in kindred spirits, but only for a day, Saint Patrick’s Day
  • and then it ends and we go back to being you and I
  • I’ve often thought how nice it would be to go on as we are
  • during the day we celebrate and walk together down Main Street
  • toting our Proud To Be Irish buttons and asking strangers for a kiss
  • and dancing a jig to the tune of  Kitty Come Down to Limerick 
  • Yes, nice indeed, it would be —– Shall we try, you and I?
  • (My America by Marylouise Wehunt, copyrights 2013; publication Fall of 2014)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking It Off —

—- no not my makeup, or for that matter my clothes, I’m talking about taking off the extra pounds I’ve been carting around my middle and lower haunches like forever. 

Image

I try to loose by diet, by wishful thinking, by exercise and by snubbing my nose at Royce’s cookies! It seems a useless endeavor I’ve undertaken. Or is it? At my age why should I worry about the poundage around my middle? Maybe I should embrace it! Truth be told, this extra grandmotherly fat isn’t totally unhealthy and it isn’t a turnoff to my better half who thinks I’m still kinda cute (he needs glasses but hey I like his enthusiasm) so why am I so hell-bent on taking it off. I mean it isn’t like I’m sixteen and going to take a stole on the beaches in my bikini — Actually, I wish I still had the shape to wear a bikini (dream on girl) —

— so what’s all the fuss about! One, no one cares. Two, no one wants to see me in a bikini! Three, I was going somewhere with this thought ———— senior moment ————- oh, yes, why should I care about a few extra pounds when I look darn good in my clothes and Royce doesn’t care. Life is too short to worry about this any longer so I shall embrace my lovely size frumpish and enjoy the heck out of Royce’s cookies from time to time. Or not. I do kind of like my britches being a little loose these days ;)

Is it Open Season yet?

Open gardening season that is because I’m fidgeting my my seat to make my yard look like this here photograph>>>>

The greenhouse is planted up with all sorts of veggies and flowers. And I’m just waiting for mid April to come around so I can get them all into the ground. Our friend Jerry was out yesterday — a real soothsayer to be sure — and mentioned (1) I’m a wee bit too early with the greenhouse plantings and (2) the greenhouse (which if you recall was moved to avoid being blown over by the winds here) is not getting enough sun to be considered a greenhouse and that we need to put a heat lamp inside it. Well-Dag, I never thought of that! Of course we need a heat lamp in that silly flimsy little thing. This morning, I pretended to ignore Royce when he reported his and Jerry’s conversation — I’m good at doing that — and simply knotted my head in agreement. Now, maybe he’ll buy me that heat lamp I asked for a month ago :) Woo-oho, Thank You Jerry!

I write a lot about placement of a vegetable garden in the landscape. I write about it mostly because I can not count the times ‘someone’ has said to me in past years that they didn’t have room for a garden. Naysayers! This is totally not true. You can have a garden in a tiny apartment for Pete’s Sake. Once long ago in the land of Oz that is exactly what happened when several tenants and I along with the on-site property manager converted a weedy patch into a garden. The area wasn’t large but it was long enough for two shorter blocks of three rows each and one of longer block two rows each in the middle. 1912212_10151965465036404_231239209_nThe entire process was fun and very rewarding to all of us. 

As the saying goes: You’re never too old to learn — and in my case never too old to be taught a thing or two. In fact, if the mind lays idle too long the body soon follows and you get cobwebs between your toes and behind your eyeballs! Don’t let that happen!! Stay engaged in life. Growing a vegetable garden sweeps out the cobwebs, for sure and for certain.  

<<<<<diagram of community veggie garden

 

 

When I share gardening information with someone I find that I’m usually picking up a few helpful tips from them as well. I love how that works. So please feel free to leave a comment and share your tidbits with me; I’ll be sure to pass them along.

images2Here’s wishing you a bounty from your garden this year.