Apr 24

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Garden

We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  Quite often most of us are very willing to talk about our strengths (i.e. I’m so awesome), after which we try to list out pseudo weaknesses which are really a strength in disguise.  You know it’s true, think about that time when you sat in an interview and told the HR person: “Yes, one of my weaknesses would have to be that I just work too hard, I’m just consumed by dedicating my life to my job…”  Right.

I’ll just come right out with it and admit that one of my weaknesses is growing food, or cultivating a sustainable food plan beyond what I have on shelves (read: non-renewable) in the basement.  Ask me about fitness, tactics, prioritization, how to influence people, enduring freezing temps while wet and tired, tips for bartering…I’ll lay it out for you like it’s my job.  Ask me to plant a garden in order to grow food which I can put on the dinner table and I’ll probably hang my head in shame.  This is not for a lack of effort (somewhat), I have loads of books on gardens/farming/off grid living and buckets full of seeds just waiting to go into the ground.  For whatever reason (maybe I was busying cleaning one of my guns) I never got around to working the soil and making something actually happen.   My dad would be ashamed of my city slicker life considering he did grow up on a farm, I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about “slopping the hogs” and working in the field.  Fortunately for us my wife is less lazy than I, and she took it upon herself to do the family a solid and get the ball rolling.

My wife did some research and decided that raised bed gardening, or Square Foot Gardening, would be the best option for our current location.  Alas we aren’t on 20 acres of land with a dirt road to our home (yet).  We reside in the hell that is suburbia, complete with HOA fees, neighborhood pools and homes that look as if builders took a bet to see who could build the best looking homes for the least amount of money.  Don’t fault me, I wasn’t always a prepper.  🙂  The good news is that the mortgage crisis hit at just the right time, ensuring that if I do sell my home and move to the redoubt anytime soon I’ll barely break even or probably lose money.  Awesome!

So what are we attempting to grow?  Food that we will eat of course, as it should be.  Cucumber, Zucchini  Tomato, Cilantro, Spinach and Lettuce.  Currently some of the seeds are planted indoors and after a specified time she (or shall I say we) will transfer them outdoors to the raised bed garden.  Many of the ideas which we are implementing were gleaned from the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  Check out this video for more information.

If anyone has any tips, advice or general comments for the good of the order please do not hesitate to add them in the comment section.  I do anticipate some problems, there are rabbits which nest in or around our yard but our terrier seems to kill (and leave them on the porch as a trophy) or chase away most of them.  I’m sure bugs will be an issue too but we’ll just have to live and learn.  Throughout the year I will make updates as to our progress, wish us luck!


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    • Lux on April 24, 2013 at 2:23 AM
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    I have tried gardening and I hate it but I do see the value in growing you own food for emergency situations. I have been looking into finding edible plants that do not look like food and grow like weeds. Kudzu would be at the top of the list since eating a mix of all the parts of the plant provide a complete protein. It does not grow well in my part of the country (I tried). Foe now I am growing Fo Ti (polygonum multiform). It is a medicinal herb (roots) and the leaves are edible. I eat them regularly. The leaves contain too much oxalic acid for eating in large amounts regularly but boiling is supposed to take care of that problem. I have more fo ti leaves than I know what to do with. I have to cut the vines back from time to time. I have so much that we could probably survive for weeks on fo ti and our stored water only.

    I am always on the look out for other plants. I thought buckwheat greens would be the next one but over consumption leads to sensitivity to sun light with some people. I have seeds so a little bit for variety will be nice. The next one to try is burdock (edible leaves and roots).

      • PJ on April 24, 2013 at 5:25 AM
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      Looks like you have taken a very non traditional route in your choice of food to grow. I have quite a few medicinal herb seeds, maybe I’ll try them this year too.

        • Lux on April 24, 2013 at 9:19 PM
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        Yes, non-traditional. It is the parachute I hope I never have to use, don’t want to work too hard at and don’t want anyone to know it is even food (no stealing).

        In regard to traditional gardening, I borrowed my friend’s copy of this book several years ago:

        How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles Wilber.

        He shows you how to grow massive tomato plants as well as squash, okra, pumpkins etc. The book has pictures of two story tall tomato plants and 7 or 8 foot tall okra. If you do everything he recommends it is quite difficult. I tried a modified version of one thing he recommended. He tells you how to make compost from alfalfa hay and some other stuff (very difficult to get right because of temperature). He suggests as an alternative that you can dig a trench and bury some hay and dig it up a year later. I decided to amend the soil in a 55 gallon drum I cut the top off of to use as a container for some cherry tomato plants. I mixed in quite a bit of hay and kept the soil wet for a few months and the transplanted 3 plants. I put a cage over it made from 2” x 4” wire mesh. The height from the ground to the top of the cage was about 9 feet. At least one of the plants made it to the top of the cage and about 4 or 5 feet from the ground on the outside. (about 10 – 11 feet of plant). They produced quite well also. So it would seem that organic nitrogen is very important.


    1. The main thing to do is prepare soil. There are many edible weeds. Remove invasive species and recycle as much organic matter as possible.

    • Ranger W on April 24, 2013 at 3:48 AM
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    awesome step. I highly recommend researching Back To Eden gardens. There is a video hosted for free on vimeo called Back To Eden Film. Fair warning it is very christian in its ideaology and terminology but the gardening information is priceless. The video really shows you how to grow things the natural way and use nature to your advantage rather than trying to fight it. Another good research topic for anyone is Geoff Lawton and permaculture. This guy is a rockstar at turning “dead” land into food forests.

      • PJ on April 24, 2013 at 5:28 AM
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      Thanks for the vote of confidence, we’ll see how it goes. Great recommendation on the Back to Eden Film, it is a great watch…can’t believe how the guy takes rocky ground and grows amazing food on it.

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