Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Our Square Foot Gardens

I've been meaning to post about this since we first started Square Foot Gardening last year, but haven't quite gotten around to it!  If you've never heard of Square Foot Gardening, it really is an amazing thing.  You can likely find the book through your local library (that's where we found it, before purchasing our own copy), or you can buy your very own copy through my Amazon link above or in the sidebar to the left (full disclosure:  I might make about 20 cents from the purchase.  And I promise to use the proceeds to buy more plants.  lol).  Anyway, Square Foot Gardening is awesome, because of how much food you can grow in such a small space.  Instead of using the traditional row gardening that we're all familiar with (which is really a waste of space), instead you build small raised beds, with enough space to walk around them, eliminating the need for rows.  What I love about this method is how easy it is.  We have almost no gardening experience.  Bruce's family gardened when he was younger, but he really doesn't remember much about it.  I've never grown anything resembling food in my life (okay, maybe a few herbs on a windowsill), and this book lays it out in such a way that anyone can do this.  You build your 4ft x 4ft, 6 inch deep beds, make your gridlines, fill with soil (the book outlines exactly what soil mix to use, so you don't have to guess...  just do what he tells you and it will be perfect, loose soil), and start planting.  The book tells you exactly how many of each plant you can put in each of those little grid boxes.  Some things, like corn, you get one plant per square foot.  Other things, like carrots, you can actually plant 16 per square foot.  We started last year with just 3 beds (we intended to start with two, but got carried away with our seed starting and needed a third bed).  This year we added a fourth.  We'd love to add two more, but we've used up pretty much all of the sunny spots in our yard!  That bench was sitting on our front verandah, unused, so we added it to the garden and planted in it.  We were also able to pick up a couple of planters for a good price, so we filled those up, too.  We eventually plan to build a small fence around it to keep the neighbourhood cats out (who seem to think this is their own personal litter box), and maybe pretty it up a little.  We'd love to add something in the walkway other than grass, maybe some nice stones or mulch.  Anyway, here are a few more pictures for a closer look:

Above is Norah's own little garden that she takes care of.  She planted a potato to see what would happen, and in the middle you'll see her potato plant.

The book also gives great ideas for ways to grow food even if you don't have a yard.  Just one little balcony box or pot can really grow a substantial amount of food!  I think it's so important that we all learn to grow something.  Even if it's just herbs on a windowsill, or a pot of Tiny Tim's.  We've all become far too dependent on our oil-based food industry, and expect that those trucks will always deliver food to our grocery stores, just in the nick of time.  It's time we took back some of our food independence.  Plus, nothing beats eating a salad from fresh lettuce and other veggies that were picked only moments before...  soooo nutritious and delicious!

So what's in your garden?  Do you have one?  How long have you been gardening?  Have you thought about it, but just not gotten around to acting on it?  Can you grow one thing, anything?  I'd love to hear about it and see your pictures!


  1. Hi Alissa. I saw your link on your twitter feed, and gave it a click. Thank you for such a positive and useful blog posting.

    I have gardened in the past, and am just starting to get back to it. I am participating in the South End Community Centre community garden, with Rosie Smith, and find it a good chance to get the kinks out of my technique. We are using raised beds, and making all the mistakes you can imagine, but enjoying the learning process.

    I haven't heard of the square foot technique, but did see something very similar in a garden catalogue. They were selling square foot planters, as a kit, with guides. It sounds like it is based on the same knowledge.

    Thank you again for your blog.

    - madeline

  2. Hey Madeline, so glad you found me! I'd love to hear more about the south end community garden!

  3. Is it really safe to eat food from a garden that multiple cats use as a litter box? The neighborhood cats are what stop me from planting food in my back yard-- despite high fences, they are EVERYWHERE, and my yard is full of cat poop. I hate when people let their cats roam! What to do about food?

  4. Anonymous,
    We're pretty vigilant about our garden, and it usually gets checked twice a day - morning and evening, and if we spot anything we scoop it out right away. So I don't think it has a chance to work itself into the soil. In any case, we're hoping that a fence will rectify the situation... and also looking for some other organic solutions to keeping cats away. Someone suggested moth balls, but I'm not sure how organic that is... I'll have to look into that!

  5. Awesome! We've always lived in apartments so far except one year so I haven't had the pleasure of trying square foot gardening. It is surely one of the top things I will be doing though once we have a house to call home :)

    btw I couldn't help myself w/starting home school and having a third baby - i wanted my blog back ;)

  6. This is a wonderful idea & will try it next year (we live in a tiny condo without much "safe" property, but managed to produce a couple of potted tomatoes & cukes this year [our pumpkins were pulled up by... neighborhood troublemakers? :( ]

    I'd love to see an update of your harvest!