Square Foot Gardening & Companion Planting.
Planting veggie beds for the first time can be a challenge for the new gardeners trying to figure what to grow, when to grow and how you can fit all the goodies you want in your small space.
One great strategy is to “Square foot garden”. This is exactly what it sounds like. You mark off your beds by the square foot (Using twine or metal grid) and plant a different plant in each square or two depending on the size of the plant. For example, in my space I have a full sun bed that is in the shape of a semi-circle. I would guess it is about 12 x 8. I don’t follow the exact nature of a square ft strategy in that I don’t bother to mark off each square, but it is implied by the crowded nature in which I plant.
The square foot bed is very useful to utilize your space to the best of your ability. You may need two squares for tomatoes, 4 for corn, or beans, and I would encourage to grow up, not just out. Build tall trellis for your tomato or green beans, melons and cucumbers to grow on and use the shade they may provide in the after noon sun to cover a more delicate plant in the heat of the day. Strategically planting can allow you to get the best out of each plant. By planting so close to each other, you eliminate weeds and maximize the heat resistance from the protection the shade of the plants provide to the soil. You can also make your bed more attractive by layering in sections from short in front to high in back. short on the outside, tall on the inside, etc. You can make paths to get to the plants in back, or you can leave stepping-stones to access your crop as I have. Be sure you have at least 6 hours of sun in your selected space, 8 is even better.
There are several good books about Square foot gardening and some state that is no variance to how you plant it. I disagree, I feel the garden is for experimenting and I believe if you use the general principle of “crowding” your crops and making the most of the space you have you will achieve the same success. As for the size needed, read the tag on the plant. If it says it gets to 3’x3′, then you need 9 sq’s. If it is 1×2, like perhaps a pepper, then only one pepper per sq is planted and so on. Not rocket science, just good sense. Be sure to rotate your crops each year. Certain plants will drain the soil of certain nutrients, so moving the plants around each year helps the soil recover from the previous crop.
Here is a great article from “Planet Natural” that goes into great detail on the topic. http://www.planetnatural.com/square-foot-gardening/
Now for your soil. I suggest a combination of manure ( I like chicken/turkey because some cow/pig manure can have a chemical that is found in their food and is harmful to us) a good dark, rich, airy garden or potting soil,a whole lot of compost and a very small amount of sand for moisture retention. If you ask a hundred veggie gardeners their preference in garden mixtures, you will get a hundred answers to be sure. The Natural Gardener in Oak Hill Texas makes an excellent garden mix and you can be sure to have success with it if you aren’t partial to mixing it on your own. I do not recommend Dillo Dirt as many of you may know it is made from raw sewage and I have no intentions of putting that on my food, although many use it and swear by it. Ewww…
You will also need to fertilize your veggies regularly. Use only organics in your beds, especially your food. The chemical fertilizers you see for veggies may bring it to bloom quickly, but it does nothing for the soil long-term. The salts in chemical fertilizers also bind the nutrients in your soil making them insoluble and unattainable to your plants long-term which means you would need to fertilize over and over, only exacerbating the situation. I like to say that chemical fertilizer is the same to a plant as an energy drink is to us. Quick, energy, hard crash. Eat well and exercise, your body will benefit for years to come. The same is true with our plants. They get their energy from the soil. You have healthy soil, you have healthy plants and so on. Use Liquid seaweed, any of the Medina products, liquid molasses, liquid compost, or fish emulsion to name a few. If your tomatoes struggle with only organic amendments and fertilizers, you may need to make amendments according to the problem, your local nursery can get you back on track with the proper solution.
Finally, on a relate-able sidebar, I want to talk about companion planting. This is a great way to prevent critters and make use of natures defenses. Planting anything in the Allium family is helpful in your garden. Allium are Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Shallots and the like. They are stinky to you and they are stinky to the bugs, Use Basil around your tomatoes to keep bugs off, Use Chives or Garlic around your Roses to keep Aphids away. Planting aromatic/savory herbs amongst your veggies will ward off a number of pests while providing lovely flowers and deliciousness. Marigolds are also a great plant to use in your veggie beds. Many gardeners alternate rows of marigolds and veggies as the Marigolds roots omit an odor that harmful nematodes don’t like and the flowers offend other pesky bugs. You can also find a lot of great info on this subject at your local book store or on line.
Start with small bed this year and before you know it you will be hooked. Start a neighborhood veggie coop, or perhaps your church or family/friends would like to grow a certain plant and you grow another. Be creative, but most importantly, get busy planting, there is nothing more delicious than food you grew yourself. Your yard is calling you 😉 Here is an example of a different kind of Square foot garden my Autistic son and I created as a compromise.
Happy “Square foot” Gardening,
Lisa’s Landscape & Design (“like” me on facebook!)
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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Quote of the day: “As Rosemary is to the spirit, so Lavender is to the soul.”- Unknown
Plant of the day: The Yellow Pear tomato. This heirloom tomato is a prolific delight and you will reap the rewards of this plant all summer long. Produces small pear shaped yellow fruit. YUM!
- Posted in: central texas gardens ♦ eco friendly ♦ Edible gardens ♦ gardening ♦ organic gardening ♦ Soil Preparation ♦ Xeriscape
- Tagged: Austin Texas, Avery Ranch, composting, edible gardens, flowers, garden planning, herb gardens, low water plants, native and adapted plants and design, organic gardening, plant selection, Round Rock, Square foot gardening