Last year was the first year I attempted vegetable gardening on my property. I always wanted a garden but knowing that my soil was full of clay and rocks, I was overwhelmed with the amount of work preparing the soil would be. I was also suffering with Lyme disease and just not feeling up to all that physical labor. I came across some YouTube videos of people with their square foot gardens, a method of gardening invented by Mel Bartholomew, and I thought, I can do this. I quickly went to Amazon and ordered his book, “All New Square Foot Gardening, Grow More in Less Space!”
The book is written in such a way that even a beginner can understand and implement all the steps. The basic premise is to use raised beds, something I learned in Master Gardener class. Raised beds are preferred because the soil will warm up faster, drain better and is less compacted. Mr Bartholomew recommends a 4×4 square box. He includes instructions for building your own, but I was happy to find 4×4 raised ceder box kits at Home Depot. I bought 8 which cost around $35 a piece.
For the soil, Mel Bartholomew recommends his formula which is 1 part Peat, 1 part vermiculite and 1 part compost aptly called Mel’s mix. It took some searching for the vermiculite, but I finally found it from a large greenhouse nursery that was more than happy to order it for me. The peat moss and compost were readily available at the big box stores. Mel, recommends multiple sources for your compost. I was only able to find composted cow manure and some of my own homemade compost, I’m sure with more time and research, you may be able to find other sources, but I was anxious to get started. My local recycle center offers free compost, however I wouldn’t recommend using it for a vegetable garden because there may be contaminates in it.
My husband assembled the boxes for me which was a piece of cake using just a screw gun and he and my son helped me with setting them up and filling them. I have to say that the initial cost was a bit much, I think I spent around $800 for everything. I needed landscape fabric, the boxes, lathe for griding, the bags and bags of peat, vermiculite and compost, fencing, (which never got up) and conduit pipe for making trellises and seeds and plants. But, once the initial cost is laid out all you need for succeeding years is compost and your seeds and plants of course.
2011 was not a good garden year in the garden state as we had way too much rain, especially in august. I had some success with my cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce and herbs, though the tomatoes, corn and melons didn’t fair as well. The plants did not get enough sun and they were rotting, also the bear and deer started ravaging the garden toward the end. I had found these Sweeney’s deer repellents that worked great in the beginning of the season, but toward the end I think they wore out their potency and the animals were having a feast on my cabbage, corn and beans. That is why the fence is going up this year.
I highly recommend this method of gardening. There were virtually no weeds as this intensive method leaves no room for weeds. I’m already planning for the upcoming season, and have plans for improvement. The fence will have to be erected, I’m looking to line my paths with some gravel and may even expand a bit for perennials such as asparagus, rhubarb, and blueberries.
Are you planning a garden this year? I would love to hear your successes, failures and suggestions. Happy Gardening!