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This week has been devoted almost exclusively to the creating of my summer garden. I use a technique some may be familiar with called "Square Foot Gardening". You make a raised bed using 1"X6"X4' boards so that the bed is (6 inches higher than the surrounding soil), making the bed 4 feet on each side (16 sq. ft.) with a 6 ft. trellis along one side (back). You remove most of the soil to a depth of 1 to 1.5 feet, and replace it with approximately equal parts of soil, peat moss, vermiculite, and a bucket or two of sand so that the level of the bed is about an inch from the top of the boards. After the bed is prepared (smooth, level, etc.) you place small nails at one foot intervals along all sides of the top edge of the boards. Next, using a strong string (nylon is what I use) tie one end of a 4 ft length to a nail, then run it directly across the bed and attach it to the nail on the opposite side. When finished, your bed will be divided into 16 squares of 1 foot on each side. From that point on, think and treat each sq. ft. plot as an individual "little garden".

Prior to planting, I will have created a plan (I use project scheduling software - that produces a Gantt chart [schedule]) to determine when, where, and how many seeds to plant for each plot; and when to start and finish harvesting that plot so it can be reused. Using this technique I can have fresh produce the entire growing season in the amounts that can be used at any one time. I use other 16 sq. ft beds to plant single crops that I want to store for the year, i.e. during a 3 year period I was able to average 65 qt. of string beans (using bush beans) per bed. This is very low intensity gardening in that you only need to work individual plots as they need it - depends on how many beds you build as to the actual time required per day. It can also be used for roof or patio gardening by including a bottom for the bed and using one foot wide boards and coating everything in a good water proof or resistant paint. By making the entire bed water tight, it becomes a hydroponic bed. You need to add a place to drain off the fluid so it can be re-used.

The trellis on side is for such things as tomatoes, pole beans, cucumbers, muskmelons, etc. It should be 6 ft high. I use electrical conduit for the structure and twisted nylon string placed appropriately for each climbing plant. You just have to train the plants to twist around the string and they do the rest on their own. I could go on and on about this but would only be re-writing the book. It is quite popular and should be easily found.

Square Foot Gardening
by Mel Bartholornew
Dodale Press,
Emmaus, Pennsylvania

Offered by Ron.