So, I had some requests for additional details, and links to some of the resources that we used to create our garden.
Firstly, I noticed a few of you expressed that you didn’t think you could do this because your yard isn’t fenced in. Well…mine isn’t either! The lack of a fenced in yard is one of the reasons that the idea of the raised bed garden appealed to us!
Here is a list of benefits: (From Wikipedia, because I have no idea yet! My garden just got planted!)
- Much less work. Conventional gardening requires heavy tools to loosen the soil, whereas in this method, the soil is never compacted and it remains loose and loamy. Weeding takes only seconds to minutes, due to the light soil, raised beds, and easily accessed plants. Harvests per foot of garden are increased due to the rich soil mixture, well-spaced plants, and lack of weeds produced when following Mel Bartholomew’s method.
- Water Savings. The soil mixture that is advised has water-holding capacities, so that the garden needs water less frequently, and in much smaller quantities than when using other gardening methods. Water is also spared by hand-watering directly at the plant roots, so that there is very little waste and tender young plants and seedlings are preserved.
- Very little weeding. One benefit of this close planting is that the vegetables form a living mulch, and shade out many weed seeds before they have a chance to germinate.
- Pesticide / Herbicide Free. Natural insect repellent methods like companion planting (i.e. planting marigolds or other naturally pest-repelling plants) become very efficient in a close space and thus, pesticides are not necessary. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily
- Accessibility. A plywood bottom can be attached to the bottom of a box, which can then be placed on a tabletop or raised platform for those who wish to garden without bending or squatting, or to make gardening easy for wheelchair, cane or walker users.
- Covers and Cages. Because all beds are small (4’x4′ or smaller), making covers or cages to protect plants from pests, cold, or sun is more practical than with larger gardens.
To create the 4×4 box for your garden, you’ll need:
(2) 2x6x8 pieces of lumber, and have the lumber store cut them in half for you. Make sure that you use UNTREATED lumber, because you don’t want any of those chemicals seeping into soil, and into your plants. We actually used 2x10x8, because we were a little paranoid that box wouldn’t be deep enough for the plants to take root well. This wasn’t necessary though, because we read a lot of experiences from people who just did the 2x6x8, and had great results.
A shovel, or tiller to dig up the grass in the place where your garden will go.
Weed barrier-We used one made of recyclable materials.
Soil Mix-There is a special blend of soil that is recommended, 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss. Our plant nursery only sells these in ridiculously large amounts, so we just went with Miracle-Gro potting soil. We used 4 bags.
If you decide to put your garden on a patio, deck, or table top, you’ll need a piece of plywood for the bottom, to keep your soil in.
Decide if you want to do seeds or transplants. Transplants are the ones that are already sprouted, and started the process of maturing. For most of our plants, we decided to go with transplants, since we are new to gardening, and wanted to give ourselves the best chance of success. Also, I have no patience, and the transplants saved us a few weeks of growing time, lol!
Decide which plants you’ll want. If you do the 4×4 square, you’ll have 16 squares, but keep in mind that some plants will need more than one square. The back of the seed packet will let you know how far apart your plants will need to be. For instance, if the package says to plant 6″ apart, then you can put 2 of those in one square. But if the plants need to be 16″ apart, then that plant will need 2 squares.
Byron and I totally ignored that, so I have a feeling we will be pulling up a lot of plants. Hopefully, if it comes to that, we will just build another box and try to transplant some of the extras so that we can save everything.
So, your supply list is:
lumber for the sides of the box
weed barrier (and stakes, to keep it down)
(optional) plywood for bottom of box
seeds or plants
twine for separating your sections
Before you start building your box (Or before you even head to the store) Plan out your garden. You may even decide that you need 2 boxes, depending on the veggies you decide to go with. You need to make sure that you have space for everything! This site has a nice chart that lets you know the spacing you need for everything.
Bell Pepper | Strawberries | Onions | Cucumbers
———– ———— ——- ———-
Bell Pepper | Banana Pepper | Turnip Greens| Empty
———– ————– ————- ———-
Tomato | Jalapeno Pepper | Romaine Let. | Watermelon
———- ————– ———— ———–
Tomato | Cabbage | Cantaloupe | Squash
If you check out that chart, you can where we planted some things too closely, so we may be thinning some things out, if all of our plants are able to survive.
So, once you have your supplies, get yourself outside! Pick out a spot for you garden, and remove any grass or weeds from that spot.
Near that spot, build your box. Put at least three screws in each corner. Put down your weed barrier, and then place your box on top. Fill box with soil, in layers, watering between each layer.
Once your box is filled, you can attach 3 screws, one foot apart, to the top of each side. Use these screws to anchor your twine, to separate your sections. Then….well, you’re ready to plant! You can follow the instructions or your seed packet, or the little card that comes with the transplants.
There is a plethora of information out there about Square Foot Gardening. We actually bought Mel Bartholomew’s book, All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! to help us, and we also used a lot of web resources. We are still really new to this, so before you take on this project, I would definitely check out the experiences of some people who have successfully done this, and can offer more insight!