Though we have a fairly large yard, we don’t have many good places for a sprawling vegetable garden. Our southern exposure is good, but the soil in many of those spots is nowhere near good enough for vegetables, as it is mostly a clay pad made for a mobile home to sit on. This problem, which I will talk more about in my first post about corn (coming soon), extends all the way around the trailer, except for at the front.
This lead me to looking into alternate means of growing vegetables, I needed something that not only conserved space, so it could be placed almost anywhere, but would also produce much more than the same area of a traditional garden plot. What I eventually decided on, about three years ago, was Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening Method and ordered his book.
In the waning hours of sunlight in December the book arrived in the mail and it took a while for me to read through it, as there was no big hurry. I found out how fast spring comes when I needed to hurry through the book at the start of April, and build my boxes, make my square foot gardening soil (Mel’s Mix), and try to start some plants. It was a daunting task for a beginning gardener, but it mostly worked out (the plants I started mostly died when I tried to harden them off too quickly).
That was in 2011, I had planted two five by six foot boxes just of corn, one on the west side of the trailer, and one at the back on the south side. Neither of those panned out, and it if wasn’t for the four by four foot garden we planted in the front yard, I might have given up on vegetable gardening completely.
If I remember correctly, we got a good deal of peas, carrots, some lettuce, and a lot of tomatoes and radishes from that little garden that year. I was hooked.
In the spring of 2012, I re-purposed the corn patch on the west side to a square foot garden layout because of how well the front yard one did in 2011. Since we now had two gardens, I could plant some of the other things I wanted in the front one. We had two squares of lettuce (8 plants), two planted twice each with radishes (128 plants), six planted with carrots (96 plants), a watermelon in two of the squares that got shaded by our tomato and didn’t produce, an ornamental but edible “Medusa” pepper that was replaced with a Dalia after it died, and two planted to marigolds (8 plants) to keep the cats away. Another pretty good haul for a 4’ x 4’x 6” cedar planter box, by this point it had probably already paid for the wood used on the box.
2013 Front Square Foot Garden Plans and Layout
Last year, I started a lot of plants inside under the grow light that I had bought over the winter. Though I should have known, I was truly surprised at how much of a difference this setup made over trying to use the extra light spilling out of our Aero Garden, I will be sure to snap some pictures coming up here soon when I get my plants going to show you the setup I use.
I started a lot of different things inside last winter, but never documented when I planted what, which I know now was a mistake, as I have to go back and plan all my seed starting times again this year. I will only touch on what I started for the front garden in this post; the rest will be talked about in later posts.
For the front garden I started:
- 1 Watermelon – Started early (around the middle of February I think)
- 3 Green Peppers – Two of which made it to the garden. I planted them a little early so that I could have bigger plants to put out, but they got too big and started flowering inside, delaying the production of fruit until late in the season outside.
- 2 Chili Peppers – Neither of which made it out to the gardens, I thought they had a disease when they had weird looking bumps on them near the roots. Though later on the green peppers also developed this while outside, so I think that might just be something they do, it was my first crack at normal sized pepper plants.
- 8 Marigolds – I planted two packs of marigolds, but only 8 plants were for the front garden. I don’t particularly like marigolds, but they keep the neighbourhood cats from digging in the garden, so I plant a lot of them all around the yard each year. They don’t do anything until they start to flower though, so I think I will start them a little earlier this year, probably 6 or 7 weeks before last frost.
- 1 Cucumber – There are supposed to be two cucumbers to a square, but I only had one left after planting the other two in the west garden.
I bought the tomato plant at Canadian Tire, I think it cost $4.99, but it was much smaller then the ones I bought there in previous years, and it got touched slightly by a very light frost after it was in the ground. It survived and pressed on, though we got a lot fewer tomatoes then in either of the years passed. I picked up the onions on the same trip.
The rest of the garden came from seed that I left over from the year before; I never noticed any lowered germination rates in the carrots, lettuce, or radishes from saving my seed over the winter. I wouldn’t use the same seed (if I had any left) for this year though.
Front Square Foot Garden Yields 2013
Out of my 16 squares, 12 produced great, the only problem I had was with the tomato shading some of the others again. In a square foot garden, tomatoes need to be trimmed to a single stem, they recommend it in the book, but I wasn’t on top of it as much as I should have been. I only had two or three on mine and it shaded the watermelon (which takes up two spaces) too much again and I didn’t get watermelons for a second straight year. The cucumber did better then the ones on the west side, it produced two cucumbers, though I had some trouble keeping them watered in my little greenhouse tent and they suffered all season for it. The tomato didn’t do as well this year as the last couple, the frost at the start of the season hurt it, and it set its flowers later than usual.
The yield from the garden was really good last year as listed below:
- 0 Watermelons – One day I’ll eat a watermelon I grew myself.
- 10 Tomatoes – Less then normal, but not too bad.
- 2 Cucumbers – They were delicious, but being in dry soil early, and shade cost them.
- 32 Radishes – I think we can get 48 this year all out of a one by one foot plot.
- 5 Green Peppers – Pretty good since they set their flowers late, and lived through a very wet June. A lot of people I talked to around here lost their peppers completely.
- 8 Onions – I could have sworn we only planted 6, but a few grew side by side
- 8 Marigolds – Four in one square did amazing, four in the other square did pretty good.
- 80 Carrots – Five squares worth, and yet nowhere near enough!
I think I might change my front square foot garden layout some this season; I will start by moving the tomato into the back (North) right hand corner. This will allow for three squares that get sun all afternoon, instead of just in the morning in case I don’t prune my tomatoes as much as the other plants need like last year. I am growing my own tomato seedlings this year, so it will have a head start over the others plants, and could start shading them immediately.
As for the watermelon, I will be moving it to the greenhouse we are planning to build where the southern corn patch sits, and maybe another one in my new four by four foot garden I will be adding in, as it came with a greenhouse tent to go overtop of it and should help it in the beginning. I am not yet sure what I will put into the spot where it was last season, likely something that has vines to climb the trellis, who knows? It might just be cucumbers that end up there.
It is very likely that I will plant four squares to carrots, that way I can plant four more in the second four foot SFG mentioned in the last paragraph, and get a lot more carrots, and maybe some peas, since I won’t be growing any with the corn this year.
I won’t know for sure what I am going to do until just before I start my indoor planting, which will be later this month. What I do know is that I will continue to use the square foot gardening method for as long as I garden, since it gives great yields in a small space, and there is hardly any weeding to be done. Did I forget to mention the lack of weeding that is needed? Perhaps we will talk about it in more detail in another post.