Trying Square Foot Gardening in Our Potager

macgregor(6MA)April 13, 2012

I have started our potager and have incorporated some square-foot plantings for the first time. It looks pretty cool and I may do more square foot planting with peppers, eggplant, etc. if these lettuce, leek, radish and spinach squares work out.

Any personal experience you'd like to share with square foot gardening? Most successful vegetables, things that didn't work well? How you incorporated it into the other aspects of a potager? (flowers, herbs, etc.) Thanks!

MacGregor

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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Our first garden was based on Mel's method. I abandoned the strict premise after the second year, but retain some of the principles to this day especially with my tomato plantings.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 12:09PM
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macgregor(6MA)

natal,

Do you plant your tomatoes in a grid format? I'd be really interested to know, because the tomatoes are the one veg I am having trouble seeing as fitting into square foot spaces.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 5:11PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

No, but I do plant them closer together ... maybe 18" between plants.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 5:22PM
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growsy(8b GA)

I grow my tomatoes up a trellis at the edge of a bed. I space them 1 per square foot.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 4:45PM
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keski(6)

This will be my 4th year with the square foot gardening method. My beds are only 6" deep, filled with Mel's mix. I grow my tomatoes up a trellis made with electrical conduit, plastic elbows and trellis netting. 1 Per sq. ft. trained to 1 stem per plant (unless they grow another when I am not looking). This year I think I will allow them 18" to see if it makes a difference. My trellis runs along the north side so the toms don't shade other veggies.
Keski

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 1:12PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I started with the square foot gardening method. I did not like the Mel's Mix as I found that it drained too well. One advantage of clay is that it retains water.

I often do not space things as densely as he recommends but I am experimenting with what spacings I can accomodate that will work well for the plants too. In my climate, plants that closely spaced need to be watered every single day and my life may not always accomodate that. Spacing things further allows the moisture in the soil to support the plants better. I am still experimenting with the spacing and would not like having the permanent grids in my garden. What I would like is this dibble below for doing my plantings in a nice and neat pattern, it even fits the garden hod they sell too. I am hinting it would be a lovely mother's day gift...

Here is a link that might be useful: Dibbler

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 9:45PM
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ali-b

I started out with square foot gardening and then I read the Gertley's Art of the Kitchen Garden and had to have it! (And yet my garden has never looked like theirs...)

The first year I followed the whole setup even stapling the landscape fabric to the bottom of the beds. That was a big mess. The plant roots grew through and wild onions and milkweed just poked holes from underneath. I ripped that all out and threw it away.

I still use the plant spacings though. I even cut out cardboard templates to plant my beans last year.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 10:28PM
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oliveoyl3

The spacing is simple enough to remember if you sort through your seeds and file in box behind dividers. Sort by the amounts to plant in a square.

1
4 9
12
16

I have written the types of plants on each divider as another way to double check. Easy to take the plastic index card box out with me to the garden to replant squares. I can see what crops are there & fill in.

I don't put tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, or pole beans in my boxes because I need more room and preferred long rows for supports & soaker hoses since we have dry summers.

The boxes work great for salad greens & stir fry ingredients. Root crops 9 to a square still don't get too large for me, but could my location.

I have 4 boxes and do rotate crops as much as possible which is different from Mel's recommendations, but since I like to grow so many cabbage family plants want to be safe rather than sorry about club root.

Our cabbages have always gotten much larger than 1 square, so I've been careful to plant fast maturing crops in the surrounding squares. They also tend to lean in the loose soil, so this year I planted deeper than usual & really firmed the soil at planting time, so they've been holding up. Moles burrow under and contribute to the leaning, so I push the soil back down. Sure wish I could get rid of those moles once & for all.

Joy Larkum's books have also inspired patterning and intercropping with edible flowers, herbs, and contrasting colors.

This year I removed the window blind grids and installed soaker hoses, so we didn't plant in squares, but followed that spacing along the soakers in arcs instead. It's coming along and probably not planted as closely as before.

It tends to look a bit chaotic with mixing up the squares so now that I've done it several years I'm leaning toward more uniform patterns like 8 squares of bush beans edged with parsley. I really like onions (leeks, garlic) between the leafy crops. Works well to go out & harvest outer leaves with a scissor here & there in the morning for a salad that evening. Sometimes, I snip too much and the lettuces look a bit sparse, but we're eating what we grow and it's saving $.

Hope that helps,
Corrine

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 3:39PM
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oliveoyl3

update:
soaker hoses worked well when they worked, but had a few leaks... They were repaired, but won't last indefinitely. Had a longer dry season that extended until mid-October. Soakers kept garden producing when I wouldn't have been able to get water to plants in intensively planted beds.

Moles wreck havoc tunneling in my loose soil depositing in pathways. Wish we had lined with hardware cloth. When wood rots we probably will & also add more height to sides. Three beds are 8 inches & a third is 18", which I like for root vegetables. Moles haven't gone in that deep bed, which is newest. Probably a matter of time.

Let kale & parsley self sow again. Easiest garden greens ever! My family is tiring of kale like they did chard when I over planted & served several times a week. Winter kale is better than spring kale.

Corrine

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 9:42PM
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