Tell me about your square foot garden!

polly_il(z5/6 IL)October 15, 2002

I love to talk about my garden, but even more; I love to read about other folk's gardens! So, tell me about your garden, and I'll tell you about mine!

I have a series of raised bed garden sections that are worked in the square foot method. I amend my soil with compost, manures and other organic matter each year; sometmes using lasagne layering in specific beds. Some beds, I turn with a spading fork - usually the ones that I'm planning to plant seeds in; other beds I just plant as is, without turning the soil.

I live on a small farm in a decidedly rural area; at the end of a dead end road. My Pop, who lives with us, didn't quite understand raised bed gardening - "You got 30 bleep-blap acres out there! Why you think you got to grow grub in little bitty boxes?" was one of his more memorable statements! He's starting to come around a bit now, though; since he's seen the results. In fact, he's coming around a bit TOO much; as he's starting to take over my garden - telling me what I need to plant, and where and when and how. Can't complain too much, though; as he is a great one for pulling weeds!

My garden is in three 27'x27' sections; beginning at the south end of the side yard, near the road; and running north. All beds have wooden sides to them; made from rough cut 2x8's. Each section of garden is separated from the other sections by a 6' wide pathway of wood chips over cardboard. I love the woodchips for rainy season accessability! The all season, wide pathways allow me to bring in a small tractor and cart of amendments; and also makes my garden more handicapped accessible. The gardens are also surrounded with a 3' wide path of wood chips over cardboard. I am considering planting daylillies or some other perennial flowers on the outer edges of this path in the future.

The first section has a 3x3 bed in the center; surrounded by 2 sets of 4, boomerang shaped beds. Then center bed has 9 sqft of planting area; the 1st set of surrounding beds have 27 sqft of planting area each; and the 2ns set of surrounding beds have 63 sqft of planting area each. My beds in this area are each 3' wide; as are the pathways between the beds. I chose the 3' width because I am somewhat short and a bit more than somewhat plump - I hoped that I would be able to reach to plant and care for them comfortably. I discovered that I could have gone 4' without difficulty. This area has been planted to all vegetables in the past, but I am moving more to perennial plantings - such as rhubarb, and asparagus; and Pop would be delighted if we made it in to an ornamental grass, flower and herb garden. He just might get his wish!

Section 2 of the garden has an 8'x8' tea house/grape arbor sitting in a diamond shape in the center; surrounded by a 3' wide wood chipped pathway, and then 4 pentagonal beds. The beds are 12' on each outer side, with 4 1/2' legs and an 11 1/2' front; encompassing about 115 sqft of planting area each. In each of these beds is a dwarf peach tree, underplanted with nasturtiums (to help protect against borers) and June-bearing strawberries. Rhubarb and bee-balm also share these beds. There are 2 - 12" square stepping stones in each bed to allow for weeding.

Section 3 of the garden is still under construction. In the center is a large box (8x8) made of landscape timbers. This box will have a bench seat put around the perimeter; and will contain a small pond - this will hopefully be completed next year. This box is surrounded by - you guessed it! - a wood chip path. Then there are 10 raised beds, each 4x4 arranged in a square around the center box. The beds were used this past season for growing larger amounts of certain vegetables for preserving; but will be planted next year for fresh use crops, to make up for the loss of the 1st section to perennials.

I cannot expand my garden any farther to the north, as I have a clothesline at that edge. However, I DO have room to expand to the east, and will probably do so - just as soon as I can figure out a design that will complement the rest of the garden. I need more room for multiple tomato plants; pole beans and larger crops such as zucchini and cucumber. I would also like to figure out a way to put my chicken house in that area, so the birds could forage the garden in the off season (they're heck on those wood chips paths, tho!) Sweet corn, melons and pumkins are grown in an area about 1 acre in size, to the east of the garden; and will remain there, as we grow large amounts of these crops. I hope to plant about 16 more dwarf fruit trees next year, as well as raspberries and blackberries.

I use Mel's spacing in my garden beds; tho sometimes with a twist. For example - in a 3x9 bed I planted: a double row of snap peas down the center of the bed, 7 broccoli to each side of the peas, and radishes to the outside of the beds. Red cabbage this year went in a 3x3 bed - 8 heads on 12" spacing, with a salvia in the center square; green cabbage ditto. I planted okra on 12" centers down the center of a 3x9 bed; planting peppers on offset 12" centers in front of the okra; and taking advantage of the shade provided by the okra to plant late season squares of spinach and lettuce behind the okra. I do follow his recommedation to plant crops that grow on different levels together to take better advantage of your soil.

For spacing, all of the boards around my beds are marked at 1' intervals - this makes it quite easy to plop a yardstick across the bed for proper spacings. One trick that a friend taught me, that I have used with great success, is to pre-plant my garden squares. I use mostly brown kraft tri-fold paper towels for this - they are 8"x8" and I can fit 16 of them in my 3' wide beds per 3' length. They are also very inexpensive and break down well in the soil. I have also used regular paper towels (11"x11") and toilet paper (for rows) as the base in this method. Using Mel's recommended spacings; I made templates of poster board, and use them to mark the towels. I put dots of Elmer's washable glue on the towels at the appropriate spacings; then drop a seed into the glue and set them aside to allow them to dry. By working out my garden plan in the early to mid winter; I can spend those "late winter/early spring I'd kill to get out in the garden and it's still too early to even start seeds indoors" days engaged in a form of gardening by preparing my pre-planted seed squares. This saves me a lot of time in the main spring planting season; as I can prep and plant a 3x3 bed in ten minutes or so: I take a barrow about half full of compost to the bed to be planted. I turn the soil in the bed with a spading fork, tossing some of the larger clods and a shovel or two of soil onto my compost grater ( 1/2" hardware cloth on a 2x2 frame) that is sitting over the barrow. I sift the soil into the barrow and mix it in with the compost; then rake the bed smooth, lay down my squares and cover them to the appropriate depth with the sifted soil from the barrow. I tack a pre-cut section of chicken wire over the beds to keep the cats from digging up the squares, give it a bit of a drink, and - TA-DAH! - it's done! The towels seem to help prevent any weed seeds that are below them from germinating or pushing through, but do not provide any resistance to the roots growing down through them from the planted seeds. This makes it soooo easy to plant beds of mixed greens for salads; or to companion or succession plant in small areas.

Wow! This has turned from a note about my garden into a dissertation! Hope you all don't mind! I'd sure like to hear about your gardens as well - current or planned!

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shlycac(8b NE FLA 320)

Fantastic ideas. I am keeping your "note" for future gardening.
Would love to see some photos!!


    Bookmark   October 16, 2002 at 11:47AM
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kendrab225(z7 Alabama)

That is a great idea! I am going to try preplanting my SFG also. It would have saved my son from me being very angry at him a few weeks ago. I had neatly planted 2 different types of lettuce one red & one green in a pattern. My son then decided to play in the newly loosed soil. I was so mad. I should be used to it. Usually it's the squirrels that dig up my plants not the kids.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2002 at 4:35PM
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indigoskye(z9 CA)

Polly, please go right ahead with your descriptions. You have many wonderful ideas! :) I too would love to see a photo of your garden, although I certainly feel that I've visited already due to your detailed writing. :)

    Bookmark   October 17, 2002 at 1:27AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Wish I knew how to post photos - tho I'd have to go take some first, I guess! C'mon you guys, and tell me what you're doing or have planned. I know I'll be totally envious when all you southerners start planting stuff while I've still got snowballs bopping me in the butt up here; but green (with envy!) is a good color on me, so I reckon I can take it! If you don't want to talk about your garden, how about tips for square foot gardening?

One tip that works well in my SFG - I use popsicle or craft sticks to mark where I'm going to put my plants; then I come along with a bulb planter, and use it to dig the holes. It works great for just about any plant - I've used it for strawberries, tomatoes, melons, cabbage family, annual and perennial flowers, herbs; and probably some other things that I'm forgetting! Pop just bought me a new stand-up bulb planter for my birthday, so now it will be even easier. When the guys help me in the garden; I mark the spots, they dig the holes, and then I do the planting - gets it done lots faster, so then I have more time to sit in the lawn chair and admire the garden!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2002 at 10:51PM
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Your ideas are worth printing out to save for reference.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2002 at 7:02AM
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Hello, reading about your garden makes me really jealous! I have space, literally, for a 4 x 8 garden. I expect it'll be about that. I've always done containers before, so this will be a change of pace. We plan on buying three, 8' long, 2x10 boards and cutting one in half for the short sides. Trellis on about 1/2 the back for climbers like cukes. I had such bad luck with cucumber beetles this year I'm a little nervous about going to this much work, but we'll see.

I'm really glad to see this forum! Thanks, Spike!


    Bookmark   October 18, 2002 at 5:41PM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

My vegetable area started out as 30x40', which was enough room to grow sufficient amounts for my family of 3. But after the first year of traditional "row" planting, I was ready for something more organized. The row garden was too weedy, a lot of space was wasted on temporary paths (also weedy), and it was a big undertaking to amend the soil before planting (we actually rented a tiller to turn in compost).

In that area we built 18 12" high raised beds--most 3x4', some 3x8'. The paths are permanent--thick newspaper or cardboard topped with wood mulch. In each bed I space according to square foot methods. When I add compost or soil amendments, I am only adding them to where the plants grow, not the paths. And it is so much easier to take care of one bed at a time rather than looking at the whole undertaking of a 30x40' garden (which has now expanded to about 40x40' because it's so easy to maintain.)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2002 at 9:07AM
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Alys, last September I built the same size bed that you are describing and it worked well for me. I plan to build several more raised beds maybe 5' by 10' or maybe the 4' by 8' size this year. I added peat moss, 3-in-one compost, and composted cow manure to the leaves and home compost to fill it. This summer I've added straw as a mulch to the eggplant, tomatoes, basil, peppers and flowers still growing there now. The early spring crop of spinach, lettuces, and radishes did fantastic.

I bought a greenhouse-in-a-bag kit that is the same size to extend the season and shelter early flats grown from seed. This is a manageable size bed and not too expensive to put together with long galvanized screws. .....T.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2002 at 10:00AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Sounds neat, Alys! I like little bitty spaces to work with - they challenge my creativity: how to get the most in the least space. I use sheer curtains from the Sallies or Catholic Charities or other thrift shops to make row covers for my garden - threading PVC pipe through the hems and casing and bending them to fit my beds. I bet you could do something similar by fastening them to your trellis. You'd have to hand pollinate tho.

Hi Veilchen! Yeah, that's the great part about gardening in beds - you can tell yourself "Well, I'll just go weed the pepper bed" and the first thing you know, it's done and you've moved on to the carrots and then the broccoli....Hubs and I get a lot of talking done with one of us weeding on each side of a bed. It's nice to work together to make something look better!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2002 at 10:03AM
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RuralGardener(z5 IN)

WOW Polly! That is all I can think to say...WOW! Thanks for sharing your gardens with us :o)
All that and you still have time to sit in a lawn chair?? Great job.
I dont Âexactly have a SFG to tell you about. DH & I did however put in three beds this spring. I had not heard of SFG and was just calling them raised beds, they are each something like 4 x 8Â. We laid down thick plastic and framed them with wood and filled them with good soil. They were just experimental beds for me to Âplay in with the many new seeds and plants that I received from the exchange forums last spring. They worked great, and we are planning to make more of them. DH used one of the three beds to grow some veggies and decided quickly that this was a better way to go, as the weeds always take over our regular garden every year. Now that I have found this forum, I plan to convert these and the new ones to the SFG ideas I have been reading about.
Thanks, Cindy

    Bookmark   October 30, 2002 at 1:47PM
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I have 2-4x14' beds. 2-4x12' beds. 1-4x10'bed. And 23-4x8' beds. I made my first bed 5' wide and couldn't reach the middle. So all the others are 4'. The longer beds are a pain when you have to walk around to plant the other side of the bed. Of them all 4x8' are the best and most practical. Every one of my beds has a hoop system over the top of them so they can be covered and I have found that the deer don't like to put their heads between the hoops. The hoops are made of sch.40,3/4" pvc. White color shows up at night and seems to spook them.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2002 at 7:41PM
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I have a copy of Mel's book, one 4x10 and one 4x20 bed. Both have a couple layers of cardboard and newspapers lining them. Right now they are both empty of any plants. That's as far as I got this season. That is the entire story of the beginning of my square foot gardening to report. So far it's a sad story, but it can only get better, ya think?

    Bookmark   October 31, 2002 at 11:43PM
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Jacque_E_TX(Z 8a N Cent TX)

Hey, I'm SqFting because unnecessary work is not on my grow list. *grin* I'm in favor of getting the most out of my soil for the least total output. If that means I invest time, money, labor, and/or materials - then I want that investment to pay off over the long run. I use vermiculite because it will last for years. (And even longer for me, since I won't be retilling or walking on the soil!) Those accordian folds hold both water and air - a very good choice for my solid clay.

As soon as I've sent a few hundred more slugs to -hm- the dust from which they came, I'll be mulching with upside-down carpet squares, predrilled with SqFt spacing holes. Saves me time and effort, makes one of the best possible mulches, and may even protect the soil from some of the Texas temperature extremes. Until that happy day, I will keep on casting fresh coffee grounds over my crops, which they enjoy, but slugs do not.

Mel's Mix is a lot less work than tilling or layering, but I chose to amend - my native clay is crammed with minerals and micronutrients. This was not the best year to try this trick for the beds I planned, but it is almost over, now....

It is some work to make the inital beds (QUITE some work for this gal!), but the result will last for years with a bit of input every time I plant. No layering, digging or tilling needed. Just a trowel of compost with a sprinkle of minerals, and occasional daubs of gypsum. I cannot recall Mel ever changing his mind about the big rototiller. The idea is to keep the squares producing, not to carve up the yard, right?

I actually prefer to work up the beds, which contain living stuff (like microscopic threads of fungi) a lot like bread dough (which also contains living stuff -yeast). First I pretill some amendments in - especially vermiculite, gypsum and minerals - then let the soil rest for a week, if I can. Then I till in the composts and manures and shape the bed, then let it rest again for a few days before planting. (Temperature tells me how fast the microbes are growing.) Then I don't mess with anything below the top few inches if I can avoid it. I have big, fast growth in my plants that way. And less work for me. Yea!

My beds are about 4 x 20, except for the 'mater and pepper rows (18 inches wide - to give heat insulation), and the vining crops (2 feet by 25 or so - along the fences). I will be extending my seasons with thermal row cover, shade cloth, hoop houses, Mel's wire cubes, and any other handy (easy, and inexpensive) method. The idea is to keep the squares producing. "Empty squares" are not on my grow list. *grin*

    Bookmark   November 6, 2002 at 1:30AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Hmmm - glad you posted that about the pipe spooking the deer, Westbeck. I ususally don't have much trouble with them (we plant them their own patches of feed) but have seen them up in the outer edge of the garden recently, munching on my swiss chard - I'll keep your tip in mind for next year. How long do your pipes last before they get brittle? Can you tell us how you put your hoop system together; and how you fasten it to the beds? Thanks!

Strawberrygoat, that's not a sad story - that's an EXCITING BEGINNING!! (don'tcha just HATE perky people?!) So, tell us what you're going to do now - do the beds have side rails or are they mounded beds? How are you going to fill your beds and what with (soil wise)? Are you going to put in trellises? What are you going to grow? What does the area around your beds look like (pathways)? I read your slug story on "my page"; I don't know much about slugs, but I think I read somewhere that putting copper flashing on the top of your bed frames will help deter them. Good luck with your new gardens!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2002 at 8:45AM
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beth11(z7 southern MD)

Hi All,

Cool forum! I garden in 11 4x8 foot raised beds. I plan to expand by 4 or so more beds this spring. I made a cold frame to fit on one bed this year, and have lettuce growing now even after 1 F temps in the garden. (Cold frame temp stayed at 14 F). Time to build more cold frames! I have 3 foot paths mulched with landscape fabric and wood mulch and the entire area is about 30 x 40 feet. The new beds are going where the asparagus now grows- going to move it outside the garden proper. I've got the area edged to make it easier to weedwack around. I started out with 4 beds 5 years ago and just keep expanding! I can't imagine trying to weed a conventional garden-it's enough to just weed the beds! I grow all sorts of stuff-including heirloom tomatoes, and can't think of a more fun hobby!


    Bookmark   December 18, 2002 at 1:03PM
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Last year was my first attempt at Square Foot Gardening. Going to SFG was great for me because of the space constrictions I have.

Here is how my raised bed was constructed. I excavated out about six inches of existing soil and replaced the soil with sand. I put down a landscaper's membrane on top of the sand to keep roots and grass from growing up into the bed. The raised bed was made with decorative stones, which were glued together. The bed was also lined with the membrane. Because the stone are glued together, I can sit on the edge to plant, harvest, and weed.

In the early spring I planted spinach, several kinds of lettuce, onions, radishes (a flop), broccoli, and cabbage. When things warmed up I planted beans, cukes, tomatoes, and peppers. This small space produced more than we could eat.

After clearing off my garden for the winter, I have added leaves, compost, and fertilizer. I think the soil will be better next year....than last.

I have enjoyed reading about your gardens. I will try to add a link to some pictures of my garden. If you have any questions or comments, just send me an email.


    Bookmark   December 23, 2002 at 1:21PM
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jrw17(z5 NM)

Dear SFGardeners,
In the southwest, the Native Americans have been doing SFGs for a very long time under the name of waffle gardens. Here it is much better to have sunken gardens than raised gardens! I have about 20 4x4ft blocks for gardening. The clay soil I dug out of them provides raised walkways around the blocks. I learned that the walkways should be the same width as the lawnmower and the rototiller so you can keep them clean. I amended the soil with vermiculite, peatmoss, and compost when I started, and since then I keep a post hole digger to dig in the empty squares (1x1ft) and put my kitchen compost and cow manure in deep. This solves the only problem I have: over time, the clay and caliche from the surrounding soil seeps into the garden. Burying my compost deep keeps the drainage as open as possible.

I like this system the best because you only have to prepare a 4x4 hole and you suddenly have 16 sqft to plant different things in.

I have, in the distant past, mulched with carpet. I liked it, but my husband might sue for divorce if I ever did it again. He pulled it all out and hauled it to the dump after it disintegrated to a fibrous mass. I also mulched with pumince for a couple of years. I liked it because it would float on the irrigation water. Now I just use straw. I mulch the walkways in part of the garden, but just "dust mulch" the rest with the rototiller.

We irrigate with a garden hose from our artesian well. Having irrigated in many ways, this is truely paradise.

Everything grows well with this set up. My limitations don't come from living in a dry desert, but rather are the result of the cold nights at this elevation. I would recommend sfg to anyone.


    Bookmark   December 25, 2002 at 2:47PM
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krzjaz11703(6b or 7 LI NY)

I have 5 beds 8x4 each. I found the spacing in the square foot gardening book for tomatos is no where near what you need!!! I had determinate and indeterminate in seperated beds and in both, they got out of control, even with heavy pruning and trimming, you could not beat them back with a baceball bat!!!

The method is fine for pepper, eggplant and lettuce. But you need more like 18 to 24 inches for brocoli.

I will be doing things alot differently next season!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2003 at 6:22PM
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jodi_b(z6 Kansas City)

I was a first time square foot gardener this year. My husband built a 3X10' raised bed using 2X8 untreated lumber. He built a trellis along the back length of the bed using wood and wire fencing. We filled the bed with vermiculite, cotton boll compost, and peat.

I was amazed at how many things I could plant in such a small space!
6 tomato plants
2 watermelon plants
4 bell pepper plants
1 patty pan squash
1 crookneck squash
24 strawberry plants
marigolds (for pest control)

I was also suprised at how little work the garden took once the inital building and filling was done. It was nothing like toiling in the traditional garden we had when I was growing up.

I learned some spacing lessons this year. I was a little nervous about one foot tomato spacing, but it seemed to work for me. I'm not so sure about the recommended spacing for parsley, marigolds, and squash. I read that the spacing for parsley was 4/ft. My single parsley plant is easily 18 inches across. Suggested planting for marigolds were also 4/ft. I now have an inpenetrable marigold hedge! The marigolds overpowered my chives. There's no way either of my summer squash plants could be confined to one square foot. Fortunately they're on the edge of the bed and can spill onto the lawn.

I'm really pleased with the SFG method!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2003 at 2:39PM
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dcleaver47(zone 10)

i'm in nyc (brooklyn to be exact) so space is at a premium. i built a single 4x8 ft bed out of 2x6 inch pressure treated wood (didn't want to use presure treated, but landlord insisted). covered the inside of the bed with newspaper and then filled with 1/3 compost, peat moss, and vermiculte.

this is my second year of outdoor gardening, and my first serious attempt at growing from seed.

so far i've grown the following from seed:
bell peppers
basil (tons and tons and tons)
marigolds (long and short)
swiss chard

from the grower i got:
misc. flowers

so far everything has been spectacular, but i agree that marigolds will take over. i planted 4/1 and am having a b*tch for a time keeping those babies in their square.

at this time of year i'm preparing for spinach, lettuce, kale, more swiss chard, and possibly snap peas.

square foot gardening rocks! it's the only way to grow in brooklyn!
hot peppers

    Bookmark   September 16, 2003 at 4:04PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Here is my square foot garden. I built a bunch of raised beds with granite cobbles and beach rocks, but anyone could make one from rip rap or cinderblock from Home Depot. You can stack to any size and height.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2003 at 3:55PM
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morningstar_nwfl(z8 FL)

I live in the Deep South where you can grow just about anything and then watch the bugs eat it all.
This was my first year with a SFG, and I love it! My only bed is only 4'x8',filled with dirt, mushroom compost and peat moss but I've grown beefsteak, Roma, and cherry tomatoes, green pole beans, green bush beans (not too successful there), eggplant, bellpeppers, okra, lima beans, onions, lettuce; and now broccoli, english peas, beets, spinach, winter squash, radishes, and mustard greens. My swiss chard just fizzled in the heat, and the kitten dug up the cucumbers and carrots. I'm thinking of putting in another 4 or 5 beds of the same size for next spring, but between the before noted kitten and my 2 preschool boys, I don't know what could survive.=) I can defend a small territory, but with more... Is there a vegetable that can be trampled by a 40 lb child and still make it to harvest?
Seriously,I've discovered a love of gardening that I never knew I had. Before it was a chore, and now, SFG gardening has become my favorite activity...this is so strange for me, because I hate to sweat, I hate to get dirty, I get sunburn checking the mail, and I HATE BUGS!!! I used to have to have my hair, nails, and makeup done to perfection, and now when my husband comes home I'm always in the garden, sweaty, dirty, and happy as a pig in mud.(poor guy!)
In the rest of the yard (1/2 acre fenced, 2 acres total)I've planted two blueberry bushes, and they both survived hubby mowing over one and spraying Roundup on the other. I've got two pecan trees that produce pretty well and plan on putting in an orchard of dwarf fruit trees (apple, cherry, and pear), during the winter months. My yard has a North-South orientation, so I can plant trees and not shade the gardens too much. I'm hoping to have at least one bed planted completely in salad greens, so shade would be good for that. I just can't wait for cooler weather so that I can get out in the yard and get the new beds set up.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2003 at 8:57PM
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Cady(6b/Sunset34 MA)

Here's a shot of one of my other raised beds built from granite cobble blocks. It's incredible what you can pack together in a small "square foot" garden if you regularly refresh the soil with good compost.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2003 at 4:29PM
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poet1dagger(8b tx)

What is an sfg method???

    Bookmark   October 2, 2003 at 11:00PM
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Hi, all! Have gardened for years but am new to Sq ft.
I have five 4'x12' cedar beds in the community garden plot around the corner. I just filled them with Mel's Mix. I have an "earth machine" composter and just ordered a chipper/shredder to share with my fellow gardeners. I have a "blank slate" so far but am planting peas, lettuce, cabbage (head and oriental),brocolli, cauliflower, mustard,radish this weekend. I have 3 feet of path between each bed and the pathways are covered with bark. I have ornamental grasses along one fence and blackberries line another. I have been lurking in this forum for awhile but am now I am downright inspired!! Thanks Polly,for sharing. And thanks to all of you from whom Ive learned so much about "the BEST way to do it! (sq footin')

    Bookmark   October 8, 2003 at 9:19PM
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Hey,Cady, do you mortar those cobblestones? In the rock garden raise bed, you have 2-3 stacked. Doesn't the soil leak out between the stones and rocks?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2004 at 11:54AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

Mine just grew again. I'll post the details later when I can work out exactly what I've done to myself. Let just say that in less than two weeks I've managed to exhaust about 8+ yards (approx 3 tons) of mushroom compost building new veggie and ornamental beds...

    Bookmark   January 20, 2004 at 6:03PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

Ok, an update now that I've had a chance to inspect what I've done recently.

My previous SFG setup consisted of beds in the folowing dimensions and characteristics:

4'x13' approx 3' deep (on a slope) of almost pure compost and the top 6-8" of soil (sandy loam) mixed in. The next foot-ish of soil (red clay) was used to build up the downhill side of the bed for a coundation for the regular 8"x8"x18" cinder bloxks making up both long sides. Short sides are of 4"x8"x18" cinders stacked flat. Three trellises of painted 2"x48" welded wire across the width, anchored to t-posts sitting outside of the beds, so each trellis is close to 6' wide, and they start nearly 8" off the "dirt" in the beds, so they are close to 5' in height. This was the first bed I built, in early 2000. North-south orientation, along the slope.

4'x17' Half double-dug in the fall of the year I built the first bed, the other half mostly just covered with newspaper then compost the next spring as I got more sensible. Edges are one layer of the thin cinderblocks all the way around, but its also on a slope so I had to build up the lower edge some so its a little deeper than that in practice, and its deeper sand below than than the first bed. Trelisses are 2 more of the welded wire and t-post contraptions, and about 4' from the northmost end is a large one made of landscape timbers with a 2x4 and a 2' wide strip of wooden lattice across the top. I used to have lattice on the sides, but the wid keeps yanking it off, so I'm going to be replacing the lower lattice with concrete reinforcing wire. North-south orientation, along the slope.

A 4'x10' bed that was a 4'x7' with a wire ring of compost on one end until a few days ago. Moved the ring with the remaining compost back 3', took the cinders across that end and a few spares to connect up to the ring, and covered the half-cooked compost left behind with a layer of fresh mushroom compost to extend the bed another 3'. I'm going to be planting either gourds or melons (probably gourds) against the wire ring to use the composting ring as a trellis. North-south orientation, along the slope.

A 4'x8' bed that was a 4'x4' until a few days ago. Still working on it a bit. Like the other recently extended bed, I removed the cinders from one end to make long sides, this time extending towards a nearby fence, intending to use the lower welded wire fence as a trellis (upper fence is two strands of electric fencing to discourage the deer. I may have to create a step in the bed, as its at an east-west orientation cutting into the slope. a 4' strip of roof flashing will go against the fence to hold the compost mix in.

New beds this year:

Massive landscape planting near the front door on the north side, transitioning to a 2.5'x30' herb garden along the east/uphill side of the house. About 6" deep of compost with cardboard and/or newspaper under that. Mondo grass/monkey grass on one long axis and more 4' flashing tied to the house support pillars on the other (with a few bricks on the under the house side of the flashing to help prop it up, with raised brick against a brick pad at a gate on one end and the other end open into the plantings going round the front door and the straight line of monkey grass sweeping into an arc along the sidewalk.

Another new 2.5'x50' bed on the west/downhill side of the house, a concrete "brick ledge" between the pillars backing the bed agains tthe house with landscape edging forming the ends and remaining long side. Curved a bit at the ends to avoid splicing the landscape roll.

Another new 2.5'x9' bed on the outside of the 5' hurricane fence that starts at and runs parallel to the side of the house with the herb garden (south of the house). This is under shade, will mainly hose ornamentals but will be planted in a sqft philosophy (tight spacing, compostables as mulch) and I'll be sneaking in edible ornamentals when I can. Flashing against the fence to hold the dirt and protect the fence itself a bit, landscape edging on the uphill side outside of the fence. This one is along the slope in an area likely to have a lot of runoff at its edges, so I'm going to have to overengineer it, but its intended to be part of my water diversion scheme.

And a 3'x16' bed outside of the fence on the south side (furthest from and parallel to the south side of the house). Full sun, will have gourds, climbing squash, and/or melons against the fence, and some ornamentals and more herbs. Around the corner on the south end of the east fence is my compost bin for house wastes and overflow from under the rabbit bins, and I'm about to plant a fig tree right at the corner. This one is east-west orientation, against the slope, but the slope is very gentle here (no terracing expected).

Between the new beds, topping off the old ones, and mulching my fruit trees, in two weeks I've used up more than 8 yards of compost (about 3 tons worth) that I bought from a mushroom growing facility near here. I'm also needing to go get a load of (free) mulch from a gardening non-profit that they get as the shredded discards from the state highway tree trimming crews.

And a clarification, the fence around the yard is completely separate from the garden fence. I'm on acerage, so the fenced garden and orchard area is set back from (and is larger than) the small (50'x60') yard we have fenced. I sqft because its easier, not just to conserve space, though I'm running out of room without starting to cut down trees... I'm really not nuts, I promise, and I did start small before really picking up a serious gardening bug. I mentioned my small but growing orchard earlier, and I've got a 20'x20' plot that is a in-ground tree and shrub nursery that I might have to expand a bit as well.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2004 at 10:28PM
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Warthog7(8 OR)

I have a 16x12 foot garden that I have slowly built up about 6 inchs higher than the lawn. This has slowly evovled into a square foot garden. I also have a 3x16 foot allium bed that was planted with roughly 60 potato onions and 90 garlic cloves including inchelum red, chesnok and spanish roja. A 4x4 sq foot salad bed. Two small raised beds for my Kettle river Giant.

I also put in a 8 by 16' Flower bed with timbers and bench seat all around that has my tomatoes tucked in. As well as a couple blue hubbard squash that wander throught the whole mess providing me with about 8, 35 lb fruit every year.

Then I have two 8x8 foot raised beds with bench seats around one is my asparagus and potato bed. The other is a pond with sarassa comets, shubukin and wakin goldfish. Red orange and green dragon flys, bullfrogs and a host of other critters. The margins of which are loaded with louisana iris and zebra rush not to mention 4 lilly's. Send me an e-mail Polly if you are interested in how I built it.

Finally a little walking onion bed hidden in the corner.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2004 at 5:37PM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Warthog, I sent you an e-mail about your pond; but please feel free to reply here if you like!

I am also interested in your potato onions - I ordered some this year from Territorial, but they won't be sent until fall. Could you tell me a bit about their culture? I have a patch of walking onions that I am going to move to larger quarters, I think; as they are a bit crowded and flop into my pathways where they are. The older I get, the more interested in perennial food plants I become!

And, may I ask, what is a Kettle River Giant?

Ray - I think if I had done all that work, then more than just the compost would have been "exhausted"! Your garden sounds just beautiful. Have you photos anywhere on the net? I shouldn't even ask, as I am still procrastinating on mine!

I've been thinking about putting a 1' wide bed and trellis for limas at the north end of my garden; where it adjoins the clothesline area; but that would block the south breeze from my clothesline and make it not quite so enjoyable to hang clothes, I think. Does anyone know if melons do good on a shorter trellis? Say, 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall?

I still don't have my garden plan worked out for this year! But we are supposed to have snow again tomorrow night, so I guess that I still have a bit of time! I will be transplanting the brassicas and tomatoes into larger pots tomorrow; and may sneak a few seeds in under plastic too; just in case the weatherman is wrong!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2004 at 9:45PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)


Imperial 45 cantaloupe on a 4' trellis has worked well for me for 3 years running.

I have spring break this week, pictures will get in the next few days, that is a high priority on my to-do list (Plus I've got something blooming in the woods that I want help identifying).

    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 12:13AM
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Warthog7(8 OR)


Potato onions divide like shallots, one large bulb will divide into 8-10 small bulbs and small bulbs make 2-3 large, mine are currently about 6 inchs tall and looking good. This is my first year growing them but what I have read is they were the most commonly grown onion in kitchen gardens through the fifties. I was drawn to them because my great grandfather used to harvest a bushel from about 10 square feet.

Kettle River Giant is an Artichoke type softneck garlic with bulbs running in the 4 inch range. I have been looking for a large braiding type storage garlic and so far I like this over the others.

I am still looking for the CD showing how I built my pond when I do I will post some of the pictures. Basically I went up 18 inches and down 18 inches for 3 foot depth at center. Deep enough for most climates to survive the winter. I used 4x6x8 timbers to go up and capped with 2x8x10's to make the bench seat. I filled and stapled the liner prior to putting the bench on. In retrospectI would have let the soil settle more, my south side dropped and inch but overall it looks good.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 1:40AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Warthog: The pictures you sent me look absolutely gorgeous!! Our temps are quite a bit lower than yours; below zero is not uncommon; so I don't know if I could keep fish year round or not. Guess I need to do some pond research, eh?! I guess that 8x8 bed isn't going anywhere - right now, it's being used to stockpile browns for my compost, just waiting for grass clipping season; so plenty of time to make up my mind.

I've never had much luck trying to grow onions from seed, and have had to rely on plants from the store each year. I like to be a bit more self sufficient than that when I can, so the potato onions sounded like a good idea. I wonder, do you leave them in the ground over the winter and the summer, and dig when needed; or do you harvest and re-plant? I guess I should be taking these questions to the onion forum, shouldn't I?!

Ray: I was thinking maybe Minnasota Midgets, or Hale's Best canteloupe. I also ordered some Tigger melons from Baker Creek. I've got 2 - 16' cattle panels, which, coincidently, is the same length as my clothesline area. Not nearly tall enough for pole beans, but would make a nice break between the garden and clothesline, I think. I had thought cukes, but I really (really, really, really!) don't need 32' of cukes! Have you any other suggestions?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2004 at 7:04PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

No other melon variety suggestions - finding a melon that could withstand a 3' drop when ripe (too lazy to net or sling them much) and my neglect pattern of gardening (see previous lazy comment) took some experimentation and when I found one, I quit looking for others. (FWIW, Hale's Best was a trellis dropout, though I still sometimes grow it on the ground).

Despite seeming like I'm willing to work myself to death in the garden, when its so hot that I'm mopping sweat just walking *to* the garden I don't stay out any longer in daylight hours than I need to water, pick, and flee back to air conditioning. And at night I often miss fruits that I need to sling, plus a big cantaluope vine is kinda creepy by moonlinght in the woods.

The cowpeas (blackeyes) I grow are semi-vining, they would be close enough to topped out at the 4' mark to work for part of the run.

I grow luffas on a 5' fence, they would work on a shorter one though.

For a cool season crop, snowpeas could fill some space, especially between melon types where the melons would start crowding them when they were dying back anyway.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2004 at 12:53AM
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Warthog7(8 OR)


Potato/multiplier onions should be what you are looking for. Plant in the fall, mulch and forget until spring. For sweet onions buy transplants unless you want to start them in january in doors. I have had good luck with them, so-so luck with seeds and no luck with sets.

Unless the pond freezes solid they will survive but when in doubt buy a stock pond deicer for the really cold nights. Other than that just break a hole in the ice every morning and they will be fine. Goldfish are bery hardy and this is the fish of choice if you want flowers. Check the watergarden forum for more information.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2004 at 3:01AM
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gardening_in_va(z7 Virginia)

Your gardens all sound beautiful! This is my first year gardening - *ever* - so it's all at the experimental stage now, and very, very simple. I have two 4x4 beds, built from concrete block from home depot. I started with the pure clay that is my yard, dug it down about 6 inches and added some top soil to it, just to make a decent base for the garden. I placed my block around and filled it with the closest approximation to Mel's mix I could do. I couldn't find any good compost anywhere, and settled for a humus/manure mix and added some osmocote to it. I've ordered some strawberry plants to put in the holes in the block, and I'm going to plant a marigold in each corner. Right now I have some onion sets planted, some pea, carrot, spinach and spinach seeds in, and some broccoli plants that I got on deep discount at Lowes since there were only 3 live plants in a flat (and that's all I could fit in the garden anyway! :) ). I plan on growing the basics - tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, peppers. I can't wait for things to really start growing!!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2004 at 11:38AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

Uploading a photo album as I type to:
I don't have the pictures labeled yet, but the approximate order starts with the "staging area" at the front porch, visits the rabbits and ducks on the way to the coldframe, looks at the fruit and ornamental trees in the yard, then into the fenced garden with a look at the nursery rows where I'm rooting sticks of holly and crepe myrtle and trying to sprout various tree and perinneal ornamental seeds then the veggie beds, including one bed against a fence that's merged into a mulched row of young pomegranites and an asparagus, followed by a about 9 pics taken in the woods of interesting natives.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2004 at 3:53AM
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sarahOR(z8 OR)

I just want you all to know how inspiring you all are! I read this forum yesterday, and already have gone out and bought Mel's book. The only one they had at the store, was the 1981 version, not the new one. But I have the new one on hold at the library, and will hopefully get to look at that soon. Is the 81 version sufficient, or should I return the 81 and just get the new version?

Anyway, thanks for all your great stories. I now have an empty 10X20X1 foot raised bed waiting for me. I just figured out the soil I'm going to use, now I need to figure out whether to put cardboard underneath the garden, or just put soil over the top, and then figure out what I'm going to plant! And I have to do it all quickly so I can get a good crop in this year. Thanks for your stories, and let me know if you have any suggestions - I'm new at this and am humbled to know that everyone else knows more than I do!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2004 at 4:02PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

The covers are differnet, but the book contents are identical.

Ues cardboard, and if over bermuda, put down several (spread) sections of newspaper or a second layer of cardboard.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 2:27PM
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Blind_Aquilegia(ZN 5b IL)

Reading this thread makes my head swim ... in a good way. I tend not to read gardening books -- not because I wouldn't like to, but because they tend to be the most frustrating books to read using a scanner. Just when you're about to learn how to build a raised bed, for instance, they refer you to the diagram. Not real helpful, if you can't see what they're all excited about!

So ... I learn more from reading descriptive things, like this forum. That's a rather long-winded way of saying "Thanks!"

Now for a really, really basic question. We have decided to turn an area that's about 9x20' into a space for growing vegies. I'd already picked up (a little ... o.k. .... a very little) about the organizational / planning aspect of sfg, but I'm unclear about the raised bed part. The area we want to use is an established bed next to the house. It is "raised" about 4" above yard level. The bed is bordered by the house, the back patio, a sidewalk which goes down 5 steps to a lowered patio, This same bed, then, is "raised" on one side about 3' above this lower level -- absolutely perfect for easy dealing with plants near enough to reach. This lowered patio already has other beds around it that I love to work because they are so accessible.

So, do I already have a kind of raised bed?

Could some one give me a quick, clear understanding of what constitutes a raised bed?

Thanks again-

    Bookmark   March 30, 2004 at 9:50AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)


Yes, you already have a raised bed of sorts. If it is 9' wide across the whole length, you'll only have easy use of the 2'-3' next to the edges, with a zone in the middle that could only be accessed by building a path down the length of the bed.

As a point of clarification, the "raised" part of building a bed is optional. Some desert locations use *sunken* beds to mazimize water use. In essence, a bed is any defined space holding a planting mix that differs significantly from the structure of the surrounding soil. If you read a while, you'll see that we've come up with some rather creative ways to build beds and frequently put our heads together to come up with workable solutions for unusual situations.

Be sure to read through the FAQ linked at the top of the main SqFt Forum page. We've accumulated a lot of information there without using many pictures.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2004 at 11:52AM
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Blind_Aquilegia(ZN 5b IL)

Thanks, Ray. I'm off to read the FAQs. I'm new at a lot of things, including getting around forums!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2004 at 8:34PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

If you need help finding something or want a written description of any of the graphics that are in the FAQ, give a holler.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2004 at 9:36AM
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Blind_Aquilegia(ZN 5b IL)

Ray, just noticed your kind offer this morning. Since the topic of this thread is "Tell me about your square foot Garden", let me tell you what I've been up to ...

Read the FAQs ... a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing!

My grandmother -- the gardener who taught me to weed, set, pick, shell -- saved string. I guess I inherited the trait as I saved the interlocking cement blocks that had been used to edge a large bedding area in our front yard. These are ugly, they don't interlock particularly well, and they are nasty to fall over when stacked two or three levels high. These are not the standard concrete blocks that I've read about at this forum; they measure 12" x 4" x 4" and do not have holes in them.

Anyway, decided to use them as a way of marking out several areas within the large bed previously described. It's 8.5 x 19'. I've created a pathway along the house side which provides access to the water faucet. Two shorter paths run from the house to the sidewalk. One area is 4' x 5, the second is 3' x 5. The last area is irregular. It's 5 ft where it is bordered by the sidewalk steps going down to the lower patio. It goes 3 ft toward the house, then 3 ft back toward the lower patio, then back the rest of the way to the house.

I'm in the midst of putting down newspaper / cedar bark for the walkways and adding additional composted manure / perlite to beds. The whole thing looks organized, but probably wouldn't win any beauty contests.

I'm considering different ideas about grids. The problem with a complete grid would be spatial orientation. I could get "lost" and plant the same square twice. I may be better off with something that I move as I complete a "row" of squares. The problem is making what I need ... I try to be as independent as possible, but I haven't thought of a way yet for this step.

For now, I'm still mulching pathways and amending soil!


(BTW I'm a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and my day job is interim pastor of a church in a neighboring town. Was visiting one of my farmers in the nursing home and he loves to tease me about not lowering the corn prices with my backyard output.)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2004 at 8:53AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)


That sounds liek a nice setup. My newer beds are made with blocks only 4" high as well (part of a large pile of brick rubble abandoned on my property when I bought it), and they work fine over existing but decent soil

On double planting:
Though I also use them for labeling purposes (especially when I vary from the planting arrangement I'd written up while still in teh house) I often put a popsicle stick in each square or block as I plant it to mark that it has been planted with a seed of some sort, especilaly if I know I may get interrupted while planting a bed. while planting I don't smooth an area until I'm ready to plant it, then when done I make sure it is smooth on top while unplanted squares can still be quite rough from being raked earlier.

Transplant squares I can see ok, though you might also benefit from putting a sick of some sort next to each transplant so you don't accidentally squish a tender plant while feeling around for it.

I'm wondering if you could even mutilate a section of vinyl venetian blinds or strips of heavy foil (from the disposable baking pans) to have some sort of braile or similar coding system to help you track what you've planted where.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2004 at 12:01PM
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sweetbrat(z6 MI)

I'm in the process of creating my first garden ever, and I'm so excited! My husband thinks I've gone slightly insane, because I'm constantly looking at my seedling to see how they're doing, or talking about what I want to plant. We moved into our first house this past September, so I've been thinking about gardening ever since!

I decided on the square foot method because we live in the city, so our yard is pretty small. Also because I don't want to spend all my time weeding and watering. We're putting in two 4x8 beds built from concrete blocks. One of them is finished and ready to plant, and the other will be getting finished today and tomorrow.

I started some seeds inside, and I love watching them sprout! My garden beds will be a mix of flowers and vegetables. I'm most excited about having peas, beans, and tomatoes. This whole process has been a huge learning experience for me, but I'm enjoying it. GardenWeb has been so great for me. I can't even start to tell you all how much I've learned. Thanks for being so patient with newbies like me and for being so helpful. You're a wonderful bunch of people. Best of luck gardening....I'm heading outside!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2004 at 2:56PM
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Dazed_Confused(GA z7)

I just finished putting together my first SFG last weekend. I made it out of untreated pine 2x6s. After putting on a few coat of boiled linseed oil to all the lumber the finished bed is 4'x10'x11" in size. There are pointed stakes in each corner and 2 in the middle going down about 10" to anchor the bed and to keep the middle from bowing. I pre-drilled all the holes and used deck screws to join the boards together.

Living in Georgia, naturally the soil is mostly clay, so I put the bed in the back yard where I had little grass growing anyway, and the area gets a good amount of sun. This is a new house and the builders scraped away all the topsoil when they built the place. They put sod it the front yard and just put rye grass and fescue in the back. Most of the fescue grass just dies in the summer anyway and I didn't want to have to try to till up that hard clay, add admendments to make it workable, and then fight weeds and crabgrass just to have a little garden.

I've finally got it filled up with about 20 bags of walmart topsoil, 12 bags of Scotts garden soil, a 4cu ft bale of peat moss, and 6 bags of compost. I've got it all mixed together and it looks good. I'll be planting this week so wish me luck!


    Bookmark   April 11, 2004 at 2:47AM
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morningstar_nwfl(z8 FL)

This is now my second year of square foot gardening. I've gone from one, 4' x 8' bed, to adding four more 3 1/2' x 7' beds, and four 24" round containers. I've planted Roma tomatoes, Supersweet 100s cherry tomatoes, garlic, marigolds, cilantro and basil in one bed; Celebrity tomatoes, parsley, basil, cilantro, marigolds, and garlic in another; pod peas, Snow peas, nasturtiums, broccoli, cabbage, cilantro and one kohlrabi plant(to see if we like it)in the third bed; the fourth bed is planted in Zucchetta Tromboncino(vining) zucchini, yellow squash, nasturtiums, 1 sugar baby watermelon, 1 jack o' lantern pumpkin, vining cucumbers, and bell peppers. The original bed is planted in three types of lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, chives, onions, radishes, marigold, oregano and canteloupe. The four big containers are planted with artichokes, and I have Chile pepper seedlings ready to replace the winter crops in about a month. I'll then also plant green pole beans, purple pole beans, and black eyed peas. I've also planted two apple, one apricot, and one nectarine tree; five pie cherry bushes, and added four more blueberry bushes to the two I already had. Hopefully that will be enough to keep me busy for a while this summer.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2004 at 1:37AM
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pmkgero(5/6 IL)

Oh my gosh! Another Polly in Illinois! I'm on the Illinos side of St Louis.

I love to garden and putter around the yard. My garden is a combo of different technigues and styles. Whatever works for me and an occasional experiment. Hubby roto tilled my vegie area and I will be planting a few things soon. WS'd some flowers and vegies for an early start. They are starting fights amongst each other and need to be transplanted "out". It's so hard to wait and wonder when the last frost will be!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2004 at 11:07AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

So, you're a Polly too?!

Granny always said to look for the full moon in late April or early May for this area; and not to plant until it was past. This year, the full moon is May 4th, so shortly after that, say the 6th or so, should be safe. If I don't want to bother with looking at the moon, I use May 10th as the frost free date; or watch for the wild phlox to bloom in the woods.

If you're down near St. Louis, your frost free date is probably earlier than mine here in central Illinois. Unless you're in hilly terrain, you are probably in zone 6 on the new maps; as I am pretty much on the 5/6 border.

Now see, if we could get you gardening the square foot way, you could set your plants out earlier since it's so much easier to make frost covers for raised beds! I'll probably put out some early tomatoes next week - I've got some re-wire trellises on the north side of some of my 4x4 beds, so I will plant the tomatoes; then run plastic up the back (N) side of the trellis and down to the front (S) side of the bed if needed. I don't know why I actually go to the bother, as I've found that the tomatoes I set out later grow and bear fruit at just about the same rate as the early ones! Just gotta tempt Mother Nature I guess!

So far, I've got pea, spinach, carrot, radish, beet, chard and lettuce seed planted; and broccoli, sage, rosemary, parsley, and thyme plants. I also raked up the tops from my walking onions and planted a whole 4x4 bed of them to share out this fall. My purple asparagus in the SF beds is coming up great guns, while the regular asparagus out in the field hasn't shown even a nubbin yet. The strawberries in the raised beds are blooming; the ones in the field aren't. Pop is agitating for me to go scatter the zinnia seeds, but I am going to wait and hoe the weeds out of those beds a couple more times before the frost free date - give the zinnias a fighting chance!

Well, I'm off to go hoe my strawberries that are out in the field - just one more reason I like SFG!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2004 at 3:19PM
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Harimad(zone 7)

My SFG is new, variable and experimental. I'm looking to buy a (different) house so I don't want to do lots of work and I need veggies that mature early. My rental front yard is a cottage garden; I decided not to make major changes but to eke out what space I could. I have an irregular 5'x5' (with a board laid down the middle as a path) in a mostly-sun location, a sidewalk strip, and a 2'x7' in a full sun location. I bordered the beds with scrounged brick edging (the kind with scalloped tops), so my beds are only 4-5" deep.

Then I experimented. Last fall I single-dug the mostly-sun bed, filled it with half compost/half soil, topped with 2" coffee grounds, and mulched with 3" shredded leaves. That sat overwinter. I double-dug the sidewalk strip (it was compacted beyond belief and full of Queen Annes Lace) and gave it the same treatment as the mostly-sun bed. In October or so I planted pearl onions that had begun to sprout into the sidewalk strip. The full-sun bed I didn't dig; instead in the spring I created a raised bed of half compost, half soil.

Meanwhile I winter sowed spinach and a red romaine lettuce. A couple weeks ago I planted some of each in each bed (to compare the soil preparation methods)*, and also planted a square foot of lettuce into unimproved soil. All but one of the pearl onions disappeared over the winter; so I also plopped in a red onion that had grown impressive shoots in the (ahem) 2-3 months it spent in my kitchen. So far, so good.

But then I got to thinking: why not plant a few other fast-growing things, even if I don't love eating them? So I pulled some lettuce in the full-sun bed and planted a couple squares of sprouted radish seeds; I'll do the same in the mostly-sun bed when the rain stops.

Since I love peas I sprouted some peas (with mixed success) and planted one square of sprouted peas and one square of unsprouted seeds in the mostly-sun bed only 4 peas per square, though, thats all I had. This weekend I'll pull some more lettuce from the full-sun bed and plant peas there.

I tried sprouting chives, without success. So I will direct sow some chives into the sidewalk strip.

Finally, I will plant two indeterminate tomatoes (Early Boy, Best Boy) into large containers that have half compost/half soil. Those, at least, I can move with me.


* I know this won't be perfect, since they get slightly different amounts of sun.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2004 at 2:03PM
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oogy4plants(6B MD)

I am a new SF gardener this year.
How many are there using this forum?

My new garden is built on top of last years garden which became a small jungle of 1 crazy tomato plant with the world's smallest and difficult to harvest fruits, and cucumbers that couldn't be harvested before turning yellow.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by this new method so much that I convinced my husband to help build 6 4x4 raised beds. We filled them with peat, coarse vermiculite, and the cow manure/humus stuff. Also as much leaf mold as we had. The beds are made from untreated hemlock 2x8's that I treated with the USDA linseed oil/paraffin mix that they say is non-toxic. I like the way water beads off the boards.
So far I have planted some winter sown spinach, bok choy, collards, lettuce, turnip greens, and peas. Onion sets, carrots, more peas, and asian radishes. The lettuce is not taking off yet, but the peas and radishes are big. Sunshine will help since it's been cloudy and raining for days here.
I am very excited about my new garden since my efforts in small spaces before have been less than productive. I plant to plant corn in one 4x4, a zuchini in another, tomatoes, eggplants, beans, etc. and one is the salad green square. I can fit a lot of things in there.

I am wondering at the size of some of the SFGs described here. Do you eat all those vegetables? Haha.
I hope we can have more SFG conversations this year as our veggies and flowers grow.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2004 at 3:52PM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Nice to meet you, Oogy-Susan! Yep, we eat most of it, or give it away to folks who can't garden - senior citizens, food bank, homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter...Heck, the garden isn't near big enough for everyone who gets fed from it! We also can/freeze/dry/root cellar a lot of produce (Let's see, this year I need more catsup, less spaghetti sauce, more green beans, less carrots, more cinnamon apples, less strawberry freezer jam....) You just wait, you'll be hooked!

Harimad - nice to see you here too!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2004 at 10:03AM
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Here's my garden:

Two 5x12 foot beds, built with 2x12 untreated boards. One gets partial shade, the other is in full sun. The one with partial shade has:
turnips, spinach, tomatos, peppers, cos romaine, english peas, mei qing choi, tatsoi, buttercruch lettuce, black seeded simpson lettuce, collards, strawberries, chard. The full sun bed has tomatoes, collards, snow peas, peppers, onions, second planting of spinach, mesclun mix, carrots, beets, and eggplant. In a lasagna bed next to the house, I have tomatos, artichokes, a leftover celery plant from last year that's 2 feet tall, sage, garlic chives, and lots of flowers--mostly cosmos, zinnia, bachelor buttons, allysum, glads, marigolds, and in one corner, a set of iris. A small triangular bed, plus 7 containers, of yukon gold potatos, which are starting to poke up through the dirt. Six buckets with tomatos, two of which got knocked down in the freeze over Easter weekend. About 40 more tomato plants in the cold frame waiting for their permanent home--most will go into containers, as will the rest of the peppers and the squash. I'm hoping dh will be able to put three more 4x4 beds together for me by next weekend for bush beans, black eyed peas, and corn. Will plant the kiddie pool today with pole beans for the bean tepee hideout. And I'm trying to decide on a good spot for a sunflower fort.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2004 at 1:58PM
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When we lived in Navy Housing, we had used a hard plasic kiddy pool, filled with dirt..mix and divided it up like a pizza pie, worked out for smaller crops though! After 3 years we emptied it when we moved out when retired from Navy.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2004 at 8:25PM
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Blind_Aquilegia(ZN 5b IL)

Yeah! For several days my computer has been miffed at me (might have been something I mumbled under my breath!). It wouldn't read back what I was writing and so posting was out of the question. Wanted to thank Ray for his suggestions ... so, thank you, Ray.

Here's an update ...

it took me longer than I thought to get the mulch paths done. Finished yesterday and then started adding the compost and some perlite to the beds.

So now I'm ready to plant and I'm getting cold feet. I've been procrastinating by finishing a bed in our front with the hostas that had come out of the area for sfg as well as orange pansies and red & yellow pansies. I have a mild addiction to pansies. Can't help it ... they just make me feel good. Somehow we go into Walmart and pansies somehow jump into my cart. Sort of the plant-something-easy-and-familiar technique before jumping into a commitment with my sfg squares. But times a-wastin' and here in Springfield Illinois were having a mini-heatwave and the road to Petersburg IL is congested with farmers moving equipment up and down the road racing to get their corn in.

Maybe one of the Pollies in Illinois could offer a suggestion about what seeds and/or transplants to start. I read both of your recent postings. Should I go ahead with radish seeds or is it too late for this cold season veg? Lettuce? The bed that's ready is 4' x 5'. The second is an odd shape that gives me another 15 sq f. And I'll have a third that is 3' x 5'.

Oh, how I wish I had more memory of what my grandmother knew! She also planted by the moon cycle and there wasn't anyone in that county who hadn't sought her out for plant advice.

Dirt ready ... gardener just ever so slightly overwhelmed!

Charlotte, a.k.a. Blind_Aquilegia

    Bookmark   April 17, 2004 at 9:36PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)


At this stage our best option might be to call a local extension agent to describe your situation and ask for advise. A call to a local feed store or professional garden center might also get you some good advise. But you should have plenty of tiem for radishes still, though lettuce is more of a toss-up depending on your climate.

Even planting late you'll learn a lot. After a while I learned all the easy ways to kill a plant, making it easier to avoid doing those things in the future.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 2:22AM
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Blind_Aquilegia(ZN 5b IL)

Ah ... ain't it grand how sticking seeds and plants in the ground humbles us! My problem is that I'm a perfectionist and want to get it just right the first time.

Did go to a different nursery yesterday. It was recommended by a friend. Had fun talking with someone working there, and came home with 2 blueberry bushes (destined to live near our rhodadendron) and then my husband asked for something he's been wanting to get ... a packet of seeds for Swiss Chard ... the "Scarlet Charlotte" variety.

Thanks for your help ... Got to go turn off the water in our front yard!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 9:29AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Hi Charlotte! Sorry I didn't see this until now - I work every weekend, plus went in for a day (ick!) shift today.

I'm a bit south of you - down near Mattoon/Charleston (EIU)/Shelbyville. I just planted leaf and mesclun lettuce Saturday, and it should do fine until June at least unless we get some really hot days. You can always be sneaky and plant it on the north side of taller plants - I've also been known to hide the spinach under the okra to keep it going a bit longer. And for that matter - bacon, chard and tomato sandwiches taste just as good as the kind with lettuce, and chard is good all year long. Peas do fine even in the heat if you keep them well watered. Radishes can be raised any time of the year - they just get a bit peppery when the weather gets hot! Try the white icicle ones for less "bite".

My beds have wooden sides, and some of them have roofing nails in the tops at 6" or 1 foot intervals that I wrap twine around to mark out my squares. I still manage to plant the same square twice sometimes! Since you don't have wooden sides, perhaps you could use short "posts" such as tent stakes to mark your corners and use string on them to feel your way. You can also make nice grids out of mini-blind slats and brads from the office supply store - I plan to go to the Dollar Store and buy a blind just for this purpose!

So far, I have peas, chard, spinach, carrots, lettuce, radishes, beets (good for greens too), broccoli, cabbage, walking onions and 8 tomato plants out in the square foot garden; and red potatoes, pole beans, bush beans, sweet corn, walking and regular onions, tomatoes and zinnias planted in the field garden. We will hopefully get some more things planted this week; and will be picking up some heirloom varieties of tomatoes on a trip to Missouri this coming weekend. I do some succession planting when time allows - up until early August, when the great tomato deluge hits and I am too busy canning to come out of the kitchen except to pick more tomatoes! Then in late August/early September, I start in again with fall spinach, lettuce, turnips, etc..

I am getting more interested in perennial plants the older I get - like my walking onions and asparagus; many years my chard survives the winter under mulch and comes back in the spring as well. I just wish I liked rhubarb - we have a glut of it now and I can't get Hubs to quit putting it in the freezer! I think maybe he needs to make some rhubarb wine to use up the excess - tho I won't drink that, either!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 10:16PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

I planted Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard last fall and liked it, plus it overwintered just fine. This spring I planted several squares of another type and like it so far too, though I'm starting to think I've got waaay too many squares of greens planted right now. If the chard really does keep up all summer, I'm going to be *really* happy.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2004 at 11:41PM
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I just build my first SQFT garden bed. Photos are over on my website.

It took me roughly 6 hours to build and fill the first SQFT bed. This first SQFT bed is 8'X4'X10" 8 foot long, 4 foot wide and 10 inches deep. This allowed me to grid off 32 individaul SQFT squares for planting. I used 14-40lb bags of Top Soil and 11-40lb bags of Humus for a total of 1000lb of soil. I calculated that 21.33 cubic feet of soil was used. I think my calculations are correct. 96"x48"x8" / 1728 = 21.33 cubic feet.

So what do I have in the first bed?

Row 1 = 4 Early Girls Tomatoes = 1 per square.
Row 2 = 4 Jet Star Tomatoes = 1 per square.
Row 3 = 4 Big Boy Tomatoes = 1 per square.
Row 4 = 16 Head Lettuce = 4 per square.
Row 5 = 48 Carrots & 4 Head Lettuce = 16 carrots per square, 4 lettuce per square.
Row 6 = 10 Keystone Giant Bell Peppers & 8 Broccoli = 5 Peppers per square, 4 broccoli per square.
Row 7 = 6 Cucumber, & 8 Broccoli = 3 cucumber per square, 4 broccoli per square.
Row 8 = 6 Squash & 8 Jalapeno Peppers = 3 squash per square, 4 peppers per square.

16 Tomatoes
20 Lettuce
48 Carrots
10 Bell Peppers
16 Broccoli
6 Cucumbers
6 Squash
8 Jalapeno Peppers
130 Plants in a 32SQFT area.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2004 at 1:14AM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

Now Ray - I'm not going to make any promises about Chard in E. Texas! I was talking Illinois - we just get miserably hot, not blisteringly hot like you folks do!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2004 at 8:26AM
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frankcassiesmom(z6 mid. TN)

This is my first SFG but we are going for it! We have 5 4x12' beds. And one 2x12' bed used solely for verticals. On the North side of 2 of my 4' wide beds I also have trellises. I have one planted now and will be doing more this week. The one has tomatoes, peppers, okra, kale, chard, spinach, radishes, french breakfast radishes, baby carrots, coreless carrots, loads of types of lettuce, beets, green onions, marigolds, and.. I think that's it for that bed. One bed will be herbs only - loads of basil as I want lots of pesto in the freezer this year. One bed will solely be BIG things like zuchinni and melon. I know, go vertical. Just not this year. I am so enjoying hearing about other's gardens!


    Bookmark   April 20, 2004 at 11:14AM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

I'll see how it does. I've got squares of chard planted in a mix of conditions from full sun on the south end of a bed to just north of a wall of tomatillios. Even if it just resists bolting for just a month longer than the lettuce and lets me replant as soon as the heat breaks I'll be happy. Either way, I'll be planting less lettuce this fall.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2004 at 3:30PM
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Blind_Aquilegia(ZN 5b IL)

Computer isn't "voicing" what I write, so I'm writing blind. Frustrating that it sometimes works ...

Just letting folks that I jumped the hurdle ... took the plunge ... planted my first sfg square!! Funny thing is that it's a lot like any kind of planting! Discovered that my hand is exactly 4" wide at the palm knuckles. Useful for measuring horses and "eyeballing" ... hmmmm handballing? ... spacing for sfg. I'm also using my husband's metal T square. It creates a perfect corner frame for the square I'm working on and one edge is 1' long.

Working on my 4' x 5' bed, I put marigolds at all four corners. Will be putting scarlet Charlotte chard in the middle row of the bed, raddish (icicle), Oh, yes, I also put in some lettuce seedlings ... 3 sqs. I've got a sq for parsley and one for basil. Somewhere in there will be a square with 12 onion seedlings ...

Thanks for all the help!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2004 at 8:14AM
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My goodness, do you realize this post started in October 2002! What a long time to keep one going!

I am a lurker, seldom posting these days. But I see I posted back when this post was new. Unfortunately, I never did get my garden made. This year, however, I am (weather permitting) one weekend away from having a bed. Not what I intended, this is going to be a 17 foot long, 2 foot wide, bed, with a trellis running the whole 17 feet. (yes, it's a privacy screen.) My plan, at least this year, is to grow some cucumbers, maybe some melons and some runner beans for color and flowers on the trellis. Then I can put shorter veggies in front. Not exactly the standard square-foot bed, but hopefully it'll do.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2004 at 3:55PM
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shava(zone 6-7 (boston))

We just moved, so I'm starting over, pretty much -- but I have an 8x24' community garden plot. Since I'm inheriting someone else's abandoned mess, there's a lot of clean-up work, and I'm only just starting on it...!

Last weekend, I went to the Rebuilding Center, a wonderful building materials salvage place here in Portland, OR. There I found sixteen (exactly!) lengths of 2x6" cedar tongue and groove, a buck a board! It was like they knew I was coming...!

Now, I don't do Mel's method exactly, and frankly I don't have the funds to build up my soil as I'd like this year. But what I'll have is this:

4 raised beds, 3x6' buried about three inches into the ground and rising 9", filled with a mix of soil, compost and perlite (I like vermiculite better, but it costs about 25% more here).

From south to north, the plantings are:

A trench of peas

A huge inherited wasteful but lovely rhubarb plant, flanked by a couple of artichokes (which won't shade out my beds much since my beds are in the middle 6' of the 8' beds. I'm planting strawberries around the foot of the rhubarb, some June- and some ever-bearing.

One bed in small roots and greens.

One bed in coles.

Two beds in bush squash, peppers, eggplant, okra, and all those hot-loving but unvertical things.

Then, there's my great fun project! At the end of the bed, I'm running two trenches, one running N/S at the West edge, and one running E/W perpendicular to the S end of the N/S pole, so the whole thing is like a right angle with the point on the SW. I found a bunch of abandoned 4" aluminum conduit pieces that someone had actually decorated (assumedly for an arbor) and then chucked. So I'm making a little arbor/garden room.

Beyond the trench area for all the viney things (cukes, tomatoes, runner beans, jack-be-little pumpkin) I'm going to put down a carpet remnant, and put a couple folding chairs and a rubbermaid tote for storage and for a table. So on hot days, mid-summer, we'll have a shady arbor garden room to relax in between forays into the sun.

Besides the community garden plot, my landlord's given me approval to garden a sunny strip opposite our parking area for the four-plex. There's already rosemary, oregano, spearmint (which I care for not at all), and lovage (which I have fallen in love with -- I always wanted a celery that was all leaves, and this one's six feet tall and care-free!), plus some daffodils and a buddeleia and various bits.

I'm cleaning out the incredible amounts of grass and some of the spearmint, trimming back the rosemary, and tieing up the sprawling buddeleia, and Doug's buying me a number of 6' trellises to run up the wall.

In this case, my SFG is almost like container gardening. The strip goes about 8" down and hits concrete. In places where I'm planting things to eat, I'm trenching and filling with a light raised-bed style mixture. But for some of the tolerant herbs (like the spearmint) I'll probably go light on the amendments just for cost's sake.

At the foot of this 3' wide strip, I'm planting Italian and curly parsley, cilantro, peppermint (which I love to use in tabouli and other salads as well as tea), lettuce-leaf wrapping basil and pesto basil, and a few other things. I'm also planting a border of nasturtiums in front of the rosemary bush to set of the dark green evergreen foliage, and to mulch the roots a bit.

On the trellises, I'm planting kuri squash, bitter melon, armenian cukes, and probably a couple yummy green- and orange-fleshed melons.

In some wild little corners of the yard, I'm transplanting some borage from the inherited community garden plot, planting a horseradish plant, a dwarf blueberry, and a couple other little spots of edible landscaping.

Being unemployed at the moment, I'm trying to do this on seeds from last year and leftover bags of amendments as much as possible. Of course, I hope to get a job soon, at which point I'll have far less time to garden -- but I hope by then I'll have all this set up so that I can do a fairly puttering routine to keep it going the rest of the summer.

As a single mom, I love seeing what gardening has done for my 11-year-old son, who complains like the dickens about garden work, but always finds something "kule!" in every hour he's in the garden.

If anyone in Portland happens to have a supply of manure, good compost, or whatnot that they could spare, I could surely use it this year!


    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 1:41AM
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redrac(9 NW Houston)

This is my first garden in many years. I put it in to get my kids interested and I like to watch it grow. One 8X4 with corn carrots lettuce onions garlic green peppers tomatoes and soon cilantro.
I'm planting the sweet corn and lettuce and cilantro about every two weeks. 1 4X4 all strawberries 2 8X2 for tomatoes cukes cantelope watermelon pumpkin and tomatillos next to a fence that I will hang some chicken wire on. Still need to plant a few habeneros and jalapenos and I am still trying to find some epizote and mexican oregano. The first corn is almost 4 feet tall already. SFG does work great, so far almost no weeds, although the mixture is still cool 4 inches down despite 80 degree average during the day. That will change soon and the peppers will like that. This is just a temporary garden since we will move sometime this year.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2004 at 7:26PM
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My name is Lou and i have been doing raised bed gardening ever since i lost my Leg four years ago. I started with Chimney flue liners that i got on sale but they are made of Terra Cotta and to prevent water loss i painted the interior with swimming pool paint. They have worked for several years now. Recently i got turned on to the SFG method and it sounded good so i built two 4' X 4' raised beds from Cinder blocks and am now realy into it. I am in the process of building a PVC Grid that will serve as both a divider for my squares and an irrigation system. I recently posted a notice regarding the building of a tower for Pole Beans which offered free instructions on how to build one and i have already had numerous responses. I am planning on purchasing a few Well Casing sections which i will also use as raised beds next year I mix my own soil. using a combination of Top Soil, Peat Moss, 10=10-10, and Vermiculite (which i purchase at our local pool supply at 10.00 for a 25 Lb bag) I have a Craftsman Barrel Composter which is not very good as a composter (too small to generate required heat) so i use it for mixing all my ingredients and it works real well.
Occasionally i visit the local Ukrops and they give me bags full of corn huskings and other throw away produce which i use in my Compost pile so i always have a good supply of fresh compost (By the way Vermiculite is also a good ingredient in the compost pile as it retains the moisture)
Another good tip i wold like to pass on is my method of securing my vines to the trellises. I tried that green stuff they sell in the garden centers and have had some bad experience with it cutting into my veggies. As an alternative , i purchase the old style mop heads (the ones with all the nice cotton strings, you know, like Mom used to use. I simply remove the piece of fabric that holds them all together and and viola a bunch of nice tying strings.
For most of my watering i use rainwater, i have the downspout of my house connected to a 35 gal. tank and from there it flows thru an underground well hose to a 250 gal tank behind my Garden I live in the county and well water gets very scarce during dry spells so i use my saved water. a good single rain fall will fill the tank easily.
Some of the stuff i plant i buy right from the Grocery store, for example, I purchase one bunch of Elephant Garlic and break it up into individual cloves and just stick them in the ground, I do the same with Shallots, and onions. Be careful tho , you can't do it with Potatoes as they are treated with an anti growth chemical.
Speaking of Potatoes, I am rather excited as i planted two Yukon Gold this year in one of my terra cotta planters and everytime i see green popping up i cover it up with soil and peat moss (I read about this method here on the forum) If they do well i am going to increase my planting next year.
The last thing i want to address is the planting of those teenu, weeny seeds. a task that is nearly impossible for most of us. I developed a method of handling the problem. I purchases a roll of that white tissue banner material (at the local dollar store) then i get my seeds together with a roll of scotch tape and a pair of tweezers
(Turn on the news while you do this) now take about a foot of the tape and place it upside down on the table, using the tweezers place one seed about every half inch, when finished, press a piese of the banner tissue on the tape so that the seed is sandwiched betwee the tape and the tissue. now take a scissors and separate the seeds now you have something big enough to easily plant at the garden site. The initial watering will distroy the glue on the tape very quickly and the tissue soon follows.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2004 at 8:52PM
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jgoldschmidt(Z6a Kentucky)

you can read all about our garden here:
two years worth of garden journals.
we just finished round one of our squarefoot beds today... all that's left is mulching in the walkways and building trellises.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2004 at 11:30PM
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bostonwolf(z6 MA)

I'm growing on my back porch (right behind the kitchen and it gets about 8-10 hours of sunlight so long as I keep the beds pushed up against the rail. I have two 4'x2' beds and am growing the following in the beds

Nine tomatoes (all vining, mix of cherry and full sized)
six leeks
nasturtiums (sp) on each corner with some marigolds about to go in to keep the pests away a little bit
two swiss chard (the colors are just phenomenal)
several lettuces (iceburg, red sails, buttercrunch)
hungarian yellow peppers (hot!)
three pole beans and three bush beans
genovese, sweet, and purple basil

I was silly and did not mark off the square feet so my spacing is a bit off. I'll be fixing that for the replant because I have the feeling my garden could be much denser. I think that carrots, radishes, and some more lettuces will be in the fall crop.

Also in various containers (some to stay on porch, some to go downstairs because they will need the room)

yellow crookneck squash


A huge patio tomato plant that I could not resist at the local nursery, it has already set ten fruits with many more to come from the looks of it.

Several jalapenos, a purple bell pepper, golden bell, and california wonder.

Also attached to the railing are two more lettuces (thriving so far in the cool New England weather and full sun)a creeping rosemary that will come indoors come wintertime and a flowerbox planted with sage, chives, and catnip for the kitties.

I'm hoping to get some pictures up once I get everything settled into its final arrangment

    Bookmark   May 20, 2004 at 12:15AM
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Violet_Skies_(5b S.Central WI)

I have a 4' x 8' SFG built out of 2"x10" untreated pine, open bottom with deck screws at the corners. (Don't let anyone tell you it will rot it a year unless you use cedar --this is the third year for mine, and it still looks just fine!) I laid flattened cardboard boxes over the lawn, with some large stones underneath at one end to make it flatter-surfaced.

The garden gets full sun all day, but I do have a problem with wind, as we live in a new subdivision without many houses or mature trees around us yet. I use a variety of clear plastic cut-off bottles and milk jugs to serve as wind protection when the plants are little. I gradually cut them lower so the plants can build up their strength against the wind.

In the bed, I have: a raspberry bush in the upper left corner (which has grown and spread from one square to about four in a year, but that's OK by me--I will just prune the new canes out if it takes over too much). Next to that in the back top row, I have all radishes right now. Radishes are said to repel or kill bad nematodes, which hatch into the dreaded cucumber beetles. And, since they will be followed soon with cantaloupe, sugar baby watermelon, and cucumbers in that back row (trellis to be added later), I will leave several radish plants to bloom, to further repel those nasties as well as to attract beneficials.

OK, so moving right along, the next row has snow peas (3 squares with a trellis down the center). Then 5 shallot plants...why five? Because I went crazy in April and put them (grown from seed under lights) outside too soon, and most of them froze and died. Ack!! Impatience is not a gardening virtue. Sharing the square with the shallots is a Cubanelle pepper plant, and the next square holds a Sheepnose pepper plant. (None of my hot pepper seeds germinated, so I guess we'll just have sweets this year.) Next to that, I have a series of six squares that have three tomato plants arranged in a triangular pattern, with Wall o' Waters on them for now; they are about 2 1/2' tall and look good. The varieties I am growing are Amish Paste, Eva Purple Ball, and Akers West Virginia (all heirloom varieties). In between the tomatoes, I have two plants of Genovese Basil and one of Lemon Basil.

OK now in the next row, left to right, I have one square of Cilantro, one square of carrots, then three consecutive squares of Edamame (soybeans). Then you run into the tomato-basil area.

In the front row, left to right, I have Italian Parsley and chives (formerly a huge mass that I just split up into little pots to sell at my plant sale), Mint and Oregano (both in their own plastic containers, bottoms cut out and then sunk into the SFG bed). Then four squares in a row that go: beets, lettuce, beets, lettuce. Varieties: Ruby Queen and Brilliant Blend beets, and Little Gem Cos and Cimmaron Cos lettuce. The final two squares have four rutabagas each.

About 6 feet away from the SFG, I have a composter made from a black plastic trash can with holes punched all around. I have Red Swallowtail bush seedlings planted all around it which should eventually reach 4' tall, hide the can, and attract many butterflies with their pink blossoms.

Ok, as if that wasn't enough, I also have a large planter where Delicata Bush winter squash and Empress of India nasturtiums have been planted. Besides this, many hostas, daylilies, and annual and perennial flowers, most in pots but some in the ground. I live in an apt and have a large cement deck. The front portion of it gets sun much of the day but the back is in shade. At the front of it I have two trellises which will be covered in Cypress Vine eventually...for hummingbirds. I have a lot of bird feeders too and the goldfinches are regulars.

OK I think that's about everything...LOL I have so much fun gardening. I don't understand why everyone doesn't do it. I credit 90% of my success to gardenweb forums, which I discovered about 4 years ago. :-)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 11:39AM
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bostonwolf(z6 MA)

I finally have some pictures to share, here is a description of what's planted

Planter Box 1

Across the back (pictures are linked below)

Sweet Million (Cherry indeterminate)
Supersweet 100
Big Beef

the front four squares from left to right

2 Nasturtium Alaska (flowers)
2 swiss chard
six leaks
genovese basil
sweet basil
purple basil
three red sails lettuce
two buttercrunch lettuce
two iceberg lettuce
mountain mint

Planter Box 2

Five tomatoes

2 early girls
jet star
yellow pear

One arugula (let me tell you that stuff grows FAST)
Hungarian Wax Peppers
3 Kentucky Blue pole beans
3 Bush Blue Lake bush beans

In pots

Patio Tomato (I think it's beefsteak but am not sure, I bought it almost fully grown at a greenhouse)

Golden Bell Peppers
Purple Bell Peppers
4 jalapeno peppers
crookneck yellow squash

In pots on holders over the railing to get more sun
Red Sails lettuce
Buttercrunch lettuce
creeping rosemary (will come inside to winter)
Grey Sage, chives, and catnip in a planter

And soon to be moved to the backyard before they take over the porch

Straight 9 cucumbers
(maybe one or two pepper plants)

You'll notice I made the "mistake" of planting the tomatoes to the south (which is the general direction the porch faces) but this is the only way they'll get 8-10 hours of sun per day. As you can see the other veggies, mainly greens, are doing pretty well so far. I figure the tomatoes will eventually shade them during the summer and maybe help them avoid bolting.

My landlord wasn't game for me doing the garden in the backyard and I really prefer it in back since it is literaly out my kitchen door. Couldn't be easier to maintain.

Hopefully all the loose dirt and pots will be cleaned up by the time I take the next batch of pictures. Enjoy


    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 6:51PM
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I have a "guerrilla garden" at work. We used to have a compant that supplied potted ficus trees and indoor plants in the office. They would come around once a week to water and take care of the plants. When we went bankrupt, one of the first things to go was this service. They just left all the plants behind, and most of the ficus trees died, until one of the secretaries "adopted" them, and managed to nurse a few back to life. But we lost three of them. We up-rooted them and saved the large pots.

We put the pots out on the loading dock, and I put in tomatoes, peppers, and cukes. The cement reflects heat upward, creating a little micro-climate. Stuff I plant at work matures earlier and usually does better than what I grow at home. My boss says the garden is the most productive thing there.

I also made a watering system I call the "Apollos I"; (I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase)

I made a 7/8" hole in the bottom of a plastic trash can, and inserted a "myers hub" (this is a watertight electrical fitting, with NPT threads) screw a 1/2x3/8 reducing bushing into the hub, and connect a soaker hose. I looped the soaker hose through the pots, and plugged the bitter end. I fill the trash can with water once a week. (I had to tap into the landscape sprinklers and toss a boat hose over the wall to get water, but that's another story)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2004 at 12:36AM
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Boris_edm(3a AB)

Thank's for the chuckle!!! heeheheh productivity issues... lolol...hehehe... chuckles...

    Bookmark   May 26, 2004 at 12:47AM
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We're deep in the woods here, so I actually had to clear an area of saplings to get started - which meant rooting out stumps with a mattock. I'm slowly cutting firewood from around that area, so it gets more sun every year. Used some of the logs as fenceposts and put a wire fence around it. It's 20'x20'. Orginally planned to have nine 4'x4' blocks, but after the first year (four 4'x4' blocks, laboriuosly double-dug) I figured why waste space on unecessary paths? So now it's two 4'x4', two 4'x10', and one 4'x16', 2' paths mulched with wood chips & sawdust in between - no mud! All beds after those first four were lasgana layered over the weeds. I'm currently using 40 sq ft as compost heap - might as well rot it right where stuff is going to grow. This will rotate around the garden from year to year. The rest is lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, squash, flowers, planted in blocks (4'x4' or 2'x4') within the beds. It should be easy to rotate this whole scheme. My growing soil is thickly mulched with half finished compost made from the annual leaf fall and whatever green grass clippings and weeds I can scrounge, which isn't many here in the woods. This makes watering very easy - no runoff, little evaporation, soil stays moist, and it keeps weeds down - very few sprout through the mulch. Transplanting - pull back mulch, pop in plant. Seeding - pull back mulch, drop seeds, put back some of the black, well rotted bottom part of the mulch, which is basically finished compost. Problems: some slugs in the mulch, not enough to worry about. The mulch is low in nitrogen apparently, so I need to boost it in various ways. I also add some wood ashes and rock phosphate occasionally, nothing very scientific. This method would probably be pretty acidic in pH if I didn't add the wood ashes - all those rotting leaves. Plant supports: I've tried various things, cages made from fence wire, poles lashed together. Nothing that I liked particularly much. I'm planning to try the string thing on the tomatoes this year.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2004 at 2:43PM
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I finally have the physical energy this year to do a garden. Have had Mel's book since it first came out in the 80's but was glad to see his updated versions on his website which is much more doable.
I bought a 16# bag of vermiculite, spaghum peat and bought amended soil which is dug out from a river bed, mixed with compost and left to cure for one year then 1/3 sand is mixed in. I was impressed with this find! So that is my 1/3 compost portion.
Built a 2x6 untreated pine box with a ply wood floor and filled with Mel's mix. Planted cucumbers, pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes on the back side with a trellis and basil and pepper plants in the front.
Not being fully convinced about this 'mix' I also did 3 18X24" happy yellow plastic containers with 2/3's compost and the the balance in vermiculite and peat, one tomato plant in each of the two containers and one Delicato squash, all trellised.
All plants were started from seed and planted at the same time. The container plants are now twice as big and hardy as the ones in the Mel's mix 2x6 box. I've always gotta experiment!
Everyone laughs at our trellis and I hope it holds up! I wanted to spend $0.00 on this project so I hit up my neighbor who has a lot of junk in his yard and he had this rusted square pipe which we cut up, drilled holes in (God bless my husband!) and strung jute on. Only thing is, this contraption is 10' tall & 6' wide! We put each one in an empty sheet rock mud bucket, filled it with Quikret and then assembled it. Two sets of these. Looks like the entrance to L Bar Ranch!
I have no idea how these will hold up but we can always do more riggin down the line! Perhaps I'm a little overzealous in my vision for the pole beans and indeterminate tomatoes?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2004 at 12:11PM
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digbklyn(z7a Bklyn)

I don't think we have a real "sq. ft. garden," but we pack a lot into every square inch of our Brooklyn backyard garden. It's about 3-1/2 feet wide and runs along the fences on 3 sides of the yard's outer perimeter (about 20 or 25 ft. long total).

We planted pole beans (Scarlet Runner, pole limas and an unknown kind - lost the seed packet)and pole peas in the back of the garden next to the fences. (Hides the ugly chain link too.) In front of that, we have tomatoes (4 kinds including Yellow Pear), broccoli, sweet peppers, jalapenos, basil, oregano, parsley, celery and brussel sprouts. We did few bean and pea planting, putting the later ones behind the slower growing plants, such as brussell sprouts. One corner is for corn (the beans and peas grow up it).

Strawberries edge the garden. So do the cantaloupe and honeydew melons, which will send their vines on the lawn just in front of the berries. Tho, like last year, the melons will probably snake through our tiny (3 by 15)lawn by season's end!

Lettuce, spinach and other greens grow in flower boxes (those we let grow to a good size) and interspersed thru out the garden wherever there's a bit of space (these we pick young and reseed often.)

We're already eating beans, peas, berries, the early planting of broccoli, herbs and greens. Tomatoes and peppers are ripening soon. We sit in the evening looking at the garden and can't believe we're in Windsor Terrace (near Park Slope), Brooklyn!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2004 at 11:33PM
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I'm expanding a bit each year. This past year I've gotten seriously into composting.

Unfortunately the local critters discovered my garden this month. The slugs haven't been a problem since I started adding free starbucks coffee grounds to the mulch last year. However something else has been coming by at night and nibbling the lettuce, beans, and peas practically to the ground.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2004 at 8:59AM
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Oops, left out one letter in the URL

    Bookmark   June 27, 2004 at 4:10PM
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pdxjules(8, Portland, OR)

Thanx for all the lists - you helped me get my plan together - I copy/pasted names of things I've seeded and for seed that's patiently waiting for attention.

I planted shallots, various onions - and lots of garlic in 2 of the long, raised wind-rows in which I intensively planted all sorts of things (squashes, peppers, melons, mescluin mix, asparagas) with a herd of tomatoes last year.

A couple people have already donated to me their leaky kiddie pools - via my FreeCycle request today - so I'm planning sq ft gardens for these - and will probably come up with a couple more - as I need tons of clean space for all the tomatoes I grow, share & consume.

Have never really grown much lettuce - so I've seeded about 12 kinds - to balance all the spicy and bitter greens that seem to like it here, acting as if perennials who seem to adore ice storms.

I have lots of sprouts from indoor sowing just the past 2 weeks, and have barely begun that task. 3 kinds of basil are sprouting! I need to rig up some night cover for the happy looking cucumbers that are begging to be planted out well before most folks even start their seed. Think I'll run bamboo stakes thru sheer curtains for the sides, then cover sections with plastic at night, as needed for more sensitive plants.

A Landscaper friend is bringing me some good sterile compost contiaing cow manure that I'll add as mulch all around the garden and as a top-dressed fertilizer when plants are looking established & wanting to do a jump in growth. I need more seed medium, peat & vermiculite - my home compost will never go far enough.

Curious how folks arrange your taller things - like Bronze Fennel & Jerusalem choke - do you grow that in raised beds too? Seems the tubers would be more useable that way. Do you all have separate tall sections or garden borders loaded with - & Hollyhock and Sunflower?

Anybody do Hops? I'm in Oregon so that's mandatory - so I got some attractive golden hops - but am a bit timid about how to handle the assorted vines they'll put up. No DH to do building jobs - and I'm not totally incapable with power tools - but can't imagine getting around to this. Would like to know the EASIEST way to do a strong weight bearing trellis. Ok - off to another Forum to look around with tall stuff & Hops in mind!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 3:12AM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

I'm not really familiar with hops growth form, but probably the easiest way to do a trellis is with electrical conduit. I just bought some fence posts - instead of the T posts, they have more of a u-shaped cross section, so the conduit will nest well with them. Sunk these in at 7.5' intervals, and will use 3/4 or 1" conduit lashed to these for the heavier crops, with a conduit across the top (you can get all the little connectors you need in the electrical section at Home Depot), and tying up with jute twine - inteterminate tomatoes and melons. For the lighter weight crops - pole beans - , I'm using 1/2" conduit and bird netting.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 1:16PM
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Orena(z6a central PA)


My very sturdy 5-foot high by 4-foot wide trellises are made of 3/4 inch diameter copper plumbing pipe, installed over 1/2 inch rebar pounded into the ground. The pipe is sold at any home improvement store in 10-foot lengths, which worked out great for me.

For each of my 4x4 beds, I cut two 10-foot pipes into two 6-foot pieces and two 4-foot pieces. (I used a handy-dandy pipe cutting tool about the size of a deck of cards. You can also use a hack saw, but it's not as easy.) I then pounded (and pounded, and pounded, with a hammer) two 4-foot lengths of 1/2 inch diameter rebar into two corners of the bed until I had about 1.5 feet underground and 2.5 feet above ground. (Actually, it was about 1/2 inch inward from the corners to leave room for the copper pipe.)

Then I slid two 6-foot pipe sections over the rebar, and gently tapped the pipes into the ground with a rubber mallet about 8 to 10 inches--to the point where I couldn't pound anymore without disfiguring the pipe. You can't pound too hard on the copper or you won't be able to add the connectors. This is okay because the steel rebar (pounded much deeper) provides the necessary depth to secure the trellis.

Then I finished the trellis by connecting the two vertical pipes with a 4-foot horizontal pipe, using right-angle copper pipe connectors. I didn't use any glue or solder since the structure seemed sturdy enough without it. (And they have held up for two years so far.)

The cost of this trellis was very reasonable, although the price of copper pipe has gone up in the past year or two. Note that copper pipe comes in either 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch diameter, and in three strengths--M, L, and K. M is the thinnest, and K is the thickest. My store only had "M" and "L" available, so I chose 3/4 inch "L" to make sure it was sturdy.

When I made my trellises, the pipe was around $5 per 10 feet, and around $4 for the rebar and the pipe connectors. Since I used a total of 12 feet of pipe per trellis, I figure each one cost me about $10 +tax, plus the $10 for the pipe cutter, which I still use to create other copper pipe garden structures.

Hope this helps!


    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 12:17PM
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I just found this post, and your nifty 2002(!) post in which you use "upside-down carpet squares, predrilled with SqFt spacing holes." Is this still part of your SFG game plan? How long do they last?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 5:16PM
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Well, the last posting was back in June of 2005.

So, after a year and for all of you first and second year does your garden grow? :)


    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 11:58PM
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sandaidh(western NY)

Well, I just found this thread. I joined Gardenweb some time ago, but just didn't visit very often. I'm enjoying reading about other's gardens.

This is my first year doing a square foot garden. I wanted to last year, but wasn't able to build the bed. This year, I did it. My inspiration was an article in premiere issue (Spring 2004) issure of Better Homes & Gardens Spring Planting Guide. The article is called 'Grow Your Veggies' and is on page 65. As per directions, I built a 4 ft by 4 ft bed, 12 inches high, and filled it with six 40 pound bags topsoil, three 40 pound bags of soil/manure blend (couldn't find bags of compost) and 4 cubit feet of sphagnum moss, all mixed well. I marked sections off with green garden 'tape.' Based on the diagrams in the article, I made charts so that I knew what I wanted to plant where for each season. I used their planting suggestions as guidelines, changing as needed. For example, I don't like peppers, I planted something else in its place. I did some from seed, like the carrots, and some from seedlings. And I tried to remember to keep notes of what was planted when, and when I pulled it out to plant something else. Should make for better organization next year.

My first, early spring planting, included carrots, red leaf lettuce, head lettuce, romaine lettuce, brocolli, snow peas and onions. The lettuce, all of them, did extremely well. I only wish there were some way of preserving it because it was still going strong when I'd about "lettuced out." Once the lettuce began to bolt, I pulled it all up, stripped off the leaves that were good (most) and gave an awful lot away. The brocolli provided me with three harvests before the plants were spent. The snow peas grew wonderfully, and between them and the sugar snap peas I had in another part of the garden, I've got 2 1/2 pounds of peas in my freezer. The carrots have been slower growing, and are still in the bed even now. I've been harvesting a few though and they are sooooo good. The onions are the only things which didn't really do well of that first planting. I may put them somewhere else next year.

My late spring planting, which is still in the bed now, includes cherry tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, purple bush beans. As mentioned earlier, the carrots are still there as well. The tomatoes, both varieties, are growing rampant, with lots of tomatoes on the vines, although none are ripe yet. And I've got beans, although they're not ready to pick yet. I think. It's been a long time since I've grown bush beans at all, let alone purple ones. The peas are all gone now.

I had planned on a late summer planting of lettuce and brocolli, but I can't find the seedlings at the garden center any more, nor can I find the seed. Given the way the tomatoes are growing, I may just go ahead and skip the late summer/fall planting this year. But now I know for next year.

My whole gardening area is about 16 ft by 16 ft, and my 4 ft by 4 ft bed sits smack in the middle of it. Around the bed, I grew fiber flax on one side (harvested and drying now), sugar snap peas (on trellises, and all pulled out now), Yukon Gold potatoes in garbage bags (just harvested my first potatoes today) and Indian corn, which I'm just starting to pick. In a way, my whole garden is an experiment because I moved from northern CA, which is a zone 8/9 to western NY, which is zone 4/5. I'd like to do more raised beds, once I figure out where I want them and what I want to put in them. LOL

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 1:19PM
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Great subject and great site!

Here's my set up: I have 40 4x4 squares and 1 ft wide area running the length of the garden (on each side) for my climbing vegies.

This is my third year on this. First year was a learning experience (translation? Low production). Second year was good production with much less weeds.

The only thing I don't like about SFG is that it leaves no room for a natural landscaped effect.

I'm putting a lasangnia section in the corner soon. I'll use three rail road ties. By the way, I have a high electrified fence around everything. Too many deers in the area.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 2:35PM
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sandaidh-it sounds like you had an AWESOME 1st year SFG! I'm going to check online and see if I can see the 'inspiration' article that you mentioned.

As far as my SFG...

This was my 1st year also. I built a 4x12 bed using composite lumber I found on clearance at HD. I built my bed on an old garage/driveway site so it was kinda dirt, gravel, grass, and weed mixed area.

I lined the bottom of the box with cardboard, going under the edges actually. I then add a layer of shredded mulch that I got free at the recycling center. Followed by a mix of my 1 full compost bin of 'black gold' (this year I have 2 compost bins going, soon to be a 3rd with leaves!), a couple bags of top soil, a couple bags of manure, 2 bags of vermiculite, and 2 bales of peat moss. *My FIL thought I was NUTS when I told him I was making the dirt for my garden- boy was he surprised at the results- needless to say, next year he is going to try 'making dirtless dirt'!

For the most part, I marked off 'sections' using leftover pieces of faux wood miniblinds.

In the SFG I planted, spinach, carrots, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cukes, peas, broccoli, lettuce, and parsley. I got a bit of a late start, so my lettuce didn't really fair well. I did get to enjoy one spinach salad. My parsley, spinach, and a lot of the onions got buried under dirt when I had a load of topsoil delivered for another yard project. I did plant A LOT of onions so it was ok really. Next year I will try a different variety of onion as these were soooo hot! The carrots did great, they are still growing. The peas also did well. My 3 year old actually planted them and loved watching progress- and eating! I never did cook any of the peas, as between the 3 year old and my 17 year old -and myself :) ate them all straight from the garden.. yummm. The tomatoes did well also. I was able to can salsa and a few batches of spaghetti sauce, as well as sharing tomatoes with a friend at work and eating ourselves... boy it sure was nice to say at dinner, oh I think I'll run outside and pick a fresh tomato for dinner... I still have a good amount of good size green tomatoes that I tend to pick and wrap in newspaper and slow ripen for future enjoyment. We had a good supply of cukes also. Nothing like fresh cukes and onions in vinegar. My peppers went so so. I think that one the plants I bought brought me aphids as I had a bout of bugs for a bit right after planting. My broccoli was awesome. I had never grown broccoli, or my parents had never broccoli in our garden growing up. I was afraid for a bit that I had planted them too late and they were not going to develop, but after waiting and waiting, I got broccoli! Definately plan to do it again next year.

I also did a bean teepee type thing that worked pretty well and I plan to expand on that idea next year.

For my tomato and cuke trellis I used white pvc pipes with netting. For my peas I used bamboo and twine- probably will do that different next year.

I also did 3 buckets of potatoes as an experiment. They went pretty well. We had 2+ dinners worth of potatoes. May try a diffent potato experiment next year- garbage bag? in straw?

I have materials to build another bed for next year so I can expand my garden and reap more joys! Want to get it built so I can add lots of fall leaves in the mix too.

SFG is great! Especially when you live on a small city lot (>.25 acre) and can still garden.
I think I read almost every post in this forum this past year trying to educate myself.

Thanks to everyone that takes the time to read and post- where it be questions or answers or opinions or pictures- cuz I'm sure somewhere down the line it can be of benefit to a fellow gardener!

Happy Gardening!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 11:17PM
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Oh my gosh...I'm so happy I found this thread!!! I am new at vegetable gardening and last year planted a 4x6 raised bed with mainly herbs and 8 bush beans. Something kept eating the bush beans buds all summer so I never got many beans. I had a 3' chicken wire fence around it, but not on top. It was either birds or chipmonks. This time, I'm going to make a wire mesh top for it that I can take on and off like a lid.

I'm definitely planting the garden again, except I'm clearing out all the herbs, except for the tarragon and Italian parsley and adding another raised bed 4x10. I want to plant red leaf lettuce, spinach, bush beans, cherry tomatoes and snap peas. I'd also like to plant some potatoes, green onions, garlic, carrots, cucumbers and brussel sprouts, but I don't know what I have room for!!!!

As I said, I'm new to vegetable gardening and this SF method sounds like you can grow a big variety of vegetables in a smaller space. I live in the Pacific Northwest and will have to start most of my plants indoors since it is still in the 50's in May.

Does anyone have suggestions as to how I can lay out this garden to get the most plants for the space??? I will have 2 raised 4x6 and one 4x10.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 4:28PM
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Have you read the book Judy?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 5:21AM
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Since I posted that message, I read and reread the book and carry it with me to refer to it whenever I need it!!! LOL

I ended up with 4 4x4 beds. I'm in the process of building cages for all 4 of them so the birds, deer, rabbits and anything else won't get to them! I have broccoli, brussels sprouts, Italian parsley, leaf and romaine lettuce started inside. I should have planted a few things outside already, but have been finishing up a couple other outdoor projects and have not been able to yet. But, hopefully, I'll get the peas, onions, potatoes and carrots planted outside next weekend!!

I'm very excited about it and hope everything goes well! I have followed the whole set up BY THE BOOK!!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 3:03PM
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I started my organic square foot garden on March 11th. I built 3 4x4 boxes to put into my yard. I constructed the boxes out of untreated pine ($4.50 for 6 6x8 boards) and deck screws ($6 for a box), finishing them off by stapling weed blocker ($0.79 per 1x4 section) to the bottom and placing the boxes on top of my lawn. Per Mels suggestion I made the soil from a mix of 1/3 Perlite (similar to Vermiculite), 1/3 Peat Moss, 1/3 organic compost. (This came to $65 or so)* Finally, I stapled twine to the wood to form the square foot grid. 2 of the boxes contain 16 1x1 squares but because I was not paying attention one of the blocks ended up with 12 squares oh well. The last frost date for my Zone (PacNW) is April 15 I am told. I simply could not wait that long and I went ahead and threw quite a few seeds in the ground. Oh well again. I think the peas, carrots and radishes will be okay but we will have to see about the beets, spinach, chard, gladiolus, cala lilies, nasturtiums, and lettuce that I planted. Although I put everything in the ground only 8 days ago, Ive been out twice a day to see if anything has sprouted. I also planted some tomato, marigolds and lettuce seeds in jiffy pots indoors. The lettuce I planted indoors sprouted in just 5 days it has been such a treat to watch the little sprouts. Man Im a geek. The zucchini and tomato seeds I planted indoors (next to a window) have also sprouted. Just yesterday I noticed tiny sprouts in the outdoor garden: the radishes! I am keeping a simple blog about my garden and cooking endeavors which includes photos of the garden I just started the blog and garden so there is not much excitement yet but stay tuned to see if I can get some tomatoes, eggplants, basil and more out of my investment. Notes: *On soil: I think it is cheaper to buy soil in bulk from a local soil-slinger I would have if I had a truck. I purchased my seeds from Territorial Seed Company. I can spend hours flipping through their catalog. They have a huge variety of organic veggies and they test their crops in PacNW climate.
If you are interested in the blog please visit

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 5:08PM
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I have a flower bed that measures 8 feet long---8 feet wide---and 16 inches deep. How many 40 pound bags of top soil would I need to fill this bed?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 9:07AM
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I'm brand new to gardening. I have a 4x8x11" bed built on concrete. I have a trellis, 6' all along the length of the bed.

Is there a planning chart somewhere that would help with the overwhelming task of choosing what to plant when and when to replace it with what? I don't have the book yet. I will get it from the library.

I want toms, beans, peas, maybe one of each: melon, squash, cuke, okra. Potato and topsetting onions, a little lettuce mix, carrots, nasturtiums, french marigolds, zuccini, and whatever else I can squeeze into the bed or containers.

Thank you in advance. PS Awesome thread!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 5:22AM
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I just started mine this weekend. We had 81 degree temps on a December weekend, so it was a good opportunity to prepare for Spring.

I'll have two 4x9' beds and two longer ones only 24" wide because they're along a wall. SFG isn't always in 4x4's.

So for now I only have turned soil and heavy mulch. Later I'll dig one more bed, add frames, and improve the soil.

I've even started a blog about it. Nothing much there yet, but look for a lot of green photos next year!

I'm not new to SFG. About 25 years ago, when the SFG show was on PBS, I was very enthusiastic about it and had a tiny garden that was the envy of the neighborhood. I can't imagine why anyone would use any other method. If I ever see a rototiller, it'll be too soon.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 11:23AM
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I'm intrigued and confused about the paper towel and Elmer's Glue detail.

This is what I think I read: You take a paper towel. You put dots of glue according to the seed spacing. You place a seed in the glue dot. When the time for planting arrives, you place the paper towels with the now dry glue and seeds on the surface of the raised beds, cover with dirt, water, and eat fresh produce sometime after. Do I have it right? If so, that is fantastic!


    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 6:39PM
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polly_il(z5/6 IL)

re: paper towel and Elmer's glue. Yes, you have it right. You can make your seed squares in the winter (when you're not busy wintersowing plants for your square foot garden), then you have them ready to plant when the spring frenzy starts. I prefer the brown paper towels like you find in dispensers - they seem to break down faster than the other kind.

I can't believe this post is over 5 years old - thanks, Zee, for pointing me back in this direction.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2007 at 7:19PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

My story is long, but I'll try to shorten it. My brother convinced me to turn a southern facing triangular area of my yard that was the blight of the universe, full of weeds and garbage, into a garden. A friend suggested I read SFG and I took much of Mel's ideas to heart.

I cleared the area down to bare dirt and got up as many weeds as I could. Then I laid down landscape fabric and three inches of pea gravel. Then I built four raised beds on top of the gravel (good for weed control and drainage).

The largest is 11x4. The next is 10x4. The other two are 8x4 and 5x3. Each box is 15 inches high (three 2x6s). My brother convinced me to go higher than he did (one 2x6). They are all diagonal shaped at one end to form a "perfect" line along the fence line to give a 4' path between my front and back yard, with each bed having a 2' path in between. I am looking for two roughly 3x3 plastic containers for potatoes (any ideas, I'm striking out online).

I will get dirt in mid February and start planting in the Seattle area in late March, early April. I hope to feed a family of 4 with the following vegetables (with SF devoted to each in parentheses):

Corn (40)
Cucumber (4)
Onion (7)
Radish (5)
Peas (6)
Bush Beans (8)
Pole Beans (8)
Broccoli (8)
Cauliflower (8)
Tomato (10)
Carrots (8)
Lettuce/Spinich (12)

I just started my broccoli and cauliflower inside, hoping they'll sprout for mid-March planting.

For fruit, I've got a pear tree, plum tree, new apple tree and two newly planted high-bush blueberries.

I'd love to post my plan, and some picks of the beds we built, but I'm better at building things than computers and can't figure out how to get them on here.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 11:42PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Just found a way to upload pics (thanks to my wife)... Here's a pic of my garden plan and a couple of my beds (no dirt yet)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 12:04AM
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sinfonian, I really like the way you slanted your beds so it makes an even match to the fenceline and a walkway. That looks neat and managed to make it a great and organized use of space, whereas if you hadn't done that, I''m sure it would seemed cluttered and inconvenient (esp to others).

I have two 4'x8' 36" high beds, and two 4'x12' 24" high beds all of cinderblock. And some substantial containers for some cattle panel arch trellises (five) and a variety of other containers. It functions as a standing garden, which since I'm supersized is really necessary, I can't crawl around on my knees in 'normal' gardens.

I didn't garden last year, didn't do anything at all. I had built the garden (with much landscaper help) and used it for a few years, then my now-ex came back and I let him take it over for 2 years. He didn't clean up and didn't want landscapers in to help before leaving and then I didn't have money and ended up in denial, not even going into the backyard for eons. Added to that, the recent freeze literally cracked or shattered nearly every big container in my garden.

So! It looks like something out of a movie. A SCARY movie. :-) The weeds were 12' high (this in raised beds, alas), the big center mulched landscaper mat with 6"+ of leaves has composted into in-situ soil; there is more growing on the ground which is supposed to grow nothing, than in the beds, and on the whole, let's just say it is a rather major 'opportunity for improvement'.

My 11 year old daughter and I are determined to "make it beautiful" and grow a ton of food. We managed to get the weeds down to about 6"; I'll have to shovel the top of the soil out entirely. We managed to get the worst of the leaf buildup and several 'tumbleweed-from-hell' sized dead dry weed collections out of the garden and into the compost area.

Next is shoveling out the big 21 & 32 gallon rubbermaid containers all over that the weather killed. Then we're dissembling two ad-hoc beds the ex made in the middle of the garden, which just makes it crowded for me, and replacing some of the tubs with small beds for the arch-trellising out of those same cinderblocks.

There is so much work to be done it's a little bit daunting. I'm not in shape for it but I'm working on it! But she's been helping me a little and I have big dreams for it, so it's my current obsession.

I have a blog I began in '06, that has a couple pics of the cinderblock setup and of the garden itself, but then didn't continue as I wasn't gardening, I'm going to revive it again as we go through getting this into shape. I'm so excited about all this. It has really cheered up my January!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 8:24AM
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I have a 4' x 12' Raised bed that i am unsure how to properly utilize. I am reading my seed packets, some say row spacing 24", some 12", some 36" a row simply the distance it should be away from other plants? I think i'm confused. Since I only have a 4x12' veggie garden, do i need to even pay attention to the "row" spacing instructions? Can i just go by the plant spacing instructions? HELP PLEASE

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 11:06PM
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I just posted pictures of my square-foot garden in the vegetable forum. If interested, the link is below. My first season to ever garden was last year. And I just adored having a garden, I was inspired by Mel's Square-foot method! :)
I'm thrilled to have found this thread, it was a treat to read what other fellow square-foot gardeners were doing in their gardens! Thanks to all that shared! :)
Keep Smiling, Amy :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 1:14AM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

Wow...thats an awful lof to work to do for a SFG!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2008 at 2:48AM
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iameve(Gpt Ms)

I am doing square foot gardening with a twist...I use to live in the country with lots of room and did the Ruth Stout gardening technique....but with less room,

I am doing the square foot garden this year...I have harvested so much form just one bed it is amazing,,,we have four 4x12 boxes and a long 12" wide bed in the back where I have these wonderful Sunflowers...I plant a few marigolds here and there too..I don't know if they help with the bugs but they are pretty. I tired to plant just the number of plants two people will need, so I have a variety but not too much of anything.
I love this method,,,no weeding,,,and mulching everything the way I do,,,,I really am not watering that much although it is in the 90s here now.
Right now, I have squash,,several types of beans, broccoli and peas are just going,,cabbage,,onions, peppers, hot and sweet, basil, tomatoes, carrots, mustard, eggplants, bausch, and I just noticed I have little watermelon and cantaloupe...I also have strawberries, only six plants, and cukes,,pole beans (Kentucky Wonder and Contender) and patio, cherry tomatoes,,I tried to grow lettuce but only got one picking,,,I think it got too hot...

Here is a link to my blog...

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 11:35PM
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Thanks to all for the great info.
i am pretty new to vegetable gardens. i live between Sarasota and Fort Myers Florda.
I am in the process of building several raised beds
from cinder blocks a friend gave me (over 400).I just finished the compost pit 5x4x2.
I plan 2 10x4x1.5 beds and 1 4x4x1.5 bed for herbs and such,also an area about 20x3x1.5
(i would like to grow pole beans and corn in this section)

I do not see anyone from my zone on here and i am not sure
when to plant or what will grow around here.Summers are brutal!!!!!
Any help or comments would be greatly apprieciated.I last lived in upstate New York,but this is a different world
down here.
I am not afriad of work so any suggestions will be very
helpful. Thanks again

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 12:37PM
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we have a nice thread about Florida gardening - something like "what have you had success growing in your FL SFG?"
there is only a few of us, but it's been really helpful to me already - you should come over and say hi :)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 9:33PM
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grolikecrazy(6-7 UT)

very interesting I want to come back to this. Chris

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 10:10AM
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I am looking to start SFG this year. I removed an old deck made with pressure treated lumber. Is it safe to use this lumber since it is 15 or more years old? I have planty of it and this would be a great way to utilize this older wood. Thanks for your opinions.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 7:10AM
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dkolter, you'd do better to start a thread to ask this question. But...Old pressure treated lumber was treated with arsenic. I probably wouldn't make a bed out of it. Maybe if you lined the insides with some heavy plastic..but why take the chance.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 1:56PM
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I'm glad to see this thread resurrected. I see in 2002, I had plans for a 4x8 bed. In 2004 I'd scrapped that and was building a long bed next to my privacy trellis. I did that - turned out the trellis runs north to south and so the morning sun is shaded by the trellis and the afternoon sun is shaded by the neighbors house! That bed now has a few hostas and some honeysuckle.

I did, however, in 2007 FINALLY build my 4 x 8 raised bed. I made it with landscape timbers and the interior dimensions are more like 4x7. I've grown in it two years now, this will be three, and love it. I can't wait for spring. Right now I have peas, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, lettuce, spinach, carrots and onions planted. I've never done the broc/caul/sprouts before, so we'll see how that goes. Later in the year there will be a zucchini planted and tomatoes and peppers go in buckets along with herbs. We're thinking of putting in a second bed for zukes and tomatoes and if we get that done I'll be thrilled!

Isn't SFG just the best?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:02PM
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