Tell me about your square foot garden!
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!