Sunday, March 9, 2014

2014: The year of the square foot

What do you get when you combine a small suburban lot with massively overgrown pine trees, a neighbor's tree that hangs over the property line, another neighbor's small fur planted directly to the east blocking the first four hours of morning sunlight, and sandy soil that will barely hold moisture and packs as hard as concrete after good rain?

2013 garden freshly tilled

That's why a few friends of mine consistently informed me of Mel Bartholomew's method of gardening known as Square Foot Gardening. Given my rich but sandy soil, raised beds with a homemade soil mixture will eliminate an improper pH balance, it will eliminate my problems of moisture retention (lack thereof), and will stop the massive threat of pesky garden weeds, while giving me the ability to plant all the crops I planted last year with likely a greater yield. That's why this year is the year of the square foot!

I plan to document the process as thoroughly as I can for multiple reasons. First, I know many gardeners - like myself - are new to something every year. Websites that are fresh and seek to incorporate modern trends are appealing; there's just something about a website that hasn't been updated for 3-4 years that keeps me from getting involved. And newbies like me are thumbing through photos on Pinterest and Google images nonstop looking for great space-saving ideas, so if I can share something that's working for me it will likely be here.

My plan includes every single crop I planted last year and several new additions. I will layout multiple beds in various configurations, including two beds that will be 2' x 2', one for each of my kids. They are both very interested in gardening (or at least spending the time outside with me) and as a means to give the gift of knowing how to grow food, they each got to pick out 4 plants to plant and tend. We'll see how this goes.....something tells me I've just added 8 more plants to my task list.

Proposed layout for ISUCG
My gardening itch has also found me signing up for a 10' x 10' plot at a local community garden on the campus of Indiana State University. I lobbied for a sponsor at my office, Garmong Construction Services, and was given the green light, and in just a couple of weeks - pending approval of the plot - I'll be constructing our beds, mixing our Mel's Mix soil, and preparing my cool weather crops for transplanting. The goal is to donate as close to 100% of the harvest to the food pantry at my church, The Life Center.

Stay tuned for frequent updates on both my home gardening as well as our efforts at the community garden.