I saw Mel Bartholomew, the creator of Square Foot Gardening, do a presentation on SFG recently.  How many SFGardeners do we have in the group?

My mother bought one of his early books... I think the copyright is 1981. She never got a SFG started, possibly because the early book suggested double digging.  I'm pretty sure that was beyond her capability at the time. This is one of those circumstances where I wish people were reincarnated, or looked down on us from heaven, or something similar, as I think she'd be happy that I finally got started.

I just finished my first 4' x 4' box, and have Seascape strawberries growing in it.  We made Mel's Mix ourselves.  I'm looking into an alternative to peat, as I've heard that peat bogs in some parts of the world are being mined to the point of destroying yet another unique habitat.  Someone also told me that Canadian peat is sustainably harvested... but I'm going to look into that, as it sounds like a contradiction of terms.   

If I could find a cheap source for coir, I'd experiment with it.   If I have time, I'll be making a better composting system this summer, as what we have now is a pile on the ground on the edge of our front woods.

It took me FOREVER to find a source for inexpensive lathe to make grids, as I didn't want to buy a bundle of 50 or 100.  I finally settled for a bundle of 50.  I reckon I can make more grids and advertise them locally to sell.  

It also took me a long time to find relatively inexpensive coarse grade vermiculite.

I'm hoping to have a couple more 4' x 4' gardens started soon.  This year, I'll mostly focus on salad stuff, but next year... skies the limit!

Tags: Mel Barthomew, SFG, gardening with disabilities, square foot gardening, square foot gardens

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I have the same book as your mother's and I got started at once. I've been growing on my land for 35 years this summer and had all kinds of compost piles. When my children were still at home and we grew huge vegetable gardens, my compost pile was 6 ' wide x 12 ' deep x 6 ' high, made out of lumber from a salvage/demolition business. Every spring we took it apart and spread the compost onto the garden, and we grew some splendid things. Now, living alone and retired, I have two plastic bins sold commercially that take care of all my garden and kitchen stuff.

About 10 years ago I had four raised beds built and as I get older, they work beautifully for me. They are four ' wide x 8 ' long x 2 ' high. The beds dry out early in the spring and warm up faster than the garden beds and I can get things started almost a month earlier in them. My tomatoes, herbs, and strawberries do very well there. I can control the watering and pH to suit the different plants very easily, and can rotate crops while paying attention to the soils in each box.

I like your attention to peat's sustainability and renewability.
I love SFG!

I have about 400 sq of raised beds....I started with 4, and just kept adding one or two each year. I can't add anymore now, though...I've used up all the sunny patches!
I started with 4 @ 4'x7.5', (husband made them 8' outside dimensions...but got it right after those!) Maybe 6 yrs ago?
Then came 1 @ 2'x7', and 1 @ 2'x16.
Later that summer I moved some plants into another part of the yard, and got 1 @ 2'x13 and 2 @ 3'x3'.

3 yrs. ago I decided I didn't need such a large walk space, and moved the compost beds, so gained space for 2 more @ 4'x8'.

2 yrs. ago, we took out some trees and got space for 1 @ 2.5'x16' and 2 @ 4.5'x 16'

Then we put in 2 @ 1'x5' last year on either side of our screened sitting area.

All of them are 12 inches high, except the last two are 18 inches high.

If I want any more, I've got to take out some trees.

We have 3 compost bins; I cover 2 that are cooking, and kitchen scraps and soft yard waste go into the other one. When it gets full, I cover it and open another one, screening the compost in the "new" heap, and dumping the not ready stuff back in. We just nailed some wood pallets together, and I cover them with some old carpet cut to size.

I did use Mel's Mix initially, but I felt guilty using a nonrenewable resource, so I later switched to an organic commercial potting soil, mixed with compost and chopped dry leaves. Seems to work just fine. I also drop 2-3 inches of gravel into the bottom of each bed when I first fill it, and cover it with landscaping cloth. Our soil is thick Georgia clay mixed with large chunks of granite. Drainage could be a real issue in the sometimes torrential storms we get... I don't want the roots sitting in water because the clay impedes drainage.

I cover over the beds with horse manure in the late fall, and plastic over top to keep the cats out. Come spring, I dig it down if needed, and start planting. I also don't use a wooden grid, I string mine.
I did SFG without the raised beds for a couple of years and I really liked it. This was when I had access to my mother's large yard. Now my mother lives in a trailer and I am limited to my place which is mostly woods. However, SFG would be perfect for the 3 small sunny patches that I have and I want to build some beds. Unfortunately other things keep coming up that have a higher priority. Maybe next year...
I also SFG. My first garden was a summer veggie patch in the backyard of our home in North Vancouver, BC. The radishes, tomatoes and snap peas were great, but I had limited success with other crops.

I'm living in Redwood City, CA now--a very different climate from North Van--and look forward to employing Mel's methods on my balcony. I have some kale and flowers growing in pots out there right now, but I plan on making SFG inspired boxes to grow fruit and veggies.

I was really frustrated with how much it cost me to make Mel's Mix and how hit-or-miss my results were. I also have concerns about peat farming and have turned to a local soil company for a "patio" mix good for flowers and veggies with no peat and lots of well-rotted compost, guano, etc. I also won't bother marking the edges of the squares again; I found I really only needed them for the initial planting.

I never end up doing things the way the book says to; I always hack it to what works for me, and the fantastic thing about the SFG method is it is so hackable.
I don't have a square foot garden but have a number of nonstandard variations on that theme. We found some intact wine barrels, cut them in half, and filled with a nonMel potting mix late last winter. We also have some rectangular wooden planters, and some older wooden barrel-type planters. In our climate, the cool soil and short summers make it difficult to grow eggplants and peppers, but this year there were more bells and chilis and eggplants than the 2 of us could eat. Even though it's getting chilly now, the peppers continue to produce. Meanwhile, tomatoes in the ground are on their last legs. I think the warming effect of raising them above ground level really helped. Earlier, we grew radishes, scallions, and other greens, getting them harvested before we could reasonably work the soil. I love this method.

Now I have a second crop of scallions coming, from the unharvested earlier ones. We use a variety called "Egyptian walking onion" that seems to be immortal if you don't pull and eat all of them. They produce sets on the top of the mature onion plant, instead of flowers, and if you don't remove them, they fall over and grow a new bunch wherever they land. They love the barrels, and now once again, there they are. Lots of fun.

We also did potatoes with a variation of this method, fingerling potatoes. They were so easy, and so good!

We'll probably renew our soil mix with some well-aged chicken poop compost, since we have a near endless supply. I'll try the barrel for greens first, since I don't want the peppers to be all-leaf and no pepper.

Thanks for bringing this method up, Grudgetta, I like it a lot.

I tried square foot gardening for the first time last year and it was a huge success.  I had more vegetables in two 4x4 gardens than I ever had when row gardening.   I am putting in at least two more this year.

 

 I have had an herb garden for several years in one of those big 4' patio pots and it works wonders!

I had been told about SFG for years and finally bought his updated book a few months ago.  Living in the desert some of his ideas won't work but as I read his book I found I was already doing many of the things he teaches in his book.  It is a good book and uses sound ideas.  I don't use a grid system permanently in my garden.  I lay it all out and plant but don't have his fancy white squares. . .

 

Also being in a desert, I don't have his individual raised beds.  They would dry out WAY too fast.  My whole garden spot is raised but I then plant in the native soil and lots of compost.  I do have more weeds. . . but not too bad.

 

here is a pic of my winter garden at its peak.  Just prepping right now for spring.  Should start planting in a week or two.  Get ahead of the scorching sun here in AZ.

I think if I had to start over I would go byt 4X4 beds.  Mine are all free flowing and serpentine.  Which seems nice but is more trouble.
Do you have a photo of your "serpentine" beds you can share?  
I'm sending a photo of my back yard taken from my deck.  It is last autumn's photo, and shows the four raised beds formed around a circle patio with table and chairs.  I very much like raised beds, especially for tomatoes and herbs.  Larger vegetables go into my flower beds outside the circle.
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YOur beds are quite beautiful.  I dont have a good photo, it doesnt have any plan and looks like a hodgepodge.  One of those things that I'll work on when there is time.  ALways, when there is time....  sigh.

Here is a photo of my back yard take in 1993.  Notice the Blue Spruce and arborvitae in back of my family, the lawn and broken concrete patio and the old pear tree.  This was the first stage of the redo.  Compare it to last autumn's photo.  Each plant has a story.  We have had weddings, funerals, showers, family and neighbors gather for shared events.  I mostly sit and remember, now.  A nice way to live the last stage of my life.

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