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Friday, March 9, 2012

Square Foot Gardening in our Front Yard

How my Garden Grows.

Willice and I are using Square Foot Gardening for our garden.  We have three 4' x 8' beds, two of which have soil already and one of which has some seeds in it.  We have also started some seeds inside for transplanting after the last frost - which we are using March 20th as THE date, although another, more detailed site suggests the 7th - and this chart says that there is a 90% certainty that the last day temperature will dip as low as 36 is March 22nd.

We are way behind in getting some plants - like spinach and peas - planted outside.  I still need to make the row we plan on using for climbing peas and beans... and maybe melons and gourds.  I am thinking I am going to do a privacy-fence type planting close to the road and in a long row.  That is in addition to the woods-planted peas to lure the deer away from the main crops.

I have also put cages or stakes on some wild / transplanted blackberry vines so I hope to have a bigger, easier harvest of blackberries.  I may buy a blackberry or two (again) and see how they fare this year.  Last year, the one I bought died and the wild one I transplanted thrived.

We also have a Blueberry bush that we are nursing along until after the last frost... and I get the spot we are going to plant it cleared out and prepared.










So, the first bed that is getting seeds, which I call Bed #2 because of the layout, was done like this :

1. Built the 4' by 8' frame using 1"x8" untreated cedar boards.  I attached these with a 1"x2" stake at the corners using deck screws, and drove the stake into the ground.
2. I put a layer of leaves on the ground and covered the box with black plastic for a couple weeks.  Some big weeds poked through.  I used a hoe to chop these down to size.
3. I added "Topsoil" from Home Depot, which is a mix of organic material and mason's sand. Basically the topsoil is compost and wood chips with some sand.  I covered this with the black plastic for a week.  Some weeds poked through the edges, close to the boards.  I pulled these up or broke them off below the soil level.
4.  Looking to not use vermiculite and sphagnum moss, I opted for something that aerates the soil, retains moisture and will eventually become compost - Cypress Mulch ( 2cu. ft which was 1 bag ).  I mixed that into the soil and added some more soil, mixed again.
5. I did a temporary string grid and planted some seeds!  Okay, so, my dowels for the grid haven't come in yet and the 2-4 weeks before last frost date seeds were planted on the day that makes them 2 weeks before last frost date... and some after.  Okay, so I still have not planted every "2 weeks before last frost date" seed.  I should get those done, for this one bed, this weekend. Leaving 8 days before last frost.  Then we can work on the other two beds we are doing... maybe three... not sure about planting so late, but we should have a longer harvest....

a picture of the bed layout :


Bed #1 :

1. Built the bed using cinderblock.  The inside doesn't quite measure 4' x 8', being closer to 3'8" by 7'9" or something.  I may try to get the inside to measure the full 4' x 8' this weekend.  ( We did adjust the size to the right size.  Cinderblock fell 2" short of 8' so one end looks a bit awkward.)
2. I used a hoe to chop up the ground, killing weeds.  Weeds were not removed as ground was still wet.
3. I put a layer of leaves down to further mulch and kill weeds.
4. I plan to put in 2 cu. ft. of Cypress Mulch and mix that all up.  Then, I will add another layer of the topsoil to help with some seeding issues I ran into in bed #1 - chunks of wood on top of the soil.
(more to come, still adding)

Bed #3 :

1. I had a piece of black plastic a little more than 4' by 8' laying on the ground, staked out for a few weeks.  Then, we did sod removal.  Willice used a straight blade to cut lines into the ground and I used a flat shovel to scoop the top layer of grass and soil and roots out in blocks she had cut.  This was not a fun nor easy job - but a bare spot in the back yard got some good soil and growing grass put on it. :)
2. Willice had some used lumber - 1" by 12" - and we used that to build the box frame. This one is going to be deep.  I added a double layer of leaves to the bottom.  So far, it is still just leaves.  Probably this will be the by-the-book mel's mix box.
3.

Using info I found at a website, I created my own planter pattern board.  (note, there are some math errors on the site! I've put expanded and corrected info below.)
 One side is for 16 plants per square and the other side is for 9 :

I am planning on creating a dowel that when used with this board will make the hole just the right depth for the seed.  It will have adjustments for 1/4", 1/2" and up to 2".  That is the plan anyway.

16 Points Per Square Foot Template:
2. Measuring 1 1/2" from the edge, put 2-3 pencil or pen marks along each side (Photo B). Then, using these marks, draw a guide line around the board. This area is about 9" square. Using this guide line, Then, put a mark at the 3" and 6" points along each side of the Guide Line board. Draw lines connecting these points, from one side of the board to the other (Photo C). The board should now have a 9-square "grid" drawn on it. Where lines cross or meet is where to drill a hole or attach a hole-maker.
 9 Points Per Square Foot Template:
3. Measuring 2 1/2" from the edge, again put 2-3 marks along each side. Then, using these marks, draw a guide line around the board. This area is about 9" square. Then, put a mark at the 3.5" point along each side of the Guide Line board (which is basically the center of the Guide line). Draw lines connecting these points, from one side of the board to the other. The board should now have a 4-square grid drawn on it Where lines cross or meet is where to drill a hole or attach a hole-maker.