If you are a follower of this blog you will remember a post I had last fall about preparing your garden for spring. Unless your living in a hole it’s pretty easy to realize that spring is here which means its now or never to start a garden for the 2012 season. I learned a lot with the shabby garden I had last year, one of which is to start preparing early. I had intended to do a traditional garden in the sense that I would till the ground up and plant things into rows and hope for the best. I knew this probably wasn’t the most efficient way but I figured with my limited time that this was the best I could do. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I stumbled across a few posts on reddit gardening a month or so ago about square foot gardening and how to optimize output in a smaller space. I was intrigued by what I saw and began to do some more research.

 

The more research I did the more I realized that this was the type of garden for me. Although I have a ton of room on my property one thing I don’t have is a rototiller. Square foot gardening builds on the concept of making 4 foot by 4 foot raised beds and filling them with rich compost and soil to optimize the growth of your garden in a smaller space. If this is something you’re interested in as well here is a great resource the will talk about high density gardening. This is great for anyone that has limited space or would rather condense their garden with the same amount of vegetables at the end of the season. I decided to take the plunge this year and built some raised beds out of scrap wood that I had laying around the house. I made a total of 4 boxes and will be making one more before i’m all done. Two of the boxes are 9 inches deep and two of them are 6 inches deep. The 5th box I plan on making will be an 8 foot by 4 foot box to plant sweet corn in. The picture on the right shows the two deeper boxes and one of the 6 inch deep boxes. Again all these boxes are a 4 foot square.

 

The idea behind square foot gardening is to divide each raised bed into 16 squares of one foot each and plant your vegetables according to the spacing specified on the seed packet. Using square foot gardening you can ignore the required row spacing and just plant using the plant spacing which saves a significant amount of space. For example you can do 16 carrots, 9 onions, or 1 cucumber plant per square. If you’re thinking this seems like a lot of plants in a small space then I agree with you but that’s what i’m trying this year. Looking at all the research I’ve done people swear by this and hopefully after this year I will as well.

 

When it comes to the soil there are many different recipes out there that people use for their garden. If you’re really into the all organic type of gardening then this is a very important step to make sure you get good organic soil filled with nutrients. Here is another great resource that will help guide you along the organic gardening path. This how to book covers everything from repelling pests naturally to harvesting and reusing seeds from year to year. Fortunately for me I have a source to get highly rich soil for very cheap. The local transfer station sells compost for $10 a yard which is filled with nutrients and great for a garden. In about 10 mins time I had a truck load shoveled and was ready to start filling my boxes.

 

About a month ago I put down a layer of thick black plastic on a large spot I mowed last fall. This kept new growth from popping up until I had time to get my raised beds done. I removed the plastic and put the raised beds in place and lined the bottom with a layer of cardboard. This will act as a weed barrier but will also break down and turn into more compost over time. I wet the cardboard down to help speed up the composting and put in a layer of compost. After putting in a thin layer of compost I sprinkled in some triple 12 organic garden fertilizer. I did this so as the plants begin to sprout and grow roots they will have plenty of nutrients as the roots grow down into the soil. I filled the raised bed the rest of the way up with compost and on the very top I spread a bag of miracle grow garden soil which contains more nutrients as well as sphagnum peat moss which holds in moisture and will require less watering. This is a mixture that I made up and have no idea how it is going to work out for me but I can’t wait to find out. I plan on doing this for the remaining three beds and to begin planting once the fear of frost has passed (which isn’t now since we got snow yesterday). I would love to get some feedback on what you think of my project as well as things your currently doing in your garden. Here are a few more pictures of me slaving away.

Here are the links again to some helpful resources to help you produce a quality garden:

High Density Gardening

Organic Gardening

 

2 Completed Beds

One Bed Done and a weed barrier down