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A couple of weeks ago we were building square foot gardens.  Have you heard of them?  They are an efficient, somewhat portable way to build a garden, grow plants or flowers and end up with either lots of lovely flowers, a bounty of delicious food or some of each!

My brother came to help us start the gardens since we didn’t know much about it.  He, on the other hand has been doing this for years.  He has read up on many aspects of square foot gardening so his help definitely helped us out a lot!  He lives in PA.


What was our motivation?  An educational experience for our grandchildren ages 7 and 4.  One of them in particular is not anxious to try new foods.  We thought it might be fun to see the foods grown and that might be a motivating factor.  It is just plain interesting to watch food grow and realize it doesn’t just appear in the grocery store by magic!  (Yes, I hear my Hanna City friends roaring with laughter!)


On the first day,  the 2×8 boards of wood were cut to make 3’x3′ boxes.  At each corner, they were screwed tightly together.  (Yes, they can also be made into 4’x4′ boxes as well, but 3×3 was recommended since we would have little hands that can’t reach as far.)

We then put our box in the preferred location (at least 9 hours of sun per day…a detail that ruled my daughters yard out of the mix…it is very shady!) and laid a layer of cardboard on the bottom over the grass.  The cardboard provides a barrier so the grass/weeds don’t grow through.

Then we loaded the dirt into each box. My brother recommended that we buy Mel’s Mix rather than trek all over town trying to find each of the recommended ingredients for the soil.  It is time consuming and won’t save us any money in the end.  I’m glad we just used the soil.  It’s a pain to hunt all over for dirt!  After each bag of dirt was dumped in, we sprayed that layer with water until it seemed moist.  We put 3 bags of dirt in each box.

sfg1It was now time for everything to rest.


We could have done this the same day, but we didn’t have the plants.  We figured out the plants we wanted/needed and went to the store the next day.   Since we were getting a late start, we got mostly starter plants.  The only thing we started from seed was the beans…only because they don’t transplant well.  To plant them, we divided the 1/9 plot into 9 by scoring it and poked a fat pencil in the middle of each square.  The kids dropped one bean into each hole and covered it.

Since we had a minimum weight to the number of beans we could buy, we had way more than 3 x 9 beans.  Yes, we used 3 squares for beans.  Now the beans are coming up and growing fast.  Within a week, they had popped up through the soil.  Each day we see growth in them.

So in our garden, we have 3 squares of beans, 3 different types of tomatoes including one plant of cherry tomatoes.  We have 4 marigold plants and 4 herbs, basil, thyme, parsley and cilantro.  We also have a small sweet pepper and I’m trying cherry peppers too.  The last plants are a cucumber plant and onions.

We were too late to start a watermelon.  We’ll try that next year when we can get an earlier start.  Evidently, they take a long time to grow.


We have buds on most of the plants already…well, not the beans yet, but I don’t know how long it takes for the buds to become fruit!  My brother says we won’t have to get more dirt the next go-round.  All we do is shake the dirt off the plants when we take them out and fill the hole with a special mulch he recommended.  That will rejuvenate the soil and we will be good to go for the fall planting.


If you want to know more about this kind of gardening, the updated book is All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  It tells about what kinds of plants to plant and when, as well as how, to build the square foot garden.  The information is very helpful.  There is a local certified Square foot gardener here that my brother contacted who was helpful.  His garden was amazing!

He had fruit trees that he had trained along his fence.  They were flat, I wish I had taken a photo!   Instead of looking like a tree, they grew along the fence and spread out in the shape of those Jewish candelabra that have 7 candles in them.  That is the shape the trees grew in.  They were loaded with fruit!

Of course, he had a number of square foot gardens as well.

So we’ll see how the garden grows!  The initial cost isn’t cheap, but if you keep at it, it gets cheaper all the time…since the dirt doesn’t have to be replaced each time you plant!