Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Square Foot Gardening - my new favorite passion

Our family has decided to go green. Okay, more like I have decided that our family is going green. LOL At the end of spring, when the rain was falling every day, we started our own square foot gardens.

David was so good about building them for me. I read every book I could find from the library and ordered all of the others. I spent two weeks reading about square foot gardening. I found out how to make the beds, how to measure them off, what kind of dirt to use and so much more. I am going to share all of what I learned but first I wanted to show you pictures of what they look like.

We have four beds right now with dirt in them. I use the term "dirt" lightly. I was going to be cheap and just put top soil in them. But the more I read, I realized that there really is a science to all of this.

So, we went to the local nursery (local for us is about 15-20 minutes away). We bought a scoop of top soil and a scoop of compost (a nice word for horse poop). You can get all kinds of compost but ours was compost made entirely from horse poop. How do I know this? Because we found a syringe in it and I called to find out why this would be in poop? Who knew horses poop out syringes. I didn't even know they ate them. Really, they said there should never be anything like that in it and that someone was being lazy and just threw the syringe in there after they gave the horse antibiotics. They assured me there was no needle. Now, I'm not sure I believe that they were too lazy to throw the syringe away but had the energy to take off the needle and put it in the sharps container. The beds with this soil in it will not be dug in with our hands just to be safe. I also asked them if this meant that my gardens wouldn't be organic since I found an antiobiotic syringe in it. "I'm really trying to keep this kind of stuff away from my family is why I'm gardning at all." I don't think they thought I was funny. This soil cost us $45 to fill two beds that are 3 feet by 5 feet. They are made out of 4X6 boards that David begged, borrowed or stole (does it count if it's from family and you're gonna give them some of the food? I don't think so.)

So, anyway, two of the beds have this soil in it. The other two we used official "square foot gardening" mixture. These two beds are made out of huge, 75 pound, concrete landscaping blocks. My best friend bought these for a retaining wall that they build and it subsequently fell (that's a whole nother story) so she and her husband let us buy them for dirt cheap. David loved picking these up and placing them so-so in the garden area. (I'm totally lying) He still has bruises and a sore back and it was in May. We got 48 of these blocks thinking we could make three beds. Each bed turned out to be 3 blocks wide and 5 long and used 16 blocks. We used the rest to build a really neat fire pit. So for $50 we made two beds and a fire pit. We are now at $100 invested in the gardens. This picture doesn't look as impressive as real life. My 8 year old daughter could lay flat inside this. Of course we don't let her, cuz it's had fire in it now and it's pretty dirty.

Now for the dirt. We looked around at prices and tried to find the best on the mixture. It took me two days and lots of arguing with David to figure out how much of each part we needed and where we should go.

Here is what we bought:

2 bales of peat moss $9 each

15 bags of top soil $1 each

3 bags of Perlite (I wanted Vermiculite but couldn't find it) $6 each

2 bags of mushroom compost $6 each

2 bags of chicken compost (remember that's poop) $6 each

5 bags . of compost (Can't remember) $6.00 each

Total spent at Lowe's: $112

Total now invested - $212 (plus tax)

Of course we had to have plants or seeds to put in this. Oh, wait. I forgot that we have to section off the beds. This consisted of buying twine ($4) to divide the beds into one foot squares (hence the name square foot gardening) Our beds are not traditional in size so our squares are not exactly one foot square. We have more of a Foot and a couple inches garden. Of course, we argued over how and where to put the dividers. But, the book said the lines were of super importance so the fighting was all worth it. Of course we forgot this at Lowe's so we had to drive, again, to the hardware store. Remember, gas is about $3.85 a gallon at this time. I'd say we had spent $40 in gas so far.

Total now invested - $256

Man, this seems to be getting expensive.

Now, we can talk about the plants. I ordered seeds from Ebay (I had to have some heirloom plants so I can save the seeds. I'm trying to keep cost down, you know.) These were $15 for 20 different kinds of seeds. We will only eat about 8 kinds, but they were on sale so it's okay. Also, shipping was free so I couldn't pass it up. I also went, (drove) to two different greenhouses to buy actual plants. Wait, it was three different ones. I forgot I bought extra tomato plants later. Just don't tell David I forgot to plant them. Or water them. Now they are dead.

Plants I planted (this isn't all that I bought. I gave some to my mom):

10 cabbage plants (purple and green)

5 pepper plants

6 okra plants

10 tomato plants

6 cucumber plants

4 broccoli

4 brussel sprouts

3 watermelon

3 squash (can't remember what kind)

4 heads of lettuce

2 cauliflower

Total cost of Plants - $60

Seeds we planted

Radishes (no one likes these but they grow fast)

another kind of squash

some kind of melon

cucumbers (1/2 of these died)

pole beans (No poles but we did rig up something)


watermelon (died)
I still have peas, radishes, spinach, and a couple of other things I want to plant closer to fall.

Total now invested - $331

Here is a picture of the beds the day we planted them. I think it was around the middle of May. It may have been towards the end. Wait, I remember. It was Memorial Day. I know because I got a discount for being related to someone in the military. (My Dad was in Vietnam. I definitely deserve 10% off for that. Anyway, I gave them some of the seeeds, remember?)

This is one with the "special soil".

And here it is today.

It's from a different angle, of course. The first picture, David reminded me that a broken grill made it look trashy but I forgot today and didn't squeeze it out of the picture. I also took the picture before I added the leaf rake for the squash to climb. It totally fits with the grill. LOL Personally I think it's ingenuous cuz, remember I'm trying to save money here. I'm recycling everything I can. And we won't need the rake before the garden is finished for the year. Hopefully.

I have picked 3 peppers, 2 cucumbers and we could eat the lettuce but it looks so pretty I'm hestitant. There are little baby okra's growing as I write this and I can't wait to eat the tomatos.

Now, the other ones. The ones with the horse poop and top soild. They aren't looking near as nice. You almost can't tell the difference between then and now. I'm thinking it might be the antibiotics. (JK)

I think I'll only have to use the beds for the next 10 or 12 years to get my money back on what it cost to build them and plant this first year. I do love watering the plants and pulling the weeds (I think there has only been 4 or 5)

But oh, the quality time with family is priceless. I'd compare it to, um, let's see, maybe the enjoyment a couple gets out of building a new house together. Good times, people. Good times.


Debra said...

Oh, this is hysterical. I ought to show you the pictures of my "square foot" garden. Or not. Yikes, yours looks totally gorgeous. And that grill... it doesn't look broken in the photo. Wouldn't have known if you hadn't told me. :)

Anonymous said...

This looks amazing!!! I would love to have that "happy, unstressful, quality loving time" that building a house brings a couple :) I am going to start my square foot gardening right away, well as soon as the rain stops. Oh wait, that is the whole reson that I don't have my regular garden this year because it won't quit raining long enough for us to get stuff done. oh well I guess there is always next year. Great job on your gardening, Lori (and David too)! It really does look awesome!

Lisa said...

That was quite entertaining! Dare I say "been there, done that!" When we put a garden in a few years ago, my intention was to have raised beds. But with a very low (next to nothing) budget, I had to settle for one layer of landscaping timbers to mark my plot. You have no idea how much sweat went into preparing that ground because, unlike you, I had not read up on it first! We could have saved so much time had we just thrown a tarp (or something) over the ground a month earlier, then just tilled it up. But no, we skimmed off every ounce of grass with our shovels and ended up with a sunken bed rather than a raised one! It turned out ok in the end... until... we discovered that all the thistle seeds blow to that corner of the yard. I'm allergic to thistle, so this literally became a thorn in my side! We kept the garden going for a few years. Now, it's full of weeds. I'm thinking that I'll plot out a new spot for a new garden - next year.

Here's a tip for your okra (in case you didn't know) - harvest the okra when it's about 3-4" long. This will keep the plant producing all summer long and the okra will be tender to eat, not tough. The bigger it grows, the tougher it gets.

Happy harvesting! And thanks for the humor!

ShyBabies said...

Sounds like quite the endeaver. Stopping back by from the blog hop. Will definately keep checking back. I am just starting to get ready to homeschool my 3 year old.


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