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Square Foot Gardening

December 30, 2011

My allotment is rather too large for our needs and for my free time so in 2012 I am planning some changes. The first is to grow more flowers since once sown or planted there are several varieties that take up space (keeping the weeds at bay), flower for months on end and require very little attention. The other change will be to divide one of the very large beds up into squares for better management and productivity.

Square Foot Gardening emerged about 25 years ago when an American vegetable grower Mel Bartholomew, became aware of the challenge, and regular disappointments,  felt by new vegetable gardeners. He recognised that the enthusiasm expressed in early spring, when sowing and planting a large plot, was rapidly followed by feeling overwhelmed by the work. Then a glut of crops on one hand can often be followed by various failures on the other. Dividing the plot into squares makes planning and sowing and planting much more manageable and is at the same time aesthetically pleasing. Space and time is reduced since the area is cultivated intensely and the timing for repeat sowing is easier to plan for.

So my aim is to experiment on the largest bed which is currently covered with tarpaulin having had a heavy mulch of organic matter in late winter. I’ll divide it into four squares across and eight squares the length of it. On the outer edges a mixture of French marigolds, dwarf nasturtiums and chives can frame the bed.  Ideally the squares should measure between 1.2m or 1.4m but less will work if the bed size dictates. Next week I’ll measure it up and draw a rough plan in my allotment journal. On the ground the divisions will be delineated simply with canes or garden string laid across and down the length of the bed.

Sprawling plants such as courgettes and squashes and very tall plants like runner beans, purple sprouting broccoli and sweetcorn can be planted in other beds on the allotment.  Main crop onions and spuds can also follow the rotation beds elsewhere.  In spring I’ll direct sow seeds into the squares starting with salad leaves -red in one and bright green in another. Radishes, carrots, beetroot, pak choi, rocket, spring onions and saladini seeds can also be sown directly in each square. Pot-raised seedlings of tomatoes, leeks, garlic, dwarf beans, Cavola nero, Spring cabbages and perpetual spinach can be planted mid-summer in all the remaining squares.

Now that I’ve committed to the project I’ll be blogging regular up-dates with photos throughout the year.

My other challenge is week 9 of cut flowers from the garden. It’s getting difficult but here is a small pot of one very sweet Helleborus argutifolius plus some intensely scented Viburnum  (hanging over the wall from my neighbour’s garden) and more Euphorbia wulfennii.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2011 5:24 pm

    I look forward to finding out how your square foot allotment plans go…

  2. December 30, 2011 7:00 pm

    Your square foot plans sound exciting and looking forward to seeing how it all comes together throughout the year. Love the idea of chives, nasturtiums and marigolds for the edging. Sounds very colourful and edible! Naomi

  3. December 30, 2011 7:11 pm

    Sounds like a good project and I will be interested to see how you get on. I did attempt to do this on one of my raised beds last year, not too successfully I might add – I think you have to choose carefully what you are putting and where – as some plants overshadow others.

  4. December 30, 2011 8:42 pm

    Gosh week 9, I must either have lost a week or be trailing you by one, the latter I hope!

    I have to agree with Naomi, that edging combination sounds gorgeous, colourful and edible!

  5. December 31, 2011 6:21 pm

    I’m looking forward to hearing about your square foot garden project. I tried something similar in my garden before we got the allotment but was defeated my the neighbours’ cats using the bed as a litter tray. I think it is amazing what can be grown in a small space and the combination of flowers, herbs and veg always looks better that just row upon row of one veg.
    Happy New Year and I look forward to more posts in 2012.

  6. January 1, 2012 3:27 pm

    Thank you to everyone who has left a reply to this post. I am looking forward to the project in fact I can’t wait to get back on the allotment. Sadly it will be several weeks before the ground and the weather allow. Meanwhile I am contenting myself with reading seed catalogues. and making lists.

  7. January 1, 2012 3:36 pm

    Sounds like a brilliant idea! I tried this a couple of years ago with my herbs but as I usually run before I know how to walk, it didn’t work out. It would have been useful to know how big certain herbs get! Reports of your progress will be read with interest! Love the flower vase, you inspired me to pop a couple of calendula into a glass with some oregano and rosemary – a very cheerful sight in the middle of a gloomy day! Happy new year and all the best for 2012.

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