If you are looking for an easy way of gardening, then square foot gardening is the answer. What makes it so easy is its manageable size and designer soil mix.
Traditional in the ground gardening requires the soil to be broke up with tillers and plows. This soil is then compacted again with heavy farm machinery and human traffic. Tasks such as planting, weeding, watering and feeding the garden becomes difficult because of this soil compaction. This is where square foot gardening is different.
The specialized soil mixture that is recommended for square foot gardens keeps the soil loose and in doing so makes planting and weeding a breeze. Also fertilization normally is not required due to the fact that seasoned compost is used. This soil component provides plants with proper nutrition. If a plant does need a little extra nutrition, it can be added on an individual basis by applying it to only the squares that need it.
A simple tool that will aid the gardener in keeping the soil loose is kneepad or a garden kneeling bench. Another choice and a great repurposing project is to create your own garden kneepad. This is easily done by cutting up scrap carpet. To make the kneepad more efficient, simply cut it the whole length of the garden bed. Making the kneepad longer will save time from having to move it every time you need to relocate and make harvesting easier by creating a surface that you can lay your produce on.
The garden kneepad is only one of six items you will need to get when it comes to caring for your square foot garden. These are just as easy to come by as the kneepad and consist of a pail, cup, trowel, scissors, and pencil.
A pail and cup are very important when it comes to watering. Since you are not dealing with a large amount of plants, it is easier to give each plant its own individual care and this includes watering. The water will need to be warm and placing in a pail will aid in this process. One may wonder why water with warm water and the answer is simple. Warm water just like warm soil makes it easier for plants to take up nutrients including water.
How you water is also a consideration. To reduce the likelihood of fungal and bacterial problems, only water the soil and not the vegetation. To do this requires the use of the cup and simply,you just fill the cup and water the plant. But spend your time wisely when you are up close and personal with the plants. Inspect the plant for any disease or growth abnormalities and remove as needed. If flowers were planted in the garden bed, this is a perfect time to deadhead them as needed.
If you do not have the time for hand watering, there are other choices that work. These include traditional hose with a spray nozzle, drip-line irrigation and lawn sprinklers. The key to using any of these choices is one, create a situation where the water can warm before use and two, make sure the garden needs to be watered before watering. Utilizing these more convenient approaches removes the gardener from the garden and creates a situation where the garden’s needs are not clearly known.
A trowel is also needed when caring for a square foot garden. It can be used to mix additional compost into a square, dig up a plant, add a plant, and turn the soil in the beginning of the season.
Scissors are an important tool when it comes to dealing with gardening in small spaces. While any type of small scissors will do, the easiest type for this project is the pointed type. This type makes it easy to get into small spaces and remove unwanted plants or plant parts.
Pencils may be a unique type of garden tool but it is very usual when one is square foot gardening. The sides of the pencil can be marked in certain increments to aid proper seed planting. A pencil is useful when it comes to lifting up seedlings before transplanting. It can also be used to label the lathes with plant names.
In general, once a square foot garden is planted, the only care that remains is watering and monitoring your garden’s health. As the season continues, harvesting will occur along with replanting. Before you think that replanting is going to be a chore, keep in mind that square foot gardening is not traditional, monoculture gardening.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.