What does a women and a square foot garden have in common? Answer: Their accessories… and every woman understands the importance of accessories. They can create a statement, protect the wearer and help the whole outfit come together. In gardening, accessories do the same thing.
In square foot gardening these accessories can be designed to make a gardening statement. They can be used to protect plant material from nature and can help the whole garden come together. While a woman’s accessories may be a belt, scarf or jewelry, the accessories of a square foot garden consists of cages, hoops, and trellises.
Many different sizes of cages can be created for a square foot garden. A cage that will cover the whole garden is a great accessory to have when you are growing seeds or have planted seedlings. Both of these are favorites of many animals such as rabbits. Another type of cage can be created that only covers one or more squares in the garden. This is very beneficial especially if you are going to do successive plantings through the gardening season.
To create a cage that will protect a 4 by 4 foot garden starts with building the frame. The frame will require four 1 by 2-inch boards, eight coarse-thread decking screws, and a drill. If the boards are not cut, you will need to make the cuts. Once the boards have been cut, stack them together so that the ends match up. After this is done, drill two holes through all the boards on one end and then repeat the process on the other end.
After all the boards have been processed, it is time to assemble the frame. Lay out the boards so that a 4 by 4 foot square is formed and then secure each corner with two coarse-threaded decking screws.
Now you have created the frame by which the cage will be built upon. The cage material consists of some type of wire materials. This material can be plastic-coated wire fencing or plain chicken wire. In this example, chicken wire will be used but the process is the same for any material you choose.
To create the cage, you will need a roll of chicken wire, cutting shears, gloves, staple gun with 3/8-inch staples, duct tape, and plastic ties. Once materials have been gathered, put the gloves on and begin the construction process. The first step requires the gardener to unroll the chicken wire and staple it to one side of the frame. Then, unroll additional chicken wire and form a U-shape going toward the opposite side. Adjust the height of the U-shape and then secure it to the frame with staples. Cut off the chicken wire and move it to one of the open ends of the frame. Measure the height of the U-shape you have created and cut that length out of the chicken wire. Staple the wire to the open part of the frame and secure the sides and top to the existing chicken wire with plastic ties. Do this on the sides and top of the chicken wire. Repeat this process with the other side. Once the cage is complete, run duct tape around all the cut edges of the chicken wire. This is very important since the exposed wire can easily cut you while you are in the garden.
Another type of accessory that can be made for a square foot garden is a hoop. A hoop has many uses. In the spring it can create a mini greenhouse to start plants early and can be covered in cheesecloth to prevent insects from laying their eggs. In the summer it can be covered with a shade cloth to protect young plants, and in the fall it can be covered to protect plants from a frost.
To create a simple hoop is very easy. You will need two 10-foot pieces of PVC pipe and plastic ties. Take one of the PVC pipes and place one end into the soil of one of the corners. Bend the pipe and force the other end into the soil of the opposite corner. Repeat with the other pipe and secure at the top with a plastic tie.
Covered Wagon Hoop
This hoop is made with the same two 10-foot pieces of PVC pipe plus one 4-foot piece. You will also need a drill. To create this hoop, bend one 10-foot piece of PVC pipe in one corner and place the other end in the corner of the same side. Using a permanent marker, place a mark on the top of the PVC pipe. Repeat with the other 10-foot piece. Remove the pieces and drill a hole where you have marked. Take the 4-foot piece and line it up with the drill holes. Mark on each end where the pipe touches the 4-foot piece and drill the holes where indicated.
Once the holes have been drilled, place the two 10-foot pieces of pipe where they had been placed in the dry run and top with the 4-foot piece. Secure the pieces together with plastic ties or nuts and bolts.
Both cages and hoops can be covered with protective material. Materials that are used to cover cages can be secured at the bottom of the frame with bricks and on the top with clothespins. Hoops only require the material to be secured at the bottom with something heavy such as bricks or stones.
A trellis is a great accessory for any square foot garden if you plan on growing anything that vines. The trellis, not only, keeps the fruits off the ground and preventing them from rotting but also increases your growing space by utilizing the unused vertical space. Any premade trellis will work as long as it will fit the size of the bed. The trellis itself can be attached to the bed with nuts and bolts or simply pushed down into the soil of the bed.
A DIY trellis is easy to make for your square foot garden and can be made from natural materials such as fallen branches and scrap wood along with manmade items such as PVC pipe and steel pipes. The gist of how to make the frame is to make the width of the frame the size of the bed and a good height is 6 feet. An example of a trellis for a 4 by 4 foot bed would be a 4 by 6 foot trellis frame.
Once the frame has been built, place it on the north side of the garden. This will prevent the trellis and plants from shading the rest of the garden. You can attach the trellis to the frame or simply push it down into the soil.
The inside of the trellis can be made from string, scrap wood, plastic trellis material, nylon netting or woven sticks. Before you decide on a material, consider the look and what that material will need to support. Pumpkins, watermelon, and cantaloupe will need a stronger trellis material than peas and green beans as an example.
Another choice that combines a trellis frame and trellis material is the frame of an old bed. Most of these have a wonderful steel frame along with wires that held the mattress. If you use this approach, make sure to secure the repurposed bed frame to the garden bed.
Once the trellis has been created, tie the plant material to the trellis using old nylon pantyhose, strips of an old cotton shirt or garden ties.
If you are growing large fruits, such as pumpkins, gourds, watermelons and/or cantaloupe, you will need to create a plant sling. This is easily done by cutting strips of an old potato bag, onion bag or fabric and creating a sling for the fruit. The sling will hold the fruit while allowing it to continue to grow.
Just like any other type of gardening, what makes a garden sometimes is the accessories. The accessories described are useful but can also add a designer touch to the garden space. When using plastic ties, do not limit yourself to black. Consider using other colors that complement your plant material. When using duct tape, consider using other colors besides black and gray. There are many different colors and patterns of duct tape that can make your square foot garden space one of a kind.
After the accessories have been built, the next step in the process is the most creative and that is the planting process.
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.