square foot garden beds with various vegetables growing

Square Foot Gardening: A Year in Review

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Square Foot Gardening: A Year in Review

2020: The year everyone decided to garden was also the year I had been waiting 5 years for.

My chance to take to the soil. Many years of rentals, townhouse living and not enough sunshine on our back patio had put a hold on a dream within my heart.

I joke with friends that food is one of my love languages. For me, gardening is a natural extension of that. So when we moved in to our TN rental, I started turning dreams in to reality.

Planning looked like thinking of what we buy from the grocery store and translating that in to seeds. Although I wasn’t taking any other considerations in to account, it sort of worked out. Because in my grand experiment, if anything worked, we were guaranteed to eat it.

Square Foot Gardening

Now, I hadn’t ever gardened before. But I had grown up recognizing Mel Bartholomew’s book, Square Foot Gardening because my parents had had it around in the Y2K era. I liked the idea that I could “Grow more in less space” since I didn’t want to take over the front lawn. I also didn’t want it to be super labor intensive, like getting a tiller going. I’m lazy that way, I want the path of least resistance.

I also was looking for a raised bed option because we have lots of moles and voles in our yard. I didn’t want them eating everything up before we could. Since Mel had everything planned and mapped out, I went with it. I called it my year of experimenting. For that purpose, it served me very well. I planted a lot of different produce, and experienced the joys and pains of gardening.

I also planted a lot from seeds, and I just learned about this gadget this year! It looks like it makes planting super simple. So If you are new to gardening and doing the SFG method, it may be a good piece of equipment to add.

As I was making my grocery store version of a seed list..

I wasn’t taking anything else in to consideration. Like how much space a squash plant will take. Or how many strawberry plants I would need to really be able to eat more than 3 at a time.

Speaking of strawberries, I ended up having my husband build yet another bed specifically for them. After I had ordered plants I realized they needed their own space. Then as the berries started to turn red, the birds started finding them. When I noticed that, I canceled school one day to fix the problem.

My husband was out of town but I wasn’t going to sit there and watch the birds eat our yummy berries. It took two mom days. (Which means there were a lot of interruptions.) But it was satisfying to see the birds be so confused as to why they no longer could get the strawberries.

The Square Foot Garden Method

It was good to learn from because I could do a lot of different things in a small space. But it had its draw backs, especially when I trying to produce enough food for a family of 6. I realized I need way more space to grow enough food for 6+ people. And because I need more space, to do it in the square pattern isn’t as beneficial. When it came time to cover certain things that were frost tender, I hadn’t necessarily planted those types of things near each other.

Other things like not having much space to spread out tomato plants or needing a lot of room for squash was an issue as well. I eventually did take to the front yard and a bit of the back for the big squash type plants. I had one yellow squash plant that I used a tomato cage to grow it vertically, and even though it looked funny, it worked! I for sure will do more vertical growing in the future.

the opposite of a square foot garden squash and pumpkins

A few things to consider

I didn’t know how much to expect from each plant. In the SFG book, Mel talks about succession sowing so that you have continual food through out the season. I really did not have enough space to succession sowing. My harvests were never huge because I had a few plants ready to offer up a harvest at a time. Often I only had a few green beans or peas at a time. I would just laugh and have a tiny snack. In the future, I plan to plant more of the same thing at once for things like green beans, cucumbers and peas.

All in all

It was a very enjoyable first year of gardening. Even with the bugs and pests that I had to deal with, I learned and grew a lot. It was a place of joy and peace in a crazy year.

My goals now have expanded to some day be able to feed my family from the garden a lot more, year round. Which means I’ll be learning how to preserve, can and dehydrate our produce. It won’t all happen in a year, especially since we will continue to rent. But it gets me excited to have a vision and goals to work towards. In the mean time I will do what I can with what I have and keep cooking up food from scratch.

2021 may be a year of just growing a few herbs on the patio, but even that little plan makes me happy.

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