This is the first post in a series that will document my venture into vegetable gardening. I am a total neophyte when it comes to gardening; I don’t have any houseplants, save a Poinsettia I bought at Home Depot over the holidays and which is heading for the composter soon because I keep forgetting to water it (and because poinsettias look weird in spring – it’s like having a Christmas tree in your living room in March). I’m going to keep a record of my journey into the world of vegetable growing with these Veggie Tales posts. I hope you’ll follow along as we all learn about the world of Growing, together.
The first thing you need to know is I’ll be using the method of Square Foot Gardening. Inventer and author of the best-selling book All New Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew, claims this is the simplest and least labour-intensive method of raising plants and veggies. Perfect for beginners. It is also an organic technique (no fertilizers or treatments needed) that reduces water consumption, increases yields per square foot, and virtually eliminates the need for weeding.
SFG is also great for those practising Simple Living. You can grow large amounts of produce in relatively little space, and it seems to be a very frugal method of gardening. According to Mel, the only tools you’ll need are a large bucket in which to keep the “sun warmed water” that you use for your garden, a small trowel (the dollar store variety will do), and a pencil (with which to make seed holes). If you’ve browsed a garden centre or catalog lately you will know that gardening is as much subject to the excesses of consumerism as any hobby out there.
With Spring right around the corner (and inspired by a week of warm sunshine – sorry, East Coast’rs) I dusted off my book and made a list of ingredients to buy in order to start my SFG. Keeping in mind that we’ll likely only be in this house for one growing season I decided to go as cheap as possible. I could care less if my boxes are ugly, or rot after our wet winters, because this is the Experiment Year in preparation for next year when, if all goes according to Plan, I’ll be putting in a proper SFG on our new acreage (!).
This year I’m doing two 4×4 boxes plus at least one trellis. Boxes are constructed from 2×6 boards, although Mel said you could get away with 1×6 boards, too. They’re lined with weed cloth, covered with a grid of 1 ft squares, and filled with Mel’s Mix – 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost. Each box therefore holds 16 crops. The trellis is an ingenious structure made from electrical conduit pipes (steel), nylon tomato netting, and anchored over two pieces of rebar stuck in the ground. Cheap and strong.
I’m currently planning my crops, having already decided that I don’t want to get any seeds that require starting indoors. Mel encourages first timers to take it slow and easy, and I’m happy to follow his advice. I’ve got enough information floating around in my head without having to deal with starting seedlings in my living room. So I may end up buying “transplants” (basically, seeds that someone else has started for me) and planting those instead. More expensive but as I’m not growing much of any one crop it hopefully won’t add up to too much.
So, that’s the plan! I hope you’ll follow along as I learn all about growing my own food.