Square foot gardening for groups

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We've been setting up a square foot garden (4-foot squares) from info from the highly recommended book of the same name. This is a great way to apportion land when several families share garden space. we are now moving on to clearing another sunny area, but the first stage allows 10 different families to start gardening NOW. then they can take on more as space becomes available.

results: 10 families gardening, getting experience

10 families learning how to work together, make decisions together

Stage 1 garden set up and running now, with another whole section to be completed in the next few weeks. (Garden set up and manured, dug, paths made, perennial herb and perennial vegetable borders set up and growing THIS year... rhubarb, chives, horseradish, artichokes, herbs etc.)

This is a practical way to prepare.

-- seraphima (seraphima@aol.com), May 19, 1999


I'd also like to add that doing hard physical labor this year is part of my preparation. Physical conditioning isn't my favorite, but I'd rather ache from gardening this year. Plus, it reminded me to buy a BIG bottle of aspirin, ibuprofin, and acetominaphin. I try to switch off after a couple of days to give my liver a break from metabolizing one kind.

-- seraphima (seraphima@aol.com), May 19, 1999.

Wholehartedly agree! Setting up a garden of whatever size is a great preparation measure. Almost everyone has some land that is not in food production, but could be...

We are putting in trees (and coffee) that will be bearing next year as well as other plants that will be in production this year.

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), May 19, 1999.

We put in our fisrt square foot garden this year. Although getting it initially prepared was quite a bit of work (we have very rocky land) still it is so much better than the way we used to do it in rows, and so much easier to care for. We have plenty of land of our own, but for people who live in the city, or have small back yards, this way of gardening can't be beat.

I have three questions. First, I accidentally deleted the web site for square foot gardening and can't find it again. Could someboy post a hot link for the site. Second, what isacetominaphin? An third, where do you live that you can raise coffee? Thanks in advance.

I'm hoping the weather will cooperate this year, and I'll have enough tomatoes to can.. I've heard broccoli does not can well????

-- gilda (jess@listbot.com), May 19, 1999.

What a great project, Seraphima! I have to put in a plug for container gardening too (there's a thread under food). For large, gently-used black plastic pots at about 10c/gall (12" about 20c), see your local landscaper. I've been growing some of my tomatoes this way for a couple of years (am trying special container types this year), and have added eggplant and pepper. (Hope you're not using treated wood for those square-foots. . .)

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), May 19, 1999.


Congrats on the square foot gardening plan. I did it for the first time last summer and had great results.


Acetaminophin(spell) is nothing more than Tylenol. You can buy it at Wal-mart for half the price and get the same results.

-- GeeGee (GeeGee@madtown.com), May 19, 1999.

This response is for Old Git:

You sound like an experienced gardener. I started a garden this year in the backyard. It was basically an experiment because when this house was built last summer it seems a construction worker spit out some watermelon seeds and we had a huge, wonderful watermelon for Thanksgiving dessert. I thought, "I wonder what would actually grow if I planted things?"

To make a long story short, I have several stupid questions. First off, we had torrential rains that moved all the seeds and destroyed my identification markers. I have tons of things growing out there, but I don't know which is which. For instance, I planted watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumber. I have several vining plants, but which is which? Also, I have only ONE of one type. Don't I need at least two to pollenate?

Do you know of anywhere that can give me a classification based on leaf description?



-- Anita Spooner (spoonera@msn.com), May 19, 1999.

Gilda -- for starters, try these sites--


or http://www.flinet.com/~gallus/sqft.html

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), May 19, 1999.

In my garden it's always easy to Identify the cukes- When they come up the cucumber beetles always devour them, then I know that's where I planted the cucumbers. Ha!

One thing I always do is to make a drawing of my garden and where I planted everything. I usually do this in December or January when I'm getting the urge to plant and revise it several times before I can actually get out in my garden.

Last night I went out to check on everything and there was a rabbit in my carrots. I grabbed the b-b gun to scare him off and this rabbit CLIMBED UP MY CHICKEN WIRE FENCE AND JUMPED OFF THE TOP!! I'm not kidding and I'm not on drugs or anything like that. I couldn't beleive it. The fence is about 3 feet high and about 8 inches buried underground. This is the next morning and I'm still in amazement. That rabbit climbed the fence!

-- johnny (jljtm@bellsouth.com), May 19, 1999.

We plan on doing the Square Foot Gardening this season and have tilled the land for the first time. Last night we saw a large jackrabbit in the backyard. Now this might not sound unusual because we do live in the country, but we have never seen a rabbit in our yard in the 10 years we have lived here. Wonder if he is just waiting for those plants to come up? Curiouser and Curiouser!

-- Diane (prepare@highlandtraders.com), May 19, 1999.

Anita, I don't have that much experience. I just try to grow things suited to this area (central NC). There's an incredible amount of gardening info on the Net. If you look back through the Food archive of the forum, you'll find more links than you can ever use! It's a very popular topic. I really like Texas A&M's info; NCSU also has good info--I could go on and on, but those are my favorites.

Markers - go to a custom blinds place. Ask them for their spare slats. They should have a ton. They make GREAT markers! (Cut to size, try to get the stiffest ones they have, some of those vinyl markers are pretty bendy.) And of course, find a special felt-tip garden marker, or even a wax (china) marking pencil, or the info will wear off.

Seeds - if you can find some old screens (or buy screening material yourself), place over seeds (remove promptly when seeds show signs of sprouting or rain quits). I love the old aluminum-framed screens that came off this house - not only do they protect seeds and small plants (placed on bricks), they provide shade for newly planted things and for heat-hating plants like lettuce. (You might find at a garage sale.)

Pollination - I don't know nearly as much about this as I should. I think cucurbits (go ahead, try to say it, you'll spit all over the screen!) have male and female flowers on the same plant. Bees do the work. (Please plant some herbs/flowers for the bees--thyme is VERY good.)

I'm not fond of the cucurbit family, although I am reluctantly growing an eggplant because occasionally I like eggplant parmigiana. Hence, I don't know much about them. I think the leaf size might be an indicator; certainly the tiny cucumbers will be obviously cucumbers. I think they're all grown essentially the same way so I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Rabbits - speaking of bendy. If you make your wire fence a little loose so that it bends and sways when a critter gets on it, it might help. Are you sure that's not the rabbit that went after--who was it?--Carter? Ford? Jumped in the boat or something. Do you have a zoo nearby? Wild cat manure is said to repel ANY critter that ventures on yuor garden. A local man has good success with tiger manure. . .

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), May 19, 1999.

Johnny, wow, I had no idea those critters were so determined!! Few suggestion re: rabbit control: (1) plant some marigolds around the outside of your fence, the rabbits may be satisified with nibbling on those and leave your veggies alone. (2) plant some garlic and onions just inside the fence, the scent sometimes deters the little hoppers, (3) use an ultrasonic, motion sensitive pulse to scare them away (of course at $40-$50, they usually cost more than the rabbits consume), (4) make like a predator, eat a healthy portion of red meat for dinner then sprinkle your first-thing-in-the-morning urine around the edges of the garden; rabbit smells a meat eating predator and stays away (gross but effective) (5) apply Hot Pepper Wax to your veggies every few weeks (it's non-toxic, easily washes off and one bite from the rabbit and it will not be back soon) (6)floating row covers at prime rabbir eating times (night)

Anita, re: pollination, not sure specifically about cukes, melons and lopes, but many veggies are fine with just single specimen (i.e. tomatoes). Maybe you could pick up a few plants from the local nursery and put them in now just in case. Also, you may want to check out floating row covers. They can be used to cover entire rows of veggies and might help in torrential rain. They allow water and light to pass through, but do create a buffer preventing hard rain from disturbing the soil.

-- David (David@matt6:33.com), May 19, 1999.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I learned quite a bit. I don't feel it so important to identify if there's a chance one can pollenate itself. The proof of what they are will be in the fruits they bear, right?

Yes...I have mixed flowers along with the vegetables and the Zinnias are about ready to bloom. Two vining plants are already blooming, as are the beans and peas. I can identify many of the plants...onions aren't tricky (for instance), but some others could be weeds or flowers and I doubt I could tell which right now. Radishes are growing like weeds now that I found out no one in the house likes them.

Screens...good idea if I could get some cheap somewhere. I wondered why the lettuce was doing so poorly.

Thanks again, y'all.


-- Anita Spooner (spoonera@msn.com), May 19, 1999.

Another solution to preventing wash out would be mulching with straw or saltmarsh hay. (Don't use regular hay, it's full of weed seeds.) For my civilized non-torrential suburb garden, I use a thin layer of grass clippings along the sides of my raised beds. Clean, excess water percolates through, but not the mud.

I am establishing another deeply dug, richly amended section of garden. What has made a huge difference in my glacial till soil this year has been drenching the ground thoroughly for a few days ahead of time. This loosens up the soil so that it bears less resemblance to cement. (There is a fine line to making sure the soil is workable without being too wet, as is often the case in early spring. Digging in very wet soil can result in compaction and destruction of the soil's granular texture. However, as the season progresses, my clay soil dries out and becomes rock hard.)

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), May 19, 1999.

Thanks Gee Gee, I didn't know that. And Tom, thanks a lot for the link. That's the one I've been searching for. I enjoy reading the ideas on the square foot gardening site. We started with 16 squares, but use some for flowers.

-- gilda (jess@listbot.com), May 19, 1999.

Someone asked about how to tell the difference between cucumbers,squash, watermelon, cucumbers, etc. To me the leaves all look alike. But I did have the experience from planting cucumbers and muskmelons next to each other of getting a very round cucumber. I was waiting for it to get larger and consequently it rotted before I ever got to find out what was inside. Those would have been some very interesting cucumber slices!!!

-- Ruth Johnson (arzachena@aol.com), August 06, 1999.

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