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My Square Foot Garden

About This Article

The intent of this article is not to teach you how to Square Foot Garden but to follow my experiences, both successes and failures.

Note: This page has been modified to bring the most recent additions to the top of the page.

Update: 04/11/2017

2016 has come and gone. My garden was a mixture of successes and failures.

Since the end of last season I've been completely overhauling the garden. My SFG boxes were not in such good shape. After all they were made from used lumber to begin with. I decided I also needed a little more room between the boxes.

What I have now is a mixture of row gardening and SFG. I made my paths 3' wide and the garden beds are 3' wide. The beds were also extended an additional 3' in length and are now 30' long. There are 4 rows.

Although not necessary, I did dig my rows out and amend them with lots of compost. The fourth row is new and had quite few large roots in it. I have not put any edging or boards around the beds.

2017 Garden

In this version of my garden I used SFG templates to mark where to plant and have planted according SFG spacing in most cases. Some things I cut a little short due to support issues. With the exception of a 3' x 3' section of spinach, all my vegetables are planted within 2 rows. The third row has the spinach and then a trellis of Kiwi and a long stretch of strawberries. Just for the heck of it I planted Mamonth Sunflowers in the 4th row.

Another change I made this year was to take out the drip lines and install mini sprayers. This will use a little more water for the same amount of time than the drippers but it's more dispersed. With the drippers there was only one per sq ft. This layout made it difficult to get the water to where it needed to be when multiple plants were planted within a sq ft. If you water by hand you can be more precise with the watering and use much less water.

To help conserve water, each sprayer has it's own shut off. This enables me to only run the sprayers I need. Of course now that everything is planted all the sprayers are on. They are also controlled by my lawn sprinker system and run automatically every day.

I'm currently harvesting Romaine lettuce, and spinach.

Update: 08/23/2015

It's been a long hot summer with periods of very dry weather. Many times when the rains came they missed my exact location and were all around us. Even with the drip irrigation the weather has affected the gardens.

Bed #1

The creeping phlox transplants are holding on just fine. Added a few clippings of  Butterfly Weed to propagate.

Planted one square of radish and a few red onions that turned up as I was preparing to plant the radish seed.

Bed #2

Cleared out the sunflowers and cucumbers. Spread the seeds from the Teddy Bear sunflowers on the ground for the birds and put the Mamouth sunflower heads on the porch for saving.

Bed #3

Removed the pole beans but left a white cabbage that started to regrow. Just seeing what will happen. There were 2 heads forming so I trimmed the smallest one off. Maybe I'll get some fall cabbage.

Bed #4

Cleared out the bush beans and eggplants. The peppers are still looking healthy although the fruit is small.

Bed #5

Cleared all the Armenian Cucumbers but left the landscape bush because I still don't know where to put it or what it is.

Bed #6

The tomatoes are still growing and there are fruit forming well above my head. Most of them are much smaller now and the stink bugs are still getting to a majority of them before I can. Prevention efforts have been limited this year.

Update: 07/12/2015

After a weeks vacation we came home to find the garden doing fairly well. Left unattended and only the automatic drip system taking care of the watering there was plenty to harvest.

Bed #1

For the most part this bed is still vacant. We have transplanted some creeping phlox cuttings from cell packs to the garden to mature a bit more before being moved to a permanent location.

Bed #2

The sunflowers are already bowing their heads. The Mammouth's did not get as tall as expected and the Teddy Bear were multiple heads of smaller size than anticipated.

There are 3 bush type cucumbers also planted in this bed that are just starting to produce.

Bed #3

Not using insecticides allowed the insects to take over the cabbage. This is the worst I've ever seen them so all the cabbages have been removed. The kentucky wonder pole beans have been slow to start but it looks like they're well on their way now. Lots of blossoms on all the vines.

Bed #4

The bush beans have not done real well but we did get some and they are still producing. Both eggplant and pepper seem like they are dwarfs. We had already harvested several small eggplants and a few peppers. They both continue to produce slowly.

Bed #5

The Armenian cucumbers are doing very well this year. We're harvesting 2 to 4 cucumbers each week with plenty still on the way. This is the first year we have tried to maintain control of the vines by pinching off the suckers and this may have reduced the number of fruit but what we are getting is more than enough to keep us eating.

Bed #6

The Rutgers Heirloom tomatoes are doing extremely well. Since no one tended the garden during vacation there were several that were taken to the compost pile but still lots more left for consumption. The vines are reaching the top of the tomato ladder but they have not become completely unruly. Lots of new buds and plenty of green tomatoes still growing.

Potato Tower

This was somewhat of a disappointment. I dumped the tower over yesterday and harvested a small bunch of potatoes. I really should not have expected a whole lot since there were a limited number of blooms. In any case, what there was tasted great with last nights dinner.

Next time I will consider a different medium instead of straight compost and will make sure there is a drip line to provide automatic watering.

Update: 06/06/2015

June is here and the heat is on. I've cleared out the cool season crops from  bed 1 and the peas from bed 5.

Bed2

Bed #2

Multiple sunflowers coming along nicely. Some are Mammoth and some are Teddy Bear. I squeezed in a late planting of bush type cucumbers in a couple empty spaces.

Bed3

Bed #3

Red and White Cabbage slow to form heads. Lots of insect damage on a few of the plants. Kentucky Wonder pool beans have made it to the top and a starting to bloom. Harvest won't be as heavy as normal.

Bed 4

Bed #4

Only few bush beans are growing and one pole bean got mixed in the bunch. Peppers and eggplants are both producing regardless of the very short plants.

Bed 5

Bed #5

The Armenian Cucumbers are sprawling all over. I wasn't seeing anything but male flowers until the other day when I spotted some baby Armenian Cukes. I'll have to do some more work for the trellis as this is really too small for the way these cucumbers grow.

Bed 6

Bed #6

As I said, I took out the peas today even though there were a lot on the vines. They just didn't look so good. The picture was taken before I did that.The Rutgers tomatoes are growing great. At least a dozen or more tomatoes waiting to ripen and lots more on the way. I've put some time into tieing them up to the trellis, trimming some branches to help air flow, and pinching suckers to keep things under control.

Potato Tower

Potato Tower

The soil inside the potato tower has settled some but I've opted not to add any more. I saw some flowers earlier but now there are none. I'm waiting for the plant to die back to harvest the potatoes. The other day I stuck my hand in and picked up a handfull of soil and found a nice healthy garden worm.

Update: 05/31/2015

Yesterday before going to company 25 yr. celebration I got a few things done.

  • Tied up tomato plants which are now producing a good number of tomatoes.
  • Trained cucumber vines onto trellis and pruned a few off. A good number of blossoms are showing up but they all appear to be males.
  • Watered potato tower
  • Picked some bush beans and some peas. Peas are about done now and drying out fast.
  • Trimmed some branches off a large Forsythia bush so I can have room to dig up more Yucca plants showing up.

Update: 05/26/2015

The sunflowers are really starting to shoot up. The Armenian cucumbers are climbing the trellis and are forming buds. I had added a few bush type cucumbers where some sunflowers didn't sprout and they are just coming up.

Potatoes are still growing and lookinf fine. The Rutgers Tomatoes are getting bigger with a bout a dozen of them forming nicely. Blossoms on my Celebrity Tomatoes even though the plants are still pretty small.

We filled several collendars with strawberries since the beginning of the month but production has dropped off. We'll still get a few here and there for a little longer.

I've gotten a few handfulls of peas but not what I was hoping for.

Picked a couple bush beans I spotted yesterday.

Peppers are forming and eggplant has buds. The plants are still much shorter right now than I usually have.

Lettuce and Spinach are pretty much done with the heat wave we got. I may try to remember to do a fall planting if I can get something started from seed.

Update: 05/03/2015

Not much has changed except things getting bigger. A few more sunflowers have sprouted, Armenian cucumbers developed true leaves, more bush beans coming up, and my onions are going to seed without much bulb production.

 

The potatoes are now growing well above the the tower and it looks like buds are starting to form. There are also more stems coming up through the compost.

Not part of the actual SFG garden beds, is my strawberry patch. I've been nibbling on a few each time I'm in the garden but yesterday I managed to harvest about a quart or two.

I'm really pleased with how things are going and am looking forward to a nice harvest all the way around. Already planning to add additional SFG beds for next year.

Update: 04/23/2015

The SFG beds in my vegetable garden are coming along nicely. The not too successful test garden didn't hold me back. Last year's mediocre results only fueled my desire to be successful.

Bed 1

Bed #1

The contents has not changed but I'm already harvesting lettuce and Spinach leaves. I plan to let a few of the lettuce form heads.

Bed #2

I've got some sunflowers planted and a few have started to come up but I just replanted in the spaces that were empty. I'll take pictures when there's more to show.

Bed#3

Red Cabbage, White Cabbage and Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans.

 

 

Bed #4

Peppers, Eggplant and Bush Beans. The moss phlox rooted and was transplanted. So were the volunteer Rudbeckia. Only a few of the purple beans came up so other bush beans were added. Still not many germinating. The bush was moved to yet another location but it doesn't look to well right now.

Bed #5

8 Armenian Cucumbers, still quite small but the weather has been cool at night slowing them down. That stray bush got stuck in the corner for now.

Bed 6

Bed #6

Six Rutgers Heirloom Tomatoes, several Snow Peas and some other type peas. 3 plants that arrived in the mail and I think they're called 'Mediterainean Pinks'

Potato Tower

Verticle Tower

This is not actually an SFG bed but it is in place where I will have one next year. This is a piece of 3' high fence formed inot a circle, covered in weed block, planted with Yukon Gold and Red potatoes.

Update: 03/14/2015

We did not update this as often as we should have. Over all last years success was a bit disappointing but considering the circumstances we can't really complain.

During the winter months we've repaired or replaced some of the SFG beds and worked the soil by digging out roots and amending with compost. I'm putting more effort into this than the SFG method dictates but old habits are sometimes hard to break.

We are already planting our 2015 vegetables in the 6 SFG beds currently placed in the garden.

Here's what we have so far:

  • Bed #1

    • Red Onions - planted in the fall
    • Spinach
    • Romaine Lettuce
    • Broccoli - purchased by mistake
  • Bed #2

    • Empty
  • Bed #3

    • Red Cabage
  • Bed #4

    • Moss Phlox cuttings - taking root nicely and starting to bloom
    • Volunteer Rudbeckia - Will transplant later
    • Purple Beans - planted as an indicator of when other seeds can be put out.
    • An unknown bush waiting to find a home.
  • Bed #5

    • Empty
  • Bed #6

    • Radish - Coming up and looking pretty good
    • Snow Peas - About 2 to 3 inches tall right now.
    • Spinach Seed - no sign of germination
    • Romaine Lettuce Seed - no sign of germination
    • Carrot Seed - no sign of germination.
    • Most of this bed has been covered with an old window to protect it from the cold weather. I just removed it the other day since it was into the 80's.
  • Vertical Tower

    • This is a new addition and is planted with a combination of Yukon Gold and a Red Potato.

I'm considering restructuring the entire garden in the fall. Spacing things out a little more and dressing things up a little bit. We jsut have to see how things go.

It looks like I'll be overflowing into other areas to plant everything that's been started or purchased so far. Of course that depends on the survival rate of the seeds I've started in the garage. Right now it's not looking all that great.

Update: 07/16/2014

The grape tomatoes are out growing their support. The celbrity tomaotes are producing like crazy.

There were a couple of peppers that were small and attacked by some insect. Purple beans are still producing but slowing down a lot. The kentucky wonder beans are few and far between unlike my normal production. The regular cucumbers are growing but not as many as I would like. Next year I'll look for a true bush type cucumber.

Armenian Cucumbers

Armeniean Cucumbers are growing into everything. They've climbed inot the grape tomatoes and are makint their way over to the celebrity tomatoes. In the other direction I added a trellis next to the SFG box and they are climbing over the top. I can see lots of cucumbers at various stages. In the past when my Armenian's got large they were farily long and fat. Today I harvested some that are long, slender, and curvy.

Update: 07/05/2014

Here it is, July 5 already. Considering the lack of attention my garden gets I think it is doing pretty well. We harvested a small amount of Romaine Lettuce and some spinach earlier in the season.

The snow peas were started a little bit late so we didn't get a great harvest but we did get a few pickings from them.

Square Foot Garden

Celbrity tomatoes, grape tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers,  and Armenian cucumbters are doing well. Picked a bag full of celebrity tomatoes and there's more that should come off soon. The eggplants are smaller than usual but the fruits look nice and healthy and will soon be turned into a nice caserole.

Picked a nice size Armenian Cucumber the other day and a couple of 8" regular cukes. Plenty of grape tomatoes waiting to be eaten.

The Kentucky Wonder pole beans are not doing as well as they normally do for me. I planted less because I always have such an abundance but now they're on the skimpy side.

The pepper plants are doing pretty good but I haven't seen many peppers yet and the ones there are still the size of peas.

Don't forget to visit our photo gallery to view more images.

Update: 05/26/2014

It's been a while since I've updated here. In January we had a fire at the house so I've been occupied with other things. It did not stop me from continuing my gardening. I believe using the SFG method has actually helped since I had no water for some time other than rain water collected.

There are several SFG boxes set up and planted at this time. None of them are completely full. Succession planting is still an issue for me but that's a personal problem rather than a problem with the SFG method.

What is planted and growing now is nothing like the original plan I linked to below. Not being at the house made it difficult for me to start seeds and I didn't find all the transplants I wanted.

Square Foot Garden

One of my SFG boxes as of April 12, 2014. To the left side are snow peas, on the right side is romaine lettuce, radish, and purple beans. In the middle I planted some spinach seeds. Carrot seeds were put in to the left of the lettuce.

SFG Garden

This garden has 8 cucumber plants set up along the trelles. The small plant in the front is a cherry tomato. There are also 8 marigolds planted just in front of the cucumbers. This is also from April 12, 2014.

Update: 12/23/2013

It's almost Christmas and I'm still working on my SFG. With temperatures going 23 to 36 degrees above normal it was hard not to start planting yesterday.

I've been putting most of my efforts into preparing for my spring plantings. Inspiration has come from viewing various boards on Pintrest. Yesterday I completed 2 of the 3 4ft trellises I had started a few weeks ago. These are a simple design with 4 legs that fold and some wire fencing. I used 1" x 2" x 8' boards cut to 4' lengths. A machine screw holds each pair of legs together and allows them to fold flat. The fencing is a 2" x 3" welded wire construction.

Cucumber Trellis

After completing the first 2 I realized it would be better to cut the fence a little larger so the legs would fit outside the SFG box. The 3rd one I did this way and it looks much better standing in the garden. The image to the left shows my original build with the fencing cut to a 4' width.

Another project I found through Pintrest is the Tomato Ladder. The recommended boards were 1" x3" x 8' but I again used the 1" x 2" for mine. I've tried various methods for supporting tomatoes always trying to use the least expensive route but that has not worked out.

Tomato Ladder

After constructing my first ladder, I placed it in one of the SFG boxes. It looks like I can plant tomatoes in each of 4 squares (2 x 2) and they will be supported by the one ladder. This is a little different than my plan to plant 4 squares along one edge but I think it will work out well.

You can see my current garden plan here. The image shows everything I will plant during the upcoming year. It's not all planted at once so some spaces have two images overlapping. These are the Spring and Fall plantings for that spot.

View my Square Foot Garden Plans gallery to see how the garden changes from month to month.

My Second Trial

Just recently while surfing the web I came across this video about Square Foot Gardening. This 30 minute video gives a great presentation on SFG by Mel Bartholomew himself. In the video Mel states "If you don't use the grid you'll just end up with two rows of plants". Based on my first experience I can say that is true for sure. After watching this video and thinking about saving 80% space, I decided to give SFG another chance. Using an online garden planner that has special settings for SFG I started planning my 2014 vegetable garden. I also did a plan of my 2013 vegetable garden. My plan started with a 25 x 25 grid because that's about how much space my current garden takes up. It's actually a bit larger but there's a section not planted. When planning for the 2014 garden I just made several 4' x 4' squares. Then I started filling them in with aout the number of plants I normally use. If you look at the plan you'll see I stil have lots of empty boxes and plenty of open space.

Working with the garden planner really got me interested in doing something. I decided to make a test box. Using scraps of wood I had lying around I built my first 4' x 4' box. It's about 5 1/2" deep.

My First SFG Box

Here we go again not following directions and working with a negligible budget. I didn't have the matreials handy to make the mix that Mel recommends so I used what I had on hand, garden soil and compost. My best guess is I mixed about 2 parts compost with 1 part garden soil. My garden soil is a mixture of the local sandy soil and the compost I've  been adding over the years.

Now the box is built and filled with soil so it's time for the grid. The grid in the video was really nice but I don't have any materials to make one. The old blinds I had were only 36" and I needed at least 49". Knowing the grid is a very important part of this project I broke out the staple gun and a ball of jute twine.

The next step is to get someting planted. Back to my garden planner to see what would work for direct seeding in May. The list was quite long but I went with what was readily available at the house.

Squarefoot Garden Box

I still had some seedlings in the garage I had started several weeks ago. They haven't grown much so I figured rather than throwing them away I'll give them a chance in the new square foot garden box. I added 4 tomato plants, 1 cumber, 3 eggplants, and 3 peppers. The tomatoes are either grape tomatoes or heirloom but I lost the tags so I'm not sure how many of each. I added 4 marigold seeds to each of 3 squares. My final 2 squres were 9 purple bush beans and 9 green bush beans.

As of today 5/22, 10 of the 12 marigold seeds have sprouted and 17 of the 18 bush beans have sprouted. A 18th bush bean had sprouted but got broken off.

My first experience

It was several years ago when I first encountered information on Square Foot Gardening. I checked out Mel's website to learn more and decided to try it myself. At the time my vegetable garden was 2 or 3 rows about 25 feet long and about 3 to 4 feet wide. I was following standard planting practices and spacing. After reading the information about SFG I decided to convert my garden to square foot gardening.

I never was much for following directions real well and this was no exception. As I started my work I decided not to build individual boxes 4' x 4'. In my mind I could get even more yield if I just framed in my current rows and then planted them using the grid method from SFG. Working with a very limited budget I found some old lumber to create the sides and ends of my rows.

Again based on my budget I filled these frames with a mix of garden soil and my home made compost. Then I decided I didn't need to make a grid to plant. I can just space them the way they need to be. What I ended up with was 2 rows of vegetables planted within a 4' x 25 ' bed. Of course in my mind at that time, SFG wasn't any better than what I was doing.

My Vegetable Garden

My gardens stayed in this condition for several years and I even expanded to have 4 rows that are 4' x 25'. I put in drip lines and ran two lines in each row to automate the watering. The sucess of my garden each year has varied. Sometimes I get a great harvest and sometimes I'm very disappointed. Even as I write this my garden is basically set up in rows and I'm wondering how well some of my crops will do this year.

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