Monday, April 11, 2011

It's late, and I can't sleep, so what better time to update? I thought I'd talk about getting my garden up and going.

I enjoy gardening anyway, but this whole economic nightmare that our country is in currently has gotten me thinking more and more about self sufficiency. We'd probably be called lower middle class people right now, but if--or, when--things take a turn for the worse, we could very easily become the working class poor. So saving money and learning how to take care of ourselves is becoming more important.

To that end, I first felt powerless; what could I do on our measly 1/16th of an acre, half of which is covered by house and driveway? Plus, we have a big dog, still a puppy, who needs room to run around and play.

Enter square foot gardening. I don't know exactly how I came across the idea; probably just through some of my seemingly constant googling. (I don't know what I ever did without the Internet). But I learned of the concept, and then found the All New Square Foot Gardening at the library. The book accompanied me to Mexico and back, where the hubster and I vacationed in March. I read by the pool. He watched, and laughed at a nervous tic I have, where my toes wag when I'm concentrating, or excited about something, or both, which I was with this book.

When we got back, I couldn't wait to get started. Two days after our return, I was on the back porch, building raised garden beds. Me. I don't think I've ever previously built something from wood before. Well, at least nothing that turned out like it was supposed to. But the book had given simple instructions, and even though I'm not a carpenter, I'm not incompetent. So, I built them. Or, most of them. I was better than halfway through when the hubster came home from work and adamantly insisted on giving me a hand. I can be pigheaded at times about doing things myself, but I'm glad he didn't take no for an answer, because it was easier with both of us. But don't tell him I said that.

Materials: 2x6s cut to size by the friendly Lowes associate, weed cloth, linseed oil (to preserve the wood), drywall screws, and weed cloth tacks, which I later returned without using. 

Finished bed frames.
The next step was to get the beds in place, and fill them. But remember that dog I mentioned? Well, she likes to chew. And dig. So there wasn't going to be a backyard garden unless we could devise a way to keep her out of it. The simplest thing was to have a fence built. It took a couple of weeks to research fence builders, find someone who was willing to do it for the right price, and who had time to do it before the growing season was half over. The hubster took care of all that, and shortly the garden area was cordoned off from the rest of the yard, safe from the hell hound sweet, innocent, hundred-pound puppy. 


Then the real work began. Mel's mix is the planting medium derived by the creator of square foot gardening. It is a mix of five different kinds of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. It took us most of a day to lay the beds out (on top of weed cloth), mix the planting medium and fill the beds. To mix all the ingredients, we opened the bags and dumped them onto a tarp, then folded and unfolded the tarp in all different directions, causing the ingredients to fold back onto themselves, until it was mixed evenly. We did this four times, instead of dumping all of it in one big heap, to keep the pile manageable.

Mel's Mix ingredients

Positioning the beds.

Beds filled with Mel's mix. You can see a portion of the chain link fence we had installed to separate the garden from the rest of the yard in the top pic.
And there's my garden :)

The hubster surprised me the next week by attaching a grid over the boxes, which visually divided the beds into square-foot sections, making it easier to properly space the seeds when planting. I'll talk more next time about the idea behind square foot gardening, and how it allows you to use a small amount of space more productively.

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