Square Foot Gardening for Beginners
Whoot whoot! I finally have my veggie garden getting up and growing!
I might have mentioned already that my husband didn't share my enthusiasm for another try on my wildest projects: growing most of our own produce. He remembers all too well the gazillion times that I took on a veggie garden and then neglected it, even if there was good stuff to harvest. The good thing is that I do almost everything in pots, so it's fairly easy to clean up. And this year I can add to the list...
a real square foot garden!
One of my closest friends (she just grew into that role as we met each other—our husbands are childhood friends, we all live in the same street, and our children are, by mere coincidence, only 10 days apart!) had heard me tell about the principles of square foot gardening. When she saw a bed on offer a few weeks later, she just bought it for me, and came to hand it over as a very early birthday present.
So my husband couldn't sputter anymore; and, luckily, he didn't. He chose me a spot close to the house (with watering the plants in mind, clever as he is), removed the nearby grass (which he couldn't reach with his mower anyway), and created an extra spot for some more pots that way.
I love the ideas of square foot- and container gardening, where everything is planted closely together and there is no wasted space. From my experience, it has some serious pros, especially for the beginning gardener, so I'll share with you my
1. You don't need lots of space and tons of supplies. My first try at growing food took place in a very small garden of a rental house. It was 1.5 by 5 meters, ending in a point. And my husband put in a lawn (that's a story on its own). I had a small line measuring about 80 centimeters by 2 meters available for experimenting. And each and every day, I was surprised at how much that space could give me. I bought some plastic pots; an uncle made me a large crate of old scrap wood; I bought some soil and some seeds. That's it. You can start as small as you like and work from there.
2. You don't need to care about the soil of your garden. I have always used all-round potting soil, even for sowing. And it works just fine. Maybe it's not perfection, but as a beginning gardener, you shouldn't care about perfection. Everything that works is pure win. I must admit that the potting soil my husband brought me this year wasn't the best for my seeds. Many of them didn't come up, and I guess it's because the soil was too "rough" and lumpy, with pieces of half-gone wood in it.
3. It might be a good idea to start with little plants that someone else has started for you. You may not have the patience for seedlings or a place to protect them from the cold (or the snails or the husbands who don't know about plants, think they're just weeds, and toss them into the compost bin). Ask more experienced gardeners, or people who by accident are in the possession of 250 tomato plants. Or buy them. It's not the cheapest solution, but it takes care of the hardest part. And you can build up to starting seedlings gradually, as your experience grows.
4. You can have success with almost any crop. You just need to consider (at least a little) the climate you live in. Here in Belgium, there's little chance I'll successfully grow melons without a greenhouse; even then... they need lots of sunlight. But tomatoes work just fine, if you put them in a sunny spot.
Don't listen to people who claim you cannot grow zucchini in a pot without having an extra big container and watering it ALL THE TIME. It has been one of my easiest things to grow, even in a normal plastic container (only 35 centimeters wide)—and I have not always been the best at watering. By the way: One plant produces a lot of zucchini, even in a pot. If you're overly enthusiastic and put in four plants, you'll end up with VERY MANY zucchini. Don't say I didn't warn you. Other easy crops are snow peas, spring onions, and rocket (arugula). They say radishes are great, too, but I never grew a decent one. Which is okay, because I don't like them anyway.
5.Plant things you would want to eat. It's a sad thing to have tons of green beans if you don't like them. And if you have to make hard choices: Grow the things that are the most expensive in the grocery store. It will be an extra boost to your motivation knowing that your hard work saved you some money. You could even brag about it. A little.