Here are some square foot gardening tips that I have learned. These might just make the difference between having a good garden and a GREAT square foot garden.
My first square foot gardening tip is to let your garden go vertical. Grow cucumbers, pole beans, peas and squash on a trellis.
Tomatoes are also best grown vertically. I even successfully used a trellis to grow sweet potatoes and cantaloupe.
Growing the above crops vertically is a good way to keep the fruit clean and to protect it from slugs. It also means that you can grow more in your garden, since plants grow up, not out.
In his book, All New Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew has a whole chapter on vertical growing, and demonstrates how to build economical trellises that are strong and won’t be blown over by the wind.
Start with 1/2” galvanized electrical conduit, which you can purchase at a hardware store. As Mel suggests, I purchased a 1/2” conduit bender as well.
I bent my conduit so that my trellis stands five and a half feet tall, and is 4 feet across. This fits across my 4’ by 12’ box nicely.
Your garden supply store should carry trellis netting. I use netting with 7” by 7” openings. Once you build a trellis frame, lean it against a wall, then tie the netting to the top of your trellis, then the sides.
Next, cut 1/2” iron rebar into 30” lengths. Rebar is iron bar that is used to reinforce concrete.
On each side of my square foot garden box where I want to place my trellis, I pound one of the bars half way into the ground, just outside my box. Then I slip my trellis over the rebar.
Finally, I secure the trellis close to the top of the box with conduit U clamps.
Crops like peas find their own way up the trellis. Other crops you must carefully weave in and out of the trellis as they grow.
For heavier fruit like cantaloupe and small watermelon, use some closely spaced netting to make a little hammock to support each piece of fruit.
There are some plants that really like to sprawl, like zucchini, melons, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. Mel says that if you work at it, you can use a square foot approach for these crops.
My second square foot gardening tip is to just plant these in a raised bed and let them grow out as much as they want.
Trellised crops will shade other crops unless the trellis is put on the north side of your square foot gardening box (if you live in the northern hemisphere).
Only put trellises on the north side of your box.
If you put multiple trellises into your garden, they will shade one another, as you can see in the picture of the cucumbers and green beans on the left.
Either put trellises in multiple boxes, or use a raised bed to grow these where they won’t shade other parts of your garden.
There are crops like sweet corn that take a lot of space.
It is true that you can grow corn in a 4’ x 4’ box, but you only get 16 plants in this space.
This just doesn’t seem to be a very efficient use of expensive space to me, since planting exclusively to corn yields only 16 corn plants.
Also, because Mel’s mix is light and loose, it is necessary to support each stalk of corn to keep the wind from blowing it over.
Therefore, I prefer to plant corn in 30” rows, outside of my square foot garden. This gives it more sunlight, and corn needs all the sun it can get.
A third square foot gardening tip is to feed your vegetables sea minerals.
THE OCEAN is a wonderful source of the trace minerals that your garden needs.
Dr. Maynard Murray did extensive research that demonstrated that laboratory test animals didn’t get cancer and other diseases when they were fed plants grown with sea minerals, while the control animals did get the disease.
This is pretty incredible stuff, and it is time for people to know about it!
This brings me to an important point. Mel says in his book that just by adding compost that is made from numerous sources, your plants will have all the nutrients they need.
My father was an animal nutritionist, and I learned from him that this assumption is wrong.
The fact is, for the last 65 or so years, farmers have not fertilized with the full spectrum of trace minerals when they put on their chemical fertilizers, therefore, most of the produce you buy is lacking in trace minerals, even when it is grown organically.
When you compost materials that are lacking in trace minerals, don’t expect trace minerals to magically appear in your compost.
The only way to super charge your garden with trace minerals is to use a trace mineral fertilizer.
My favorite is a concentrated sea mineral product that is rich in trace minerals but low in salt.
A product called MycorrPlus contains a good amount of these sea minerals, plus kelp, fish, humic and fulvic acids, and a complete biological.
Not only does MycorrPlus balance and highly structure the soil, it also prompts the plant to sequester huge amounts of sugars (liquid carbon) through the roots. This by far the fastest way I know of to build organic matter in the soil.
My fourth square foot gardening tip is that in some instances, it works well to grow in a portable square foot garden.
As Mel shows in his book, I made a 2’ x 2’ Square Foot Garden box with a plywood bottom.
I planted it inside using grow lights, and grew a crop of lettuce. Then I started a new crop, and carried it outside when the weather warmed up.
What a great way to get a jump start on the season. Using this method also makes it possible to bring your garden inside or onto the porch to protect it from a frost or hail.
I trust that these square foot gardening tips are helpful to you. I wish you the best of success.
No doubt you will soon come up with your own square foot gardening tips to share with others. Now why not check out my gardening home page.
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