Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Beginning

   I decided to keep a casual blog of my Square Foot Garden's progress for the 2012 gardening season.  This is the first year we are implementing the SFG, based on the "All New Square Foot Garden" book by Mel Bartholomew.  The reason we decided to try this is because it's supposed to save a lot of water, labor, and disappointment. XD  We live in the arid desert west of the Rockies where precipitation is scarce and the summers are dry and HOT.  The average garden plants don't do well in our heavy-clay soil unless you are willing to do a lot of work amending the soil and diligently water.  Many parts of our area enjoy the benefit of the canal water for their field and gardens, but we live within the city proper, served by the regular water service, so the water bills in the peak summer months are no laughing matter just to keep the average lawn in the front.

   I've always gardened in varying capacities all my life, including window sill gardening during my apartment dwelling days.  It's something I was drawn from a very young age and always enjoyed.  So after getting married and buying a house with a fair size backyard, it was a dream come true for the first several seasons.  We had a garden about 20 feet by 30 feet, and it was lush and vigorous.  We also had a composting pile in the shaded corner outside of our kitchen and everything was done organically with great success without much trouble.

   After a few seasons of growing corn, tomatoes, and most backyard garden veggies, we realized that we couldn't keep up fertilizing.  The compost pile couldn't keep up, and we also had to move it to another location because of bug problems.  The new location was too sunny and keeping it moist became a chore.  Little by little, the garden soil started to deteriorate, seemingly requiring more and more water, and the crops it produced looked not worth the cost of water.  The only thing that seem to be thriving was the weeds.

   When the recession hit, I was burned out of doing heavy-duty garden work (like tilling), and I let go of the garden.  It doesn't take very many seasons at all for the top soil to completely die.  We saw it happen in many people's back (and in some cases, front) yard in the last few years.  I had down-scaled my gardening effort to just a few pots in the back porch and mostly focusing my effort on the front yard.

   My husband had the old version of the Square Foot Gardening book.  The thought of growing everything in a 1-foot by 1-foot square didn't originally appeal to me so I resisted.  Then just recently we came across the "All New" version utilizing a 4-foot by 4-foot box, just 6 inches deep.  This radically different approach actually seemed interesting to me who was fed up with all the dredge work the traditional gardening method required.  We bought the book and studied it up, and decided to give it a go on a small, trial scale for the first year.
   As I mentioned, we live in a very hot, very dry, desert west of the US, and our lot has very little natural shade from either structures or tall trees, and water bill is a serious concern.  The SFG's soil mix called Mel's Mix is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 mixed compost, so it holds a lot of moisture.  So we're going to see if this method is suitable for our area.  We are planning on starting a few boxes first, then keep adding boxes as we gain experience.

   The first box of spring vegetables were sown on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012.  With a grid planned like this.

   The Mesclun mix of seeds were the first to germinate on Day 4.  Something that looked like radish seedlings appeared first.  Mornings were still frosty a couple of times during that week.

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