Square Foot Garden Experiment

square foot garden

Partly it was the 12 deliveries of kale involved in last year’s CSA, and partly it just seems like the thing everyone is doing. Must be  zeitgeist.  But mostly it’s because I’m writing a cookbook called the All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook. This year, if all goes as planned, I’ll be growing my own in my Square Foot Garden.

It was fate, I believe. In November or December we decided not to sign up for a share from a local organic farm. Just not enough of what we like (broccoli, green beans, fennel, carrots) and lots of vegetables that make the family grimace. I like okra, but they don’t. I like the occasional eggplant, and the family will eat it once a year, which left about 10 more to deal with. Etcetera with squash, kale, and more. Every Tuesday night was a cooking marathon to make room in the fridge for the next delivery. Every dinner time was a power struggle to get even a bite or two past the lips of Sweet Cheeks. I know, I’m a bad parent. Pass the margaritas. And hand me that lighter.

In February, the garden spot — there’s only one in my shady yard — was plowed up. In mid-March I was days away from starting a row of lettuces when I was approached about writing a cookbook to follow the zillion-selling All New Square Foot Gardening. Was I familiar with the book? You bet — I had a job at a Waldenbooks in the mid-1980s, and we sold a lot of SFG in its previous edition.

Since I’m writing a book about gardening, I need to walk the talk. I built garden boxes from patio bricks that were pulled up last year for our master bedroom addition. Most people build wooden boxes, but I’m going for decorative as well as functional. Plus, I can’t build stuff. If I’d been a pioneer on the prairie, I’d have frozen to death before I got a cabin built.

Because I can’t build stuff, the most daunting task was building the uprights. The author of All New Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew, is a genius (more about him in another post) and developed a method of growing vine crops vertically. It’s incredible — cantaloupes hanging 4 feet in the air. They develop a hugely thick stem to support themselves. Anyway, Mel’s frame design is simple enough for most people, but I’m an idiot if the task involves more than a drill and a screwdriver. I didn’t have to decide for several weeks, thank goodness, because the winter squash and cucumber plants sulked in the cool, overcast and rainy days.

Finally, though, the rain stopped and the sun returned, and the day of reckoning came. I had to build the supports for the upward-training of the cukes and squash. And hey! It went exactly like the directions said: just a screwdriver and maybe a hacksaw.

vertical growing supports

The first cucumber is one inch long. The first five arugula salads have been eaten. So far, so good. I’ll be writing about the garden this summer, probably every 10 days or so. Drop by again soon — I’ll have something for you.