Carolines square foot garden with a twist. I've always loved gardening and growing herbs and vegetables from home is something I cherish.
The problem for myself and many other city dwellers are the lack of available ground and the low fertility of the space available to me. But by using many of the
practices that are used to set up a square foot garden I only needed
very little space and having access to worms and worm castings helped me
to increase the fertility of the sandy soil that I used for my
Carolines square foot garden
In late September (The first month of Spring here in South Africa) I dug the plot, removing the grass, digging over the black sandy soil to about 40 cm. Before replacing the soil I placed a layer of compost and urine soaked newspaper, balled up and densely placed (but not flat sheets!) in the
trench, which was buried by the moving of the soil. I watered the area with
urine about three times, and then began with water. I use only water that has
stood until the chlorine evaporates. Lastly I placed a layer of worm compost
and worm castings on top, giving the soil a much darker color, and forked it
Below you will find a detailed description how I converted a piece of lawn into a green herb/salad garden.
Costs and equipment:
Fork, spade, watering can, small hole (available), about 100 reeds (free)
11 raw planks approximately 150 centimeters in length,
Costs: R200, $25, 18 Euros)
Plants and seeds used:
Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Grey leaved artichoke, Rosemary, Variegated sage, Grey leaved curry bush, Six pack of lettuce white frilly, Six pack of lettuce – red frilly, Six pack of blue petunias, Six pack of green basi, Six pack of red basil
(Huge savings would be possible by using found/recycled wood, or other paving, and sharing seeds and raising own plants from seed)
How I prepared my square foot garden.
My flat looks out over a piece of lawn with a shabby dead patch, and I was looking for space to grow vegetables. I applied in June for permission to plant a herb garden in the back of the block of flats, at this spot. The application went to the body corporate, the manager and was eventually approved.
Then I let the bed lie, watering regularly for two weeks. I
brought in the planks and reeds and constructed a parallelogram of triangles
outlined by the planks and a reed trellis for the future tomato plants.
The planks laying in a triangle allowed me to make use of an important aspect of a square foot garden. I used the planks to walk on when I work on when I worked in the garden. This left the soil undisturbed which greatly aided the plants in their development.
My sister sponsored the purchase of seedlings and we put the
posts and trays in the garden. The next
morning a snail had demolished the red basil and started on the red lettuce
(strange color preference !) so I carted everything upstairs again put out
snail traps with beer, lettuces etc. and caught no snails at all. I kept the
seedlings upstairs on my balcony where the wind tried its best to desiccate
them, until my sister and I both had time to plant out.
This picture was taken
the day after planting. The tree branches are to keep cats away, to stop them
from using the freshly turned soil for a toilet. The fence of vertical reeds driven into the
ground is to slow the wind, which is bad in our area. Both methods achieved
their desired purpose. For the snails, only early morning and after rain
collection was effective, I eventually got about 80 of them. Put them in the
fridge in a yoghurt tub, for a few weeks till I got the chance to take them to
my Koi breeding ex who fed them to his fish.
The seedlings began to put out bigger leaves after a week or
so, but they really increased in size when I went away for the weekend, and my
neighbor, who is also in on the harvesting, watered the lettuces every day for
three days! I must remember this country is dryer than all the places where the
mother plants for our vegetables came from. The pine needles are there to
protect the basil and lettuce from snails, as well as prevent the soil around
them from drying out, and they seemed to work, I eventually removed them when I
saw a snail crawling on them. I had read in a gardening blog that snails hate
prickly stuff… perhaps they did their job when the plants were extremely young
Next we see a progression as the plants get bigger. Soon
they completely cover some areas of the garden. This little micro-climate, like
a miniature forest, is I imagine good for plants in our dry, hot and windy
summers, as the cover offers some protection from all of these things, and as
this cover develops they shelter each other from the wind and grow higher than
the little wind fence. I planned not to water often, and encourage the roots to
go down deep, but that choice was taken from me by other people who also want
to do their bit to help the garden. The tomato trellis had blown itself to
shreds before we even bought the seedlings, so when the tomatoes really needed
crutches, I installed another trellis which is long and low, and can be seen in
the background of the last pictures. It has withstood 46km/hour winds already,
and should keep the bushes about 50cm off the ground.
Now I am slowly replacing plants that die, or placing in
seedlings to fill bald patches. I added quite a few chard plants at first to
fill space, now I am using chili, a midsummer herb. It is very, very hot (the
weather, I haven’t tried the chili yet!) I planted about six varieties of
chili. The gardener of the flats started watering the salad garden too…
everything boomed except the sage which died almost instantly, it must be one
of those plants, like cypress trees which are very sensitive to pH or additives
in tap water.
harvest a leaf at a time from the chard and lettuce, and
cautiously from the basil. Then the lettuce and chard started to sprout
upwards, so I lopped them off. We will see if this delays setting seed.
The rocket needs cutting back so I harvest it severely. I sat on the rosemary by accident while installing the new trellis, so most of its top branches were hacked off and eaten. My sister, I, and two neighbors have more greens than we can eat. I wish I could grow beans, I love lazy housewife, but the wind is too awful here.
All in all I am very pleased with my vegetable and herb
garden and hope that my square foot garden with a twist will inspire many hobby
gardeners to start their own project and grow organic vegetables and herbs from