The Square Foot Garden Project (SqFood for short) has been plagued by minor catastrophes since the start of the project. SuperMan decided some months ago that a square foot garden is THE way to go in the city. It is a great idea, actually. Instead of trying to make the soil you have work for your garden, you just make your own! SuperMan attacked the idea of SqFood with vengeance (pardont he puns), bringing home some [very expensive] pre-fab kits, a car-load full of soil components, and a bag full of seeds, and a whole lotta enthusiasm! Well, a month or so later we are still working out the kinks, but I am happy to report that we have growth!! We have come across a few helpful tips along the way, and I thought I would share

We have growth! Kale, lettuces, spinach, carrots, oh my!

1)      Don’t splurge for the kits. Really. The concept is just a 4×4 wooden box, and this can be accomplished with non-treated 2×4’s or 2×6’s, non-treated plywood, screws, and a little elbow grease. The kit was waaaay too much money, and it ended up being 4.5×4.5 feet, which threw off the measurements for the rest of our supplies.

2)      Spend most of your money on your soil. Research the best mixture and spend money to buy good quality, organic supplies. The point is to create the optimal growing environment with minimal additives, so avoid the MiracleGro-type stuff and stick to mixing together basic ingredients.

3)      Building on no. 2, start your own compost! It is a great way to utilize food scraps (veggies), grass clippings, and leaves. We ended up “borrowing” a few bags of leaves from in front of our neighbors yard (shhhhhh) to help us along, but as of yesterday our compost is looking GREAT!

4)      Grow plants in the appropriate season. ‘Nuff said. Of course, in Memphis it is October and still 80 every day, so use your “seasons” to your advantage! We have two winter gardens going now.

5)      Don’t underestimate the critters. Our biggest problem has been the neighbor’s dog, which insists on finding EVERY hole in our fence so that she can: A) come over and bark at the dogs in the neighbors yard. Yes, HER OWN YARD; B) dig in the square foot garden (remember those quality ingredients in the soil? Like manure…dogs love it!). The squirrels are the second biggest problem – it is prime nut-stashing season, and our garden is the PERFECT place to bury their stash! Who knew?!? We would have been much further along in our garden had the seedlings not been dug up (twice) by the pesky critters! I decided to make a cage to put over the gardens to keep the critters out. I used pre-cut PVC pipe, chicken wire and zip ties to make a fairly inexpensive “cage” to cover the gardens. Looks strange, but seems to get the job done!

Square foot gardens with squirrel deterrent

6)      Buy local. We bought a lot of our seeds from the local gardening center, who has their own seed bank. Since we are going for a late fall/winter garden we are growing a lot of quick-growing veggies such as turnips, as well as kale, spinach, lettuces, etc. By buying locally we [hope] that the plant varieties are already acclimated to the weather in the mid south, which will [hopefully] yield us a better crop.

7)      Prepare for the frost – we have 10x10ft PVC pipe and 6mil plastic wrap (25×100 ft) that we can use to create a makeshift “greenhouse” for when it cools down…..if it ever does cool down, that is!

8)      Don’t forget to water, but don’t over water. ‘Nuff said.

SqFood is something that ANYONE can do! They are easy to build, easy to plant, and easy to take care of. You can have home-grown, ORGANIC food right at your fingertips, without all of the troubles of a traditional garden. Maybe while its cold and snowy this winter you might consider curling up by the fire one night armed with books/blogs on the topic – who knows: by next summer you could be part of the SqFood movement too!

Be well, Manda

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