Why so square…

Why So square..

Square foot method

Square foot gardening. The art of growing a large amount of crops in a small space. This is one of my favourite ways to grow. Originally created by Mel Bartholomew, Square foot gardening is a method that allocates a set number of plants per square foot in a grid arrangement.


The idea is simple. To grow as much as you can in a small area. Benefits also include leaving little space for weeds to grow, which is always a benefit.


I must admit when I first discovered this method, I was a bit sceptical. The idea of growing a large amount of veg in a small area raised various questions for me. “How is this possible?”, “What if they done get enough nutrients?”

To understand how this can be implemented we first need to look at the reasons behind this. Mel came up with the idea in the 1970’s as a solution to creating a productive and easy to manage solution to growing. Tired of the traditional growing methods, the square foot method was a direct counter to highlight the inefficiencies.

This method quickly gained popularity as the ‘new’ and ‘upcoming’ way to grow and is still widely used today.


There are a few rules to follow, certain crops have a limited amount that can be planted in a group. Depending on what you want to plant, there can be as many as 16 plants in one square foot. That may seem a lot but rest assured it works.

There are various websites with chart layout, pre-plans etc but one of the most useful I have found is Gardeners  They have a fantastic selection of pre-planned gardens, all of which are perfectly labelled and well thought out.

I would definitely recommend checking it out.

So what are the benefits?

One of the main benefits here is reduced use of water due to plants being in one concentrated area. Water saving can be taken to the next level by using drip irrigation if required.

Another great benefit is the ability to grow in a very limited space. This is perfect for any back garden or disused area of you allotment, so why not give it a go?

So what’s the plan?

Behind every method lies a tried and tested way of doing it. But being me, I have combined two of the best methods I have used to create my own way of doing things. I use both the NoDig method & Square foot method to give me the best foundations for growing. I also use Interplanting to maximise the potential of each crop. The result, very vibrant plants with reduced pests. Win, Win!

Keep me up to date with all of your progress on @homegrownwxm


Friends are always beneficial

Interplanting, the idea of pairing two items or more together that each help each other. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if they world worked like this.

I’m happy to report that in the vegetable world this is very attainable and if done right can be the most effective pest control. No chemicals or input just pure growing.

So what are the benefits?

A lot really. If you strive for complete organic growing the main objective is to NEVER use any form of fungicide or pesticide. There is ALWAYS an organic alternative. And hey, it can look beautiful too.

Despite vegetables weaknesses and vulnerability to attack from pests, each has their own special scent or ability that can directly help a plant in a different family. Call them superpowers if you will.

So how does this work?

Easy. By planting set vegetables around each other, you are creating a confusion of scent that each predator uses to identify their victim. The result, they cannot find them therefore evading an attack. There are also a huge amount of combinations, which is good news at it means there is always usually a combination that can help you. But as always there are also plants which don’t get along, so there are a few rules to follow.


Perfect, what do I do?

Below is a general chart of the most common plants, their good neighbours and their neighbours from hell.

As a general rule this will give you the best results, so why not give them a go?

Vegetable Awesome Neighbours Neighbours from hell
Beans Brassicas, Carrot, Cucumber, Peas, Potatoes Alliums (chives, garlic, leeks, onions), Peppers, Tomatoes For Broad Beans: Fennel
Beetroot Brassicas (Broccoli,Sprouts,Ccabbage),   Garlic, Lettuce, Onion Runner Beans
Broccoli Basil, Bush Beans, Chamomile, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Onion, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Tomato Grapes, Mustard, Oregano, Strawberry, Tomato
Brussels Sprouts Potato, Strawberry
Cabbage Beets, Dwarf French Beans, Mint, Onion Climbing Beans
Carrots French Beans, Garlic, Lettuce, Onion, Peas, Rosemary, Tomatoes Parsnip
Cauliflower Beets, Dwarf French Beans, Mint, Onion Strawberries
Corn Beans, Cucumbers, Parsnip, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomato
Cucumber Beans, Corn, Lettuce, Peas, Radish Potatoes, Strong smelling herbs, Tomatoes
Leeks Carrots, Celery, Lettuce, Onions Beans, Peas
Lettuce Beans, Beets, Carrots, Corn, Marigold, Onions, Peas, Radish, Strawberries Parsley
Onions Beets, Cabbabe, Carrots, Lettuce, Marjoram, Rosemary, Savory, Strawberry, Tomato Beans, Peas
Parsley Asparagus, Beans, Radish, Rosemary, Tomato Lettuce
Peas Beans, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Corn, Cucumber, Lettuce, Marjoram, Parsnip, Potato, Sage Alliums (Chives, Garlic, Onion, Shallots)
Potatoes Beans, Cabbage, Corn, Eggplant, Horseradish, Marjoram, Parsnip Celery, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Rosemary, Strawberries, Tomato
Pumpkins Beans, Corn, Radish Potato
Spinach Beans, Lettuce, Peas, Strawberries  
Strawberries Borage, Bush Beans, Caraway Broccoli, Cabbages
Tomatoes Alliums, Asparagus, Basil, Borage, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Marigold, Peppers Brassicas, Beets, Corn, Dill, Fennel, Peas, Potatoes, Rosemary

So I hope this gives you a rough guide to the concept of Interplanting.

Let me know how you get on the comments below or send some inspiration to @homegrownwxm



The foundations of life 

Life is built using a structure and careful balance or organics. This is also true in soil. Soil is the largest living thing on earth with a teaspoon containing billions of thriving bacteria which we all depend on for life. The building blocks

That’s why I wholeheartedly believe that growing organic and working with these organics is the only way we should be doing things.

We live in an age where the only choice for people’s food is to look good and be the correct size & shape. Food grown to this standard are at the sacrifice of good quality vitamins & minerals as consumers are driven by looks. This to me is very worrying.

Food should be about two things; nutrition and taste.

This is the sole reason that I chose to take the organic route & growing myself.

I started my journey 5 years ago when I had my first daughter. Buying vegetables with not much taste & the fact that many people today don’t know where there food comes from made me very aware that I needed to do something.

It all started as a hobby growing veg, but it has now turned into a raging passion.

Doing this has allowed me to see that there once was a time when all veg was grown using traditional methods & I personally feel we need to go back there to help in our families future.

So why Organic? 

Simple. For me being organic is about working alongside nature and using this to benefit me. Healthy plants = healthy food

How do I be Organic? 

Being organic is the easiest choice of all. It can be as simple as committing to not use any artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

After all there are many more natural feeds/ sprays we can make to get better and lasting results.

The main difference between to the two is this. Artificial or synthetic fertilisers will give you a bigger and better yielding crop the first few years where organics give you a better and more consistent yield over time.

Take building a house as an example. If you build the foundations as cheap and as fast as you can and place a house on it you will have a home.

However as time goes on you will find that due to the frail foundations eventually the house will crumble. This is the perfect example of these fertilisers.

What you are doing when using these is getting a fantastic yield which looks good pretty much immediately but slowly depleting the soil of all fertility as you are not replacing anything.

Organic gardening also makes the same foundations but invests better quality materials and more time. Agreed it takes longer but once it’s out of the ground it flies up.

It’s all about the foundation.


Composting is the way of life

9th December 2016

Update: use code HBCHA50 on checkout for 50% off limited time only


So it’s that time of year again. The plot is coming to a dreary end & winter is setting in fast.

It isn’t all doom and gloom mind. Although a little cold this is the perfect time to start the compost off.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the team at Soil Fixer to test out a new product of theirs, the Compost Humification Agent

So a little background into the product. The product is advertised as follows on their website.

Compost Humification Agent (also known as a Compost Activator)

This patent pending NEW product is unlike any existing compost activator (accelerator or inoculation agent). Developed by Tony Callaghan (inventor of HOTBIN composting system) following years of work on compost and how to make more of the really good stuff that improves plant growth. 


So what are the benefits?

  • boosted plant growth
  • smoother and stickier compost with more of the vital colloidal humus
  • making a positive, long-term improvement in your soil. Colloidal humus and  biochar  are long lasting and even small amounts have profound impacts on soil fertility
  • You will be making a ground breaking contribution to the environment. Colloidal humus and biochar are stable forms of organic carbon known to survive in soils for hundreds of years. You will be sequestrating carbon and offsetting the impact of global warming gases like carbon dioxide

Cool. So at this point I got rather intrigued. I’ve heard of biochar before but never had the chance to use it.

So who is it aimed at?

  • All composters who want to improve the quality (performance) of their compost
  • Home composters using traditional garden (green waste) ‘cold’ composting in darlex and pallet frame boxes
  • Industrial composting sites using windrows or IVC system

So in a nutshell, anyone willing to give it a go. Sounds like my kind of challenge 🙂

Lets take a little look.


Looks really good quality. All fine pieces of similar size.

How to use

100g (one mugful or a handful) per each 5Kg (approx. 7-9 litres, ie a large caddy/bucket) of waste added. Sprinkle the product on to your compost waste each time you add new waste to your compost heap / bin. It promotes and boosts the formation of the highly beneficial ‘colloidal humus’ from typical levels of 1-5% to 10-40%.

So that’s the overview.

So why the test?:

Simple. To see if the benefits can be gained.

I have been asked to do a 4 stage test. It will be tested as follows:

  1. Normal Soil
  2. Shop Compost
  3. My Compost +  Normal Soil
  4. My Compost + Normal Soil + SPF60*

*will be revealed soon 😉

All pots will be the same as will the location & water regime and amounts.

Plants will be from the same batch of seed planted at the same time & covered with the same protection.

They will then be monitored for growth rates and yields.

The process has already begun. This year will mark the first year I will be making my own compost. Materials used will be all except potatoes, meat & any acidic plants. I use grated newspaper & cardboard in between the layers to help get a good balance.


This will now be built up over the next few weeks and used in May ready for the trials.


So sorry, a little quiet at the moment.

Over the past few weeks not much is happening,  I continue to add small amounts of organic matter to the pile but due to low temps its all a bit slowwww 😉

I do however have an idea of the way in which in going to test it. More details to follow.

So quick update in the compost today. Im currently half way fill the bin and so far so good. Plenty of kitchen waste And biochar and looks great. Plenty of microbal activity and no foul smells.

A bit more heat and that will be perfect.

Hipefully the weather picks up on time this year and were in business.


So update is needed. The compost itself seems to be rotting down nicely. About 2 weeks ago i mixed in a bag of chicken manure mixed with shredded paper and this has been left to breakdown.

At this rate im hoping its going to be ready for use in april!

With that in mind its time to turn my attention to what i will be using to see what difference the biochar makes.

So drumroll please….

My test plants for this year are pumpkins

Variety is small sugar.

Be interesting to see as this is my first time growing them.

Setup will be 3 containers as previously mentioned.

Update 4/3/17

So were knocking at the start of the growing season and my biochar infused compost is coming along nicely.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately so the heap has got a bit wet. I have now changed to lid to allow the humidity and heat to build back up.

So thats the compost done. I will be using it in 6 weeks time so hopefully it would have dried out will be ready for use 😉 

Next up will be stage 2 of the test where I will set up a test to see how my biochar infused compost compares to good quality manufactured compost, more affordable compost and soil.

Finally Thank you to soilfixer for letting me trial their products.