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.

Spacing.

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

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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.

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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

Steve

 

Preperation is key 

Being a No-Dig gardener, Soil preparation for me is a very simple task. Every year the same look of disbelief and confusion appears on people’s faces when asked about my growing methods.
Long gone are the days of relentlessly digging away to create a nice tilth only to find a few months later you’re back to square one. Many people walk around with a spade ready to go. Me, I walk around with a rake.

Although confusing to many people, the idea of No-Dig gardening can be traced back to ancient times. The process involves a layering or ‘lasagne’ effect rather than the traditional digging. There are a few reasons behind this.

Organic matter left on the surface is a natural process that you will see throughout the world. Just go down to your local forest and see the way trees dispose of their leaves which compost in place. You will also see that there is a LOT of microbial activity going on.

No-Dig is a way of preserving this structure and using it to our advantage. Despite various myths about the soil needing ‘aeration’, gardening this way allows the soil to develop into a perfect state.

Brimming with beneficial bacteria, your crops will be in a better position to utilise the vitamins and minerals available which will lead to a better quality crop.

So you’re probably thinking, “That’s good and all but what about weeds?”.. Well good news on that front too. Various weeds can be a real pain and not all can be eradicated, but for the vast majority this method actually does a good job of controlling them.

Ever noticed that after you have dug an area over weeds magically turn up? Annoying isn’t it. This is due to the disturbance of those pesky weed seeds that stay lingering ready to pounce.

By using this method you are effectively putting a blanket over the soil which also keeps the annoying weed seeds at bay and stops them surfacing. Result? Less chance for them to attack.

Admittedly nothing is 100% effective, however why not give it a go and see if you gain any benefit from it? And your tools will thank you for it.

This year, I started a new plot at home. The area I chose for this was the unused, often neglected corner of a garden which is in full sunlight from dusk until dawn. It was over-run with Dock leaves, Couch grass, annual weeds and ground elder. Sounds fantastic doesn’t it!


Contrary to this I wasn’t fazed. I lay down a layer of cardboard, grass clippings (around 2 inches), leaves (around 2 inches) and well-rotted horse manure (around 6 inches) in autumn. That’s right no digging of the weeds beforehand, just straight on top. The results? Well, the pictures speak for themselves.

You can follow my journey on Facebook plot44organics or Twitter @homegrownwxm.