Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Foray into Square Foot Gardening and Repurposing the Old

Square foot gardening (SFG) is a concept so simple that I almost ended up paying it no attention. Until now. And even now I seem to have arrived at it in a roundabout way- from my desire to own a raised bed (as  some of you know from the Facebook page) to the admission that until I can find a reasonable quote, I will just have to repurpose the old rectangular containers as best as I can. More about that in a second.

So what is SFG? A concept pioneered by Mel Bartholomew back in the 80s, it divides growing space into square measuring a foot each- so for example a typical 8' x 4' raised bed will have 32 squares to grow plants in.  In general, small vegetables such as Swiss Chard can be planted 4 to a square, onions 9 to a square, while big plants such as tomatoes and eggplants will take 1 or 2 squares. Mainly aimed at food growers with limited space, it maximises space usage and minimises the effort of digging, weeding, hilling and trenching and whatever else you have to do with typical row planting. This is how a typical SFG raised bed looks:

Since a couple of local carpenters here in Dubai quoted the enormous sum of Dhs 700 for a raised bed (8' x 4'), I have decided to forget about it for now. Instead, I got creative and rearranged my 9 rectangular planters to look like a raised bed. Each measures 3' x 1'. So in total, I have roughly 27 sq ft of growing space. This looks like a lot more space to grow food in compared to when the containers were arranged in a long row!

Alot of information is available about the type of plant and how many of it can go into one square foot. This takes some of the pain out of wondering about spacing in containers. I have decided to use my square foot garden to grow herbs, greens and some of the root vegetables. Black Kale and Russian Red Kale transplants are already in along with Swiss Chard and Golden Chard. Rocket is growing fast, the lettuce has been sown. I have yet to plant spinach, carrots, radish (long red and round yellow), opal basil and hopefully a couple of nasturtiums.

Russian Red Kale

Golden Chard

Here's the spacing I used:

Kale - 1 per square
Chard- 4 per square
Coriander- 4 per square
Basil- 1 per square
Lettuce (cut and come again)- sown thinly, no particular count
Lettuce Butter - 6 per square
Rocket - 4 per square
Coriander- 6 per square
Spring Onions- 9 per square
Carrots - 9 per square
Radishes- 9 per square

And much more hopefully!