Brenda’s Square Foot Garden

I am Brenda and I am a square foot gardener.   I live in a small town in North East Texas.     I have always loved gardening, but raising kids, pursuing a career, 23+ years as a youth camp sponsor for my church, VBS, and life have gotten in the way of my pursuit of the perfect garden spot.   Life is slowing down.  The kids are gone too far away to even make it home on the weekends.   We just moved into a new house with a new yard that needs a lot of work.  So, it is just time to start serious gardening again.

Thirty years ago, I discovered Mel Bartholomew’s square foot gardening method.   It suited me perfectly.  I recently read Mel’s second book revealing new ideas and improvements to his system.  Then I journeyed to the internet to learn more and I found Emily’s blog.  I have spent hours reading some of the guest posts, so I decided to try t0 share my garden with others.

My husband has been a big help building all the structures I have needed and helping make the dirt.   I am calling this year phase 1 and plan to start with six 4×4 squares.   At this time we have the first three squares up and growing.  We made our dirt using Mel’s mix recipe: 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.   We used four different types of compost: composted cow manure, composted chicken manure, and two other types of unknown composted material.

Making Dirt

Mel’s mix recommends using five different types of compost so you get all the nutrients.  Since I only found four different types, I am a little nervous that my soil may not have the correct balance of nutrients.  After reading some of the other gardeners blogs, I think I have decided to get Texas A&M to do a soil analysis.  Has anyone ever done this?   I have done some soil tests with the kits from the garden store, but they were hard to understand.  In the meantime, all the plants look really healthy.  I have planted spinach, four kinds of lettuce, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, onions, chives, parsley, and sugar snap peas.

Happy Gardening!

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3 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    Hi Brenda, I strongly recommend using the Texas Plant and Soil Lab in Edinburg, TX for your soil test. They’re at Their process detects what nutrients in your soil are available to the plant instead of all of those that are in the soil whether they’re bound up or available. It’s more expensive, but I think it’s more accurate and more likely to give you results that will help you improve your soil. I used them after getting a result from A&M that didn’t make sense for my Dallas area soil. I’m not affiliated with either of them in any way.

  2. Kathy says:

    I have multiple 4×4 beds, too, and I’ve been very happy with the size. I’ve tried different sizes over the years — long narrow beds, bigger square beds, etc. — but the 4×4 seems to be the best mix of space and easy access from all sides. My one exception is my asparagus bed which is 4×10. I have asparagus planted in 8′ of it, and then I use the remaining 2′ at the end of the bed for other plants.

    I wouldn’t worry about only using four kinds of compost. I only used three when I set mine up — cow manure, mushroom soil, and our own homemade compost — and have been successful. We have since had friends who have sheep and horses tell us we are welcome to get manure from their barns, so we’re hoping to incorporate different varieties as we go along, depending on what’s available.

  3. So you decided to go with the 4×4 setup huh? At first, I made a post of small square garden design based on the 4×4, but I am actually going to end up with a 4-6 x 10-15 ft bed when I build my hybrid hugel beds. I think this ends up being a better method since, it adds nutrients to the soil naturally without a massive need for soil analysis like you did, not that I wouldn’t test my soil.