Kati’s Square Foot Gardening Plan–Abundant Boxes
- Gardening year: 2012
- Location: Smyrna, Georgia
- Planting By Color: Red
I’m Kati, from Smyrna, GA…just outside Atlanta. We live in a subdivision, relatively suburban, but are only 15 minutes from downtown or the airport.
We are under the Red color group for our summer garden. 2012 starts our second year with a family garden. Part of our back yard is a steep hill which backs up to the community property line. The space was totally unusable (with the exception of my sons bug hunts and “safari” expeditions.) We decided to have garden boxes put in to utilize the space.
Last year, we started with 4 boxes; two 4×10 ft and two 4×14 foot.
We were able to fit more but I told my husband I wanted to be able to manage these four before over-committing ourselves. We had a great first season…many lessons learned but much bounty to enjoy as well. We started most of our plants indoors in soil blocks under grow lights.
The boxes were filled with regular soil but we nourished it with compost. We use bokashi and effective microorganisms to create our compost through an anaerobic method. (We learned this from a friend who teaches sustainable agriculture in the Philippines ). Basically, it ferments our kitchen waste in about 2 weeks time in sealed buckets and we then bury it in the garden for another 2-3 weeks while it breaks down into the soil. The results are beautiful!!!
This winter, we took the plunge and added 4 additional boxes, same sizes.
The hill is divided with wooden steps going down the middle and four boxes on each side. We are continuing to bury our compost to begin nourishing the soil in the new boxes.
The challenge I am faced with is how to manage all of this space and have a harvest from spring through fall. Last year we planted everything at the same time, therefore limiting our window of opportunity. I’d like to better maximize the growing season this year. (Then I need to learn more about canning and preserving!).
I’ve attached my spreadsheet of the boxes, color coded for your viewing pleasure. 🙂 Click to see it larger.
A few points:
- I attempted to create a succession plan…however, I’m still a little unclear as to whether or not I’ve done this as effectively as possible.
- I have not planted potatoes in the past so was unsure as to how invasive they would be underground.
- Likewise, I was curious as to the herbs. I planted parsley last year that is still growing strong. If I create an herb box, is it necessary to rotate that when I rotate the other crops each year?
- Lastly, but very important….if you notice, our hill is right next to large trees which are covered in kudzu during the heat of the summer. As a result, we have been battling kudzu bugs!!! I am avoiding any legumes b/c kudzu bugs are said to feed on them. Last year they did not invade my garden until the fall when they hung out on the leaves of my pepper plants. They didn’t eat them, were just a nuisance. I’d love any insight anyone may have as to keeping this “pests” from sabotaging my efforts. 🙂
Your site has been incredibly helpful in my planning!! Thank you SO much! Any thoughts or insights you have, I’m open for suggestions.
Thank you for posting your story. It is such a great, unique way to use the space. My backyard has a very similar situation (but it slopes upwards instead of downwards in the backyard). We have a few smaller gardening boxes there now, however they are beginning to rot and need replacing. I have been searching around for some inspiration, but it doesn’t seem like many people put their sloped backyards to good use! If you don’t mind, would you be able to give an idea on a range of pricing to do this type of landscaping? I would love to do this in my backyard, however sometimes the budget reins supreme.
Thank you in advance and for the inspirational photos!
Your garden looks awesome. It’s exactly what I was looking for. My wife has been bugging me for quite some time now to build something similar. Would you be able to explain to me how the beds were constructed? I get the general idea; however, it seems like there’s much more to it.
My husband and I actually went to the Ga Organics conference a weekend or two ago. It was a wealth of information. There was a great session on preparing soil with various soil amendments. Before we started our own compost, we used to use Black Cow (manure) and mainly mushroom compost. We’d mix it all together in a wheel barrow and then add in some of the soil from the garden and mix it all together, pour it back in the garden and rent a rototiller to get it all combined really well. At the conference, they mentioned also using sand, ash, dried leaves and/or yard clippings if it isn’t fertilized. We added some sand this year b/c I did not have luck with carrots or beets. You can also always take a soil sample to the Cobb Extension office on S. Cobb Drive and pay for a soil test. I think it is around $7.
Emily did a great blog post on the bokashi method of composting just a few weeks ago. When the compost is finished fermenting in the buckets, it gets buried in the garden a good 12-18 inches deep and then let to sit for another 2-3 weeks. We usually leave ours sit even longer unless we need to use the beds. It’ll then all get mixed into the soil really well. In the summer, you’re right, it is a little tedious b/c our beds are being used for our veges so there’s no where to bury the waste. We have actually buried it around our bushes and trees as well. It is just as beneficial to the soil around shrubs and trees. Or, like you said, using a traditional compost pile is certainly another option.
Hope you have great success this summer!
Your garden looks wonderful. We live in Marietta and are in our second season of gardening as well. unfortunately we did not have much success last year. This prompted me to look into composting to try and boost nutrient levels without breaking the bank. My main question is what do you do with your fermented mixture after you have planted your garden? Do you think it would be wise to compost during the summer, and then use the other method when the gardens are not being actively used. Thanks
We have a slope that looks very similar to yours. Could you give any instructions as to how you built the terraces into the slope?
Hey Sue…I’m originally from up North as well…grew up in PA and we always had a backyard garden. Funny how I didn’t appreciate it as much as a kid but now love it and wished I would have helped more when I was younger :). I’m quite jealous about the chickens…one of the drawbacks of having an HOA…I’d never get them to let me have chickens but would love them!!. I will say, re. what grows well…I really think a lot of it has to do with the health of the soil. But I also follow Georgia Gardener, Walter Reeves for insight into Southern gardening…he has a good site and great books. Some of it will be trial and error…I had heard others say they didn’t have luck with tomatoes last year but choosing the right seeds for our climate is really important too…I get seeds from Johnny’s Select and they are pretty detailed as to what works in hotter climates. Squash, cucumbers, okra tend to do really well…as for the other crops…I’ll be learning as I go this summer but we can trade notes and stories :).
Hey Megan…I figured out how to reply via word press :). The name of our landscaper is Sean Mathison with Ameriscapes. firstname.lastname@example.org 770-599-4482 http://www.ameriscape-landscaping.com.
Thank you for your notes…I may be developing a green thumb but am obviously still a bit “green” when it comes to blogs and posts etc. I can’t figure out how to reply to individual comments (Sorry Emily 🙂 )…so I thought I’d try to answer some questions via one reply…Sorry for the LATE response!!
Larry…re. the depth of the boxes…we terraced them into the slope so they are about 3-4 feet deep…about waist high for easy access to the above boxes from the ones below, if that makes sense :). We’ve rented a rototiller (?) to really mix up the soil well and deep before plantings so hopefully that too will keep the soil healthy. When we bury the bokashi, it is buried about 1-2 feet deep which forces us to keep moving the soil. Pickling sweet banana peppers is a GREAT idea and one of my husbands favorites. I may need to make some room for them :).
Suzanne & Ellen & Megan…re. cost of materials…let’s just say I’d have to sell a lot of veges to cover the boxes. 🙂 The boxes themselves weren’t too bad but the steps added quite a bit and then we had to have some soil brought in to back fill them. My husband hired landscapers from our neighborhood to help b/c of the terracing etc. We used 6×6 timbers for the boxes and steps…I believe pressure treated. I’m happy to share the landscapers name and number…they’ve done a lot of work in our neighborhood and were great to work with.
To all the fellow Georgians and Southerners…I’m not sure if we are in winter or spring?? At this rate, we’ll be planting a month ahead of schedule…it’s been SO warm!!! I think Mother Nature is having an identity crisis down here :).
Hope I answered all the questions and perhaps I’ll figure out how to reply individually in a more timely manner. My apologies for the delay!
Hi! I love your usage of the hillside. So smart! I have a very similar space in my backyard. Did you build these yourself or did you hire someone? I am in Cumming and would love to get the contact info of your builder if you went that route. Happy gardening!
What a lovely way to use your hill. I have a similar but smaller situation in my backyard. I would like to implement your idea on my small hill. Could you tell me what kind of material you used to build your terraces? Thanks.
Wonderful use of space! We moved to Georgia from the NE last April so this will be my first year gardening here! I am starting with two square foot gardens 8×8 each ( i realize now I should have done 4×8 to make it easier..lol lesson learned) My first seeds will be going in next week. We also have chickens so I have been making my own compost with kitchen scraps and their “scraps” since last year. I’d love any insight as to what grows well here. I had tomatoes last year but they were pitiful! thanks for sharing and again…amazing gardens!
Kati, your terraced garden looks great.
Our backyard is currently what your used to look like. What you have done is fantastic and might be just what will work for us. Out of curiosity, do you know how much materials were for your first phase with your first four boxes and stairs? We live in Missouri.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Beautiful use of space!
I live just south of Tallahassee Florida, also red zone, So am familiar with your kudzu. Sorry you have to battle the kudzu. None near me yet, hope to keep it that way.
I do have a question: do you have easy access to the middle front of the beds as I don’t see walkways or paths for wet weather. Also, did you limit the depth of the soil or just terrace into slope?
I was not familiar with the bokashi method but has really caught my attention, thanks for the tip. (And the beautiful pics!) I have managed to garden year round using 4x8x1 ft deep raised beds due to the more sandy soil with a nematode possibility.
Try the succession planting a little at a time. It helps with maintenance also. The rotation may help in the bokashi burial locations. I plant in succession as much as possible as it is only my wife and I. We both have taken on canning though to help with tomatoes and pickling peppers & pickles. Blanching to freeze most other veggies. Nothing better than pickled sweet banana peppers!
Enjoy your garden, you should be very proud of what you have there!
Beautiful garden! Great way to use that wasted space! Isn’t vegetable gardening wonderful?
This year will be my third season doing this and I still am finding out what works best for me. I live in Birmingham, AL and we are so lucky we have this long growing season.
I would like to recommend looking (your local library may have a copy which usually starts getting checked out more often in early spring!) at Mel Bartholomew’s New Square Foot Gardening book. In the latest edition he has a chart in the Appendix section entitled Planting Schedule for Continuous Harvest Crops. I am a little bit OC and love charts/calendars like this that I even adapted it to my own frost dates (a lot OC!). Emily has addressed this already but you might want a visual aid as I do.
Best harvest to you this season!
To Emily – Thank you for all you do for us!
Oh my gosh….Thank you Emily!! This is all great advice!!
Re. peas and beans, sadly I have to forgo planting them b/c of the kudzu bugs. These little critters seem to thrive on legumes so I’m trying not to tempt them (even though this may become an all out war as they have been multiplying like crazy!!) Supposedly, they won’t eat my crops, just hang out on the leaves but are responsive to mild insecticides if it comes to that.
Thank you again for sharing all of your knowledge! This has been a huge help!!
Today we start soil blocks… 🙂
I love your gardens! They are so, so beautiful and you have so much space! Because of this, and because this is your second year gardening, I wouldn’t worry too much about succession planting. Just planting the entire space is going to give you so much produce!
The only exception would be for fast growing veggies that are best eaten fresh. So things like lettuce, spinach, carrots, and green beans are best planted one or two squares every 2 weeks, until all your squares are full. When you finish harvesting a square, replant and keep it growing.
The other thing you can always do—when a vegetable stops producing and you remove it, plant a quick growing veggie in its place. Things like lettuce (will need shade in summer), spinach (in spring or late summer), carrots, green beans, radishes, beets, and green onions all mature quickly enough that you might get several plantings in a season. Where I live this would be difficult, but since your growing season is so long, I think it would be possible there.
I’ll comment on your garden beds one at a time:
Parsley is a biennial, so it should last two years. After that it will go to seed and have to be replanted. A general rule of thumb with herbs—if it’s still producing, keep it. Many herbs are listed as annuals because in most areas it’s too cold to keep them year round. Since you live in a place that’s pretty warm, I think with minimal effort you could keep the herbs from dying. If you want to try this, devote one section to herbs. Then, as it gets cold you can find a way to protect them. One year my oregano lasted through a ton of snow, so in Georgia I think you could have most things thriving!
My experience is that one plant of each herb is enough for our family, except for cilantro and basil. I would plant 4 times as much cilantro, and at least twice as much basil. Both parsley and dill get pretty big and tall. I would give them each at least 2 squares, and not plant them next to each other.
Potatoes will spread, but I think it’s a good idea to plant it with broccoli and cauliflower. Those have relatively shallow root systems, so if the potatoes go under them it won’t be a problem. They grow well together (are good companion plants), and once you harvest the broccoli and cauliflower it would be a good idea to give the potatoes one or two squares extra, but then you can plant in the other empty squares.
Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower require more than one square. Since you have the room, I would plant 3 in 8 squares.
If you were pressed for space, you could plant one zucchini/squash in 4 squares by caging or staking it. Since you have the space, let them spread! I’d recommend planting one squash at the top of the bed, the next toward the bottom, etc.
This looks like a salad garden! My suggestion would be to move the beets, carrots, and celery to this garden bed, and the onions to the next one. My reasoning is that this garden bed has fast maturing plants that need more water. You will be working and harvesting in this bed all summer long. Onions are more of a “set it and forget it” plant. Garlic is good here, but it’s generally planted in the fall, and is harvested early summer. Then you can plant more greens where it grew.
Plant all your warm weather veggies at once (cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes). They have a long growing season and keep producing until it freezes, so there’s no benefit to succession planting. Just a note, celery and cauliflower are really hard to grow. I don’t recommend them for beginners, but if you’re adventurous, go ahead and give them a try!
Mostly I’m just jealous because you can probably grow tons of these delicious melons!
Left to itself, each tomato plant will require 8 squares or so. But, if you use good tomato cages you can grow them in 4 squares each. Go here to see about the cages. /how-to-build-tomato-cages/
Finally, the only thing I noticed is that you don’t have plans to grow peas or green beans. These are my family’s favorites, so I’d hate to see them get forgotten! But, if your family doesn’t like them, there is no reason to give them space in the garden. I find 4 squares of peas and 8 squares of beans is PLENTY for our family of four.
Thank you for your encouragement! It has been a tremendous blessing to be able to learn so much about gardening and provide good food and learning for my family as well. I love having the ability to better control what ends up on our kitchen table for meals.
Re. Bokashi: There are two websites which carry relative products but also have good info re. the origin and uses for EM or effective microorganisms. http://www.teraganix.com and http://www.bokashicycle.com. We do buy the EM1 but now make our own “bokashi”. It’s a great option if you are unable to have an outdoor compost pile. As with anything, once you develop a system or process for yourself, it becomes part of your routine. In a nutshell, we collect our kitchen waste on our counter each day in small buckets. We transfer it to larger 3.5 – 5 gal buckets (which can also be made on your own) with airtight lids. Each time we add kitchen waste, we sprinkle it with a layer of bokashi which is made of wheat or rice germ and EM1. When the bucket is full, we seal it tight for about 2-3 weeks. The EM begins to ferment the kitchen waste, literally giving it a sweet pickle like smell. After about 2 weeks in the buckets, we dig a deep hole in the garden and bury the fermented kitchen waste. It’s covered up and left there for another 2-3 weeks and continues to break down into the soil. For the best explanation on “how” it all works, I’ve cut and pasted an explanation.
I’d be happy to answer other questions you may have. 🙂
The fermentation process is anaerobic. That means that air is effectively excluded during the process. The micro-organisms break down the constituents of the food waste until they are effectively pickled.
Bokashicycle is the totally natural way to reduce, reuse and recycle organic waste. Bokashicycle is 100% natural. It is safe for you, safe for your pets, and safe for the environment. Bokashicycle fermenting helps reduce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and bad smells like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia invariably associated with scrap composting. It is also much faster at breaking down your food scraps. Fermenting your scraps is a lot like making wine. Oxygen is the enemy causing a rotting smell. In the system, the lack of oxygen and the relatively low acidity prevent the organisms that produce gas and smells from forming, and any that were present will not be able to survive. They will be consumed by the anaerobic organisms that thrive when oxygen is absent.
Bokashicycle mixed with food or garden wastes allows recycling which reduces the amount of waste in landfills. The processed waste ends up in your garden where plants will get good use out of the nutrients that are produced while scraps are destroyed. With Bokashicycle a healthy balance of microbes go into the soil with the fermented scraps re-establishing the needed healthy high microbial counts present in healthy soil.
Bokashicycle treated soil provides for improved uptake of nutrients and antioxidants resulting in vigorous and healthy plant growth. The nutrient product produced in fermenting acts as a fertilizer for the plants.
What an amazing display! Congrats on a wonderful garden. Your family is very blessed to be able to grow so much of your own food.
Thanks for sharing.
Can you tell me how to learn more about your method of composting? “We use bokashi and effective microorganisms to create our compost through an anaerobic method.” It sounds like it would be beneficial for our garden as we can not have a compost pile where we live. Thank you for sharing pics and info about your beautiful garden.
Just wanted to say that your boxes are absolutely gorgeous. Congrats on an amazing use of otherwise “wasted space.”
I’m in the middle of winter in my growing zone (gets down to about 25 degrees some nights, with potential for even colder temperatures and snowstorms through May), but your photos inspired me to start thinking about adding the rest of my grow boxes this year, and getting ready for spring. I planted some brussel sprouts yesterday, so we’ll see if they like the cold as much as I think they do… I’ve been able to grow some broccoli and lettuce over the winter, but of course the winter crops are quite limited.
My parsely (and cilantro) are also doing very well, and I don’t believe you need to rotate herbs. You know that saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”