Tavia’s Square Foot Gardening Plan

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14 Responses

  1. Thebrez1 says:

    I have been reading this site for some time and decided to chime in. I use the SF method in 2 4×6 and 2 4×12 boxes made from 2×12 lumber. I planted 6 tomatoes in 6 sq feet and had plants over 6 feet high. The heat here in OK was brutal so not many tomatoes. I did use shade netting over top of the boxes and managed to get them all through the summer. By the time the cold weather hit, I had hundreds of blossoms but not enough time for them to ripen. I got a few good ones, but I picked all the green ones and put them in a paper sack. They all ripened and were wonderful. what I am trying to say is that you CAN plant tomatoes together in a small space and have massive plants. Cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, Green Beans, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, radishes, onions, peppers and one watermellon all did fine, Lima Beans just went crazy with the heat. You will be suprised what you can get out of a SQ foot garden if you hang in there! Don’t give up! I use straw as a mulch and have been making compost from a used pallet composter (free) and I have about 2 cubic yards of nice black compost just waiting and my neighbors drop bags of leaves and kitchen scraps over my fence every week. They enjoy giving and I enjoy getting, plus I get lots of different materials (even dryer lint) 🙂 This year I am going to try growing everything from seed. It may get ugly this year, but I’ll get it the next. Slow & steady. Take notes and write everything down! What works, what didn’t, temps, dates, weather, seeds, every thing. You CAN do it!

  2. Angi says:

    The problem with your cucumbers was that you planted basil near them. Yo have to be very careful where you plant Basil as it can harm other plants. Tomatoes love it so you may want to move it near them. When planting herbs always do research on the benficial plants or not so beneficial planting partners.

  3. JP says:

    Tomatoes were ‘off’ in 2010 for everyone that I know who gardens, we all thought it was pretty strange because usually they are easiest… but we all had a great cucumber crop! Crazy stuff… don’t be discouraged with your tomatoes… I’ve been sq.ft. gardening a good 10+ years and tomatoes are some of my better crops… except the last two years. (2 years ago I had plenty for eating but not for canning.)

  4. Tavia says:

    First… I seriously LOVE this site…big thanks to Emily for keeping it up and providing us all with a place to communicate and share with each other!
    Thanks, Emily!

    Ed..thanks, & feel free to steal the design! It was born of what I had around, and the ease to bend in and weed, trim lettuce and harvest when needed.

    Daniel…Mirroring is a great idea! but alas, I can’t, as there isn’t the space…the edging will most likely need to be replaced this year as it was recycled slats from a european style bed that broke…had just the perfect number /length to make that shape.

    Laura… I started my tomatoes from seed too, first year I ever did it! I was a little over-sealous. I ended up with 48 viable plants, and had to give most of them away. (the recipients all did very well with their donated tomatoes, the ones I kept were the only poor producers.) I will be using the cherokee purple again this year, but I am not set on a cherry variety.

    Emily… I will absolutely try the eggshells, take a fresh look at the design and maybe move some things to containers so that I can add more corn…I put it where I did to shade the cucumber (which I didn’t have success with last year because there was no shade at all) and the lettuces that will replace the spinach later in the year. I will adding to the soil this year, I’ll keep you posted on that!!

    Thank you all so much…I appreciate all of your feedback!!

  5. I forgot to say 5 or 10 minutes every 3rd day.

  6. Last year I had the best tomato crop EVER! I loved it. A few things I did differently than ever before. I started my own tomatoes and that meant no blight (I got a nursery blight 2 years in a row – yuck!). I added a tbsp of finely crushed egg shells into the miracle grow potting soil that I put in the peat pots for starting. I placed them out in my garden on the frost date but put walls of water around them – good thing (serious hail that spring). The roots established quickly. I added a handful of eggshells at that point. Then I used a timer on a drip system.

    I added black plastic from my garden center around the tomatoes because they need 50 or 55 degrees at night to bloom. Too cold here so the black helps warm up the soil and the plants. Earlier blooms = earlier harvest.

    I was scared to death to try this next step but it worked so well! I cut the water in half about mid-july. By the end of August we were down to 5 or 10 minutes. They were red and harvested while my mom and friends were frustrated about their green tomatoes. I only had a handful of greenies left at the end of the season.

    Also, the type of tomato you grow will affect your outcome. I live in northern Utah and I have found that I get the best yield from Early Girls- love to can them. I also grow Romas but have to grow way more plants than early girls to get the same amount. Still haven’t found a great slicing tomato that can handle our wind and cold.

  7. James says:

    Very quick comments – sorry there’s not a lot of explanations:
    I would add compost for the microorganisms and other benefits that your soil is missing.
    Some of your plants prefer Alkaline soils that are not so typical in your area – so don’t expect a whole lot from them without fertilizer.
    Tomato plants don’t get great production from a square foot garden layout unless you get compact plants, and even then they don’t get the production you expect from a full-sized plant.
    Not sure why you want to put such tall plants in front unless it is to rotate your crops from the previous year. I might suggest herbs and flowers along the edges, taller things in the back, corn needs to be close and have enough plants to pollinate, and I like Jenna’s idea for the pumpkins and cucumbers in front, but a trellis would create a more eye pleasing display for the layout.

    Dan-O: let the eggs shells decompose in the soil – this may also help for slugs if you have that problem.

    Love the design: very unique, fun, and apealing!

  8. Daniel Young says:

    So when you water with the soaked egg shells, do you filter the crushed shell or do you let them become a part of the soil?

    Oh – and to get back on track – Tavia, I love the U shape design. If you have the room, and the time, I would consider adding a second one, mirroring the first just to the north.

    ~ Dan-O

  9. Ed says:

    Excellent info on the eggshells. Thanks for the tips Emily and Jenna!

  10. Jenna Z says:

    I concur, taller plants are best on the North side and herbs and such can go on the south. Or if you don’t mind them doing a bit of vining outside the lines, you could do your cucumbers and pumpkins on the south end and they will grow toward the sun, so outside of your garden box. If you’re going to do corn, you’ll probably need to dedicate another garden plot to it as you’ll need to plant quite a bit more. Though it looks as if you’re just using it to shade your tender lettuce and baby spinach, so that could easily be done by your tomatoes.

    Ed-I save up my eggshells all winter long and then grind them up and add it to their water I use to water my tomatoes. They need the calcium that the egg shells are high in to prevent blossom end rot and keep the fruit nice and healthy! About a dozen shells per watering can, I would guess is about right.

  11. Emily says:

    Ed–The benefit of the eggshells is that they add calcium. I have found a night and day difference with my peppers when I use it. I save my eggshells all year long (much to my husband’s dismay). If you crush them up as you go, they don’t take up so much space. I use a 5 gallon bucket and just add all the shells I have. If you only had a dozen or two, you might just add to a gallon of water, then pour a small amount on each plant.

  12. Ed says:

    Tavia – love your garden shape! I’m relatively new to this myself as well, so I don’t have any advice to offer, but I may steal your bed layout for a future project.

    Emily – How many egg shells do you use in a bucket of water? Are we talking a five-gallon bucket? I’m intrigued by the idea, but we just don’t eat that many eggs in our family, so a large quantity of shells is few and far between. Would regular compost tea work just as well, or do the tomatoes and peppers need a specific resource that comes from the egg shells specifically?


    – Ed –

  13. deann says:

    Just wanted to say, I love your design! Very clever!

    I am watching this for tomato help too, the last two years we have done tomatoes in Sq Ft gardens and had nowhere near the harvest we have had before this. This year we’re putting them in the boxes with regular old cages, not doing any trimming or training. When I start them from seeds and follow Mel’s methods it seems I don’t get as many tomatoes so we’re buying plants, using water walls, and the other things I mentioned to see if we get better yield.

  14. Emily says:

    Okay, here come my comments. . .

    If you think your soil is really a problem, you might want to have it tested. Often you can do this for free through your local extension office. Here’s the office closest to you: http://extension.psu.edu/berks

    I recommend this because you used topsoil and potting mix. If you were to use a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost, I generally don’t suggest testing.

    Hopefully the extension can give suggestions about how you might amend the soil for optimum harvest.

    A couple of items on your layout–I noticed that you are growing your tomatoes and cucumbers and corn on the south side. I recommend growing these on a trellis or some other vertical support, and putting them in the northern most squares so they don’t shade the other plants. Place tallest plants on the north, coming down to shortest plants on the south.

    It looks like you stake your tomatoes–I think this method is great for determinate varieties (bush tomatoes), but if you want LOTS of tomatoes, try an indeterminate (vining) variety and consider these amazing tomato cages. It takes 4 squares for one tomato plant, but I have been really pleased with the results.

    In general, you need to grow a little more corn for it to self-pollinate. Again–I would put these on the north of the garden so they don’t shade everything else–that is, unless you want the shade to grow lettuce when the weather turns warm.

    As for fertilizer/amendments, I suggest adding lots of compost before planting in the spring, and even a complete fertilizer (10-10-10) if you choose to use it. Each plant has different needs, but I always water my tomatoes and peppers with a solution of egg shell-water. I save my egg shells, crush them up, let them soak overnight in a bucket of water, then use it to water the plants.

    Hopefully others will have feedback as well!