Planting a garden by the numbers, with the Square Foot method

After spending Memorial Day weekend helping my in laws plant flowers and finish up a garden, I'm about gardened out. But for those of you who still want to get a garden put together now, there's a new blog that will help you put on together quickly and economically, even if you profess to having a pair of black thumbs. It's called Square Foot Gardening.

Square Foot Gardening is a method of gardening that takes place in a raised box and uses a grid pattern to map out where to grow different vegetables. This lets first time and experienced gardeners avoid many common gardening problems, and also makes it easy to plan out your crops.

This four part blog series, currently in stage 2, will help you start up a Square Foot Garden for about $75 your first year, with a second year cost of close to only $10.

  1. Supplies
  2. Construction
  3. Planting - Coming in the next two weeks
  4. Harvesting and Replanting -- Late Summer
The author of Sprout³ (Sprout Cubed), Josh Baltzell, picked up a passion for gardening at an early age by cross pollinating his grandmother's red and white Tulips. But he started the blog after buying a home and trying to figure out easy(er) ways to get his home garden going.

Why Square Foot Gardening? "I chose methods that minimize all the horrible parts of gardening," Baltzell told me. "...endless watering, years of amending soil, weeding, Rototilling, etc."

Saving money growing food wasn't Josh's primary motivator to start a square foot garden, even though he estimates that he could reap 320 pounds of tomatoes for a plant cost of $32 using this method. He was more motivated by a keen interest in locally-grown produce in a variety he couldn't get at his local grocery store. He liked the idea of sharing his bounty with friends and family as well (so those hypothetical 320 pounds of tomatoes wouldn't go to waste...)

Being a geek first and a gardener second, it's no surprise that on top of his detailed instructions for hunting down supplies and putting together your Square Foot Garden, he was able to bring Excel into the picture. Josh created an excel spreadsheet that will let you plan out your square foot garden. The tool will help you figure out what squares you can plant a second crop in after your first harvest without going past your area's growing season.

You don't actually have to have a backyard to garden, either. If you're stuck on a balcony or in an apartment, check out Sprout Cubed's recent post on Container Gardening, which makes use of pop bottles and other small containers to grow food, or a step by step method for growing potatoes in a Rubbermaid container.

If you do have any questions, you can always hit up Sprout Cubed on Twitter, @SproutCubed, where they are quick to answer your gardening questions. In the past month, Sprout Cubed has already answered dozens of gardening questions and amassed an impressive 1,427 followers. For a sampling of questions answered you can check out Sprout Cubed's recent Twitter Gardening Tips post, where you'll learn about the possible negative effects of chicken poop on soil, dispelling the myth that Marigolds ward off rabbits, and even learn about biodynamics...all in less than 140 characters.

If you can Tweet, you can definitely get a garden going just in time for a summer crop. Happy Planting!


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