About six years ago, I REALLY started to watch what I was eating. I made a conscious effort to only put things in my body that are as close to their natural state as possible. That means cutting out all things processed and mostly all breads and sweets (heaven help me). While I’m not fully vegan, per se, my edible items of preference are not meats, but vegetables. And LOTS of them. And with the cottage, moving to Louisiana, and simplifying, I decided it was time to grow my own food. I’m definitely not a vegetable garden novice, as years ago when I served in public schools, it was easy to plant, grow and maintain a summer and early fall food supply. But when I shifted roles and my career became more demanding, vegetable gardening didn’t come quite as easy.
But now, with a beautiful backyard and a perfect place for a garden spot, I decided it was time to give growing vegetables another go! And I decided to try my hand at a little square foot garden! In case you’d like to do the same, I thought I would share the steps I took to create one.
First of all, I ordered the Greenland Gardener Raised Garden Kit. It arrived in a just a few days and set up was such a breeze! Literally like five minutes! It comes in eight pieces made from heavy duty plastic. There are four long pieces (for the sides) and four corner pieces that are notched. The long sides simply snap into the corner pieces, and within just a few minutes, I had a garden box ready to be filled!
For the soil, I mixed up, what is called “Mel’s Mix” all over the internet. I used two bags of cow manure mixed with organic soil, 1 gigantic bag of Miracle Gro Garden Soil and two bags of Vermiculite. Before spreading the Mel’s Mix in the box, I sprayed any grass or weeds with Round Up, put down a layer of old packing paper (to help curtail any weed growth) and then rotated dumping the various components of Mel’s Mix into the box. Using a shovel, I mixed and mixed and mixed until I felt everything was good and, well, mixed.
Next using some fishing line, a hammer, some small nails and a measuring tape, I created the square foot sections. I measured off approximately 12” segments along each of the long sides. At every 12” increment, I tacked down a tiny nail. So on each side board, there are 2 nails, dividing up 3 sections. Next I took fishing line, tied it to a nail, and stretched it across the garden box, tying it to a nail on the opposite side. I repeated this for the remaining nails.
Now, the garden box was divided into nine sections and it was time to plant! I chose many of my favorite items that could be eaten straight from the garden and/or used to make fresh salsa! Big tomatoes, little tomatoes or “Tommy Toes” (as my Papaw called them), jalapenos, banana peppers (also known as “peppercinis” in the south), bell peppers, onions, okra, squash and spinach. Basically I placed one tomato, Tommy Toe, and squash plant per square foot section. For the okra, peppers, spinach and onions, I put two to four plants per section (probably too many per section, I know, but I digress). Then in a little section of an adjacent flower bed I planted a watermelon, basil and parsley.
Everything has been in the ground a little over six weeks. And so far everything is thriving! The Mel’s Mix appears to be providing the exact amount of nourishment to help the plants grow big and strong. Mother Nature has provided lots of rain as of late, but spread out in manageable increments as to not over saturate the garden. The garden box sits in a super sunny location, so the spring warmth is helping the plants to thrive.
I can’t wait until early summer when I am able to enjoy fresh vegetables straight from my own garden! Not only will I save money by growing my own food (and essentially paying for the cost of the garden box the first year), but I’ll have fresh healthy vegetables to supplement my diet. How fun to walk a few steps from my cottage backporch and have my very own, little garden! Seems fitting and in keeping with a lifestyle full of simplicity!
I’d love to hear your garden success stories! Have you tried a small raised bed? Or do you have other tricks and tips you can share? Please feel free post in the comments below. I’d REALLY love to hear!
*This post first appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of The Minute Magazine.