I read Square Foot Gardening yesterday, two weeks into social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the two are only partially related.
We moved into a beautiful 100 year old farmhouse almost four years ago. The two previous owners loved to garden and created a beautiful English garden surrounding our home. Rose bushes, ornamental trees, stone lined paths, bird baths and more. It was gorgeous. And when we moved in we really wanted to dive into taking care of it. But even then, I knew that I don’t really care that much about flowers. I really wanted to plant a vegetable garden.
Fast forward four years, plus two babies we didn’t know we could even have, and our flower gardening ambitions are dead. D-E-A-D, dead. We have not been able to keep up with it. And at this point we don’t even want to. The stone lined paths now look like death traps for the two little humans we have that can barely walk. The flower beds are overgrown. It’s a mess. So during this self-imposed quarantine we are ripping them all out. We’re going back to a (hopefully) beautiful lawn, with some shrubs, and a lot fewer life-threatening rocks.
But we are going to put in that vegetable garden. I want to put in the effort to grow food for our family and now seems like the right time. We have the free time to start a new garden, and certainly reducing trips to the grocery store over the coming months seems like a good idea. The only question is, why would this effort be any more successful than the last four year’s failed efforts at keeping up with our degenerating English garden?
Well, Square Foot Gardening seems to be the answer. Starting with one small four foot by four foot bed, we should be able to grow enough vegetables for one salad every day of the growing and harvest seasons. Add another one or two over the course of the summer and we can produce a lot more than that. The heart of this book’s method is to create a mix of soil that is made specifically to grow vegetables, resist weeds, and retains water to an exceptional degree. It’s a method that’s been around for decades with good results. And the yields it’s delivered over time suggest that it will be worth the time and the money.
It’s the cost which also seems to be the only downside. It’s not cheap to make your own soil, especially when requirements are high and the whole method is tuned specially for it. You can’t really take shortcuts or skimp. But, given the advantages it promises (and the results that many, many people have attested too) it seems this approach will be one we can make work. Additionally, when the whole yard is lawn again, we’ll have more free time to maintain just the vegetable garden.
We are planning on building this garden in the next few weeks. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll post updates if it goes well. If it doesn’t, well, you know.