"Planting a garden, even a small one,
allows for a greater degree of self-reliance.
With the right information and a little practice,
individuals and entire families
can enjoy the many benefits
of planting and tending a garden."
We have always had a vegetable garden. It is an integral part of our core belief to be a self sustaining family. When our children were young, (our eldest is now 33) we had a rather large plot where we grew enough vegetables to eat throughout the summer and preserve plenty for the Winter. We had rows and rows of tomato plants, squash and eggplant, carrots, parsnips and peas and even potatoes.
We irrigated our garden as my father had done, by furrowing long rows between the plants and setting the water to flow down each row. This method worked well to provide our plants with much needed moisture (it gets very hot in Utah during the summer) but it also allowed those pesky weeds to propagate equally as well. An enormous amount of time was spent weeding and watering our garden. On the bright side, it provided our many children with more Summer chores to keep them busy and out of mischief through the summer months, though not entirely out of mischief as boys will always be boys, not even to mention the spice the girls would add to our days. I can't help but think that it also planted deep within their souls a love for the earth and our creator as they worked to keep our garden growing.
It wasn't many years into using this productive (as in lots of weeds) method that my husband discovered a much better way. He designed a drip system that would place the water at the base of each plant using a mixture of pipes and tubing. Turning it on was effortless, by simply turning a valve, the dripping would begin. The drips would all flow in unison feeding the thirsty roots of the vegetables. No more weeds in the furrows, as water never flowed there. A few weeds would pop up around the base of each plant, and a few starts would peak through the soil after a rainfall, but they were easy to remove with little effort. (Remember that we live in a virtual desert in the summer and soil that doesn't get watered doesn't grow plants.) So we covered up the furrows, and that was the end of our irrigation days.
Fast forward a few years to a new home and a new yard to landscape. As wonderful a change as our drip system brought to our lives, so has Square Foot Gardening changed our lives now. We love our Square Foot boxes. We have four boxes planted in a sunny area of our yard near the kitchen entrance to our home. Our "living at home" family is much smaller than in our days of irrigation, so we don't have the need to plant as much, only 4 tomato plants instead of the 3 dozen we planted back in the day.
We fill two boxes with strawberry plants. (We love that our grandchildren head right to the strawberry patch whenever they visit to pick the fresh strawberries to fill their tummies!) Another box is where my fresh herbs reside alongside any other vegetables we choose to include each year. The final box has room to hold four tomato plants in cages, just enough for fresh salsa and salads. (I should note that I have not given up on planting squash, much to the chagrin of some of my children. I love all types of squash and would never abandon planting them. They hold a special place in my yard with my melons near the raspberry bushes, but that's a different day's blog.)
We love the look of our boxes, we used redwood, and we enjoy the ease this format gives to harvesting but we especially can't say enough about the soil that enables our veggies to grow weed free. The soil is indeed the secret recipe to our delicious veggies! I've included the recipe for soil in the link bar at the top of this blog.
Our garden boxes are watered by the amazing sprinkling system that my husband so masterfully designed. You may wish to visit My Garden Library to view "Sprinkling System" for inspiration and information for your own garden. I have also provided a link to "Irrigation Tutorial" in My Favorite Garden Links.
On occasion, a weed seed or two will migrate to our boxes, surely coaxed by the promise of such rich, beautiful soil to thrive in, but they are quickly removed with ease. Our square foot boxes are truly vegetable gardening at its best! If you haven't tried this method of gardening, here's a link to get you started: Square Foot Gardening