The Greenest Thing You Can Do – Square Foot Gardening

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I really love this article, because it records my first real step in becoming a consciously sustainable person. I don’t mean becoming eco-friendly or environmentally conscious or any other nebulous phrase that suggests some effort at environmental awareness without really being concrete enough to define a measurable standard.

I have taken tentative steps before, but now that I have done my research, I know what true sustainability is, I know that is our highest goal, and I know how to get it done. I chose to start this journey to full sustainability by starting to become a producer. Yes, of course I will still consume, and for right now there a lot of holes in my game, but I am becoming a producer as well, and it feels pretty damn good.

I bought All New Square Foot Gardening because I had heard good things about it, and I wanted to start growing my own fruits and vegetables with the least amount of hassle. I happen to know that hydroponics is the most efficient way to grow anything, but it is a pretty complicated place to start. Square Foot Gardening seemed to be a good simple solution from the outside looking in. But would it deliver?

After reading it and buying the materials for starting my own square foot garden, I have to say it truly does provide a very easy way to start growing your own food. Among the many fantastic things about this method is that it can be done in any living setting, even an apartment balcony. I strongly recommend this book to people like me who do not want to deal with the hassle of gardening. The author Mel Bartholomew provides a step by step process for building your planter box, mixing the perfect soil, planting, growing and harvesting. No fertilizers. No pesticides. It is good stuff.

It took me less than a week to read the book, purchase the materials, put the box together, mix the soil and plant my veggies. The author does not mention costs, so I am going to list my costs for materials right here, for your benefit:

  • Heirloom Seeds (more on heirloom in my next blog): 8 packets – $23.25
  • Lumber: (1) sheet of plywood + (2) 2×6 redwood – $28.59
  • Soil Mix: vermiculite + peat moss + compost – $80.93
  • Grid: 5/8″ x 1/4″ trim board – $14.98
  • Total cost: $147.75
  • Work Time: roughly 8 man hours

This was more than I expected, but most of the costs are one time. The only ongoing costs are for compost and seeds. If you compost yourself, that line item is eliminated. With Mel’s technique, seed use and waste is significantly reduced in comparison with tradition row gardening, so seed packets can last as much as five years.

So what is the payoff?

I will have to wait and find out for myself, but according to the book, here is an example harvest from a 4×4 box:

  • 1 cabbage
  • 1 broccoli
  • 1 cauliflower
  • 4 romaine lettuce heads
  • 4 red lettuce heads
  • 4 leaf lettuce heads
  • 4 salad lettuce heads
  • 16 scallions
  • 5 lbs. of sugar peas
  • 8 swiss chard
  • 9 bunches of spinach
  • 32 carrots
  • 32 radishes
  • 16 beets

I priced out this theoretical harvest at my local supermarket, and it came to over $115.00. If you have two growing seasons per year (this is typical), you will be in the bonus after the second harvest.

You have probably heard a million times about “getting back in touch with nature”, so I’m not going to bore you with that. What I do want to say is that the project is a lot fun, it is a fantastic way to beautify your yard, it has endless possibilities for adaptation and creativity, and it is one of the greenest things you can do. Sometimes I think green can be summed up in one sentence: make it yourself, or buy local. That is the long and the short of it.

The book is far more detailed and complete than this little summary suggests, so I strongly urge you to buy it, read it and make it happen in your garden.

There are a few other items I would like to mention before I sign off that I will be expanding upon in future blogs.

As I mentioned before, my researched has determined that hydroponic agriculture is the most efficient, and I love the idea, but it does require more upfront cash than a square foot garden.I will be pursuing this in the future though, so stay tuned.

One technique I will be testing in future growing is living water. I am not doing it in this first season, so this first yield can be considered as a control in my little experiment. For those of you who are not familiar with the work of Victor Shauberger or Masaru Emoto, water can have amazing regenerative and vitalizing properties given the correct energetic charging. As with hydroponics, I will elucidate in the near future.

OK, one last near future note. One method which is outside of the square foot gardening book that I did experiment with is the seed planting process mentioned in Anastasia, the first book in the Ringing Cedars series. I am late to this party, having just finished the first book, but all I can say is wow. That book has already contributed mightily to the shifting of the paradigm and the material is great, but I am not going just take it at its word. I will review that book in the near future, and let you know just how effective the practical advice in that book is based upon how my crop turns out.

That is all I have for now. Happy Passover, and love to all,


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