Thursday, March 12, 2009

Square Foot Gardening and the Three Sisters

Looking through my window I see huge flakes of snow falling....I'm glad I only planted a few of my beets, carrots and cucumbers last week, because they have all frozen! I sure am glad I ordered a 5 year supply of seeds from Big John Lipscomb.

In this post I will go over a couple of ways we plan on growing our vegetables.

For our Heirloom garden, we plan on using a few different methods for growing our vegetables. One method is called Square Foot Gardening.

Square Foot Gardening keys to success:

- Pick an area that gets 6-8 hours of sunshine daily.
- Stay clear of trees and shrubs where roots and shade may interfere.
- Have it close to the house for convenience.
- Existing soil is not really important, since you won't be using it.
- Area should not puddle after a heavy rain.

The 10 Basics of Square Foot Gardening

1. LAYOUT - Arrange your garden in squares, not rows. Lay it out in 4'x4' planting areas.
2. BOXES - Build boxes to hold a new soil mix above ground.
3. AISLES - Space boxes 3' apart to form walking aisles.
4. SOIL - Fill boxes with Mel's special soil mix: 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.
5. GRID - Make a permanent square foot grid for the top of each box. A MUST!
6. CARE - NEVER WALK ON YOUR GROWING SOIL. Tend your garden from the aisles.
7. SELECT - Plant a different flower, vegetable, or herb crop in each square foot, using 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square foot.
8. PLANT - Conserve seeds. Plant only a pinch (2 or 3 seeds) per hole. Place transplants in a slight saucer-shaped depression.
9. WATER - Water by hand from a bucket of sun-warmed water.
10. HARVEST - When you finish harvesting a square foot, add compost and replant it with a new and different crop.

The Three Sisters

We also plan on employing the Three Sisters method. This is where you grow your corn, beans and squash together on a mound. "The Three Sisters all work together. Critters will find it harder to invade your garden by interplanting your corn, beans and squash. The corn stalk serves as a pole for the beans, the beans help to add the nitrogen to the soil that the corn needs, and the squash provides a ground cover of shade that helps the soil retain moisture.

1. In late May or early June, hoe up the ground and heap the earth into piles about a foot high and about 20 across. The centers of your mounds should be about four feet apart and should have flattened tops.

2. First, in the center of each mound, plant five or six corn kernels in a small circle.

3. After a week or two, when the corn has grown to be five inches or so, plant seven or eight pole beans in a circle about six inches away from the corn kernels.

4. A week later, at the edge of the mound about a foot away from the beans, plant seven or eight squash or pumpkin seeds.

5. When the plants begin to grow, you will need to weed out all but a few of the sturdiest of the corn plants from each mound. Also keep the sturdiest of the bean and squash plants and weed out the weaker ones.

6. As the corn and beans grow up, you want to make sure that the beans are supported by cornstalks, wrapping around the corn. The squash will crawl out between the mounds, around the corn and beans.