I had always been a little afraid of composting, but Mel makes everything so logical and easy to understand."
—Karen from Utah
A Little of This, A Little of That
You don't have to wait for the plant to mature to its maximum size. Go out at harvest time (which might be a half an hour before lunch or dinner) with your pair of scissors and a small basket or salad bowl, and cut off a few outer leaves, perhaps one from each plant. To harvest a varied salad, just take four lettuce leaves, parsley leaves from another, and perhaps beet greens from another. Each square may contain a different variety and color of lettuce. You might pull one radish and one carrot, even though they've only grown to half size, wash them off in your bucket of sun-warmed water, put the tops in the compost bin, and then continue around your Square Foot Garden taking just a little bit here and a little bit there of this and that. Soon your harvest basket is full and you look at your garden and cannot even see that anything is missing.
Continually harvest any type of leafy vegetable—like leaf lettuce or Swiss chard—by snipping a little here and a little there throughout the season. This can't go on forever because the plant, especially cool weather plants, will eventually go to seed. When it sends up a seed stalk, the plant has completed its growing season and its use for harvesting. Take one last harvest, remove what's left over, and prepare that square foot for replanting—unless you want the kids to see how a lettuce or radish plant produces seed.
With Square Foot Gardening, you're only dealing with one square foot at a time. To paraphrase the words of Dr. Robert Schuiler, "Inch by inch, anythings a cinch." With SFG, our saying is going to be "square by square, you'll soon be there." As soon as you finish harvesting one square foot, it's time to prepare the soil and plant a new crop. Just take out any debris like dead leaves, stems, or roots— you can place these in your compost bin—then add a trowel full of compost (hopefully it's homemade) to the square, turn the soil over with the trowel, smooth it over, and you're ready to replant. You can do all of that in 60 seconds!
Now its getting more interesting and fun because you will be able to choose what you want to replant in every single square foot all through the garden season. Remember, you can get at least three crops a year in every square foot. So, multiply your number of square feet by three and there are a lot of choices to make! Every
choice is going to be fun, exciting, and interesting. Of course, what you select depends a lot on what time of the year it is and what you can use and enjoy.
Whether you re planting, harvesting, maintaining, or watering you don't need hours and hours to enjoy your garden. Because you can do a little bit here and a little bit there, you can do it anytime of the day—even on your way out the door! If you see a few tiny weeds growing, pluck them out; give a drink of water to any plants that appear a little droopy or wilted (remember your bucket of sun-warmed water is right there and so is your trowel if you need to loosen the soil). Its like straightening a crooked picture as you walk down the hall, jotting a note to someone who will be coming home soon, or putting something away in the refrigerator. These are things you can do right then and there. And they're fun things to do. No heavy work. No getting all dirty and sweaty.
If your garden is close to the back door or kitchen door, youll probably use it much more. You'll enjoy the fresh greens and salad more often, eat healthier, and feel better. SFG could be part of a weight-loss program, if you ask me! On top of all that, you'll have fun doing it! Don't forget to share the fun with your spouse, children, or grandchildren—the wonder of growth and harvest is priceless. Harvest a few small plants with a child, and that child will remember the experience forever.
When the summer is finished, you're ready to plant a fall crop, which will be a cool-weather crop. Go through the whole quick process of picking out any debris, adding a trowel full of compost, mixing it in, smoothing it over, and deciding what's next. There goes another minute out of your busy life. How about spinach? Check the spacing, get the seeds out, soak them for a little while, pop them in the ground, smooth them over, water, and you're all finished. Another minute gone, but you are creating life. You've now planted three crops in one square foot in only one year. You started with a root crop, replaced it with a fruit crop, and finally, in the fall, added a leaf crop. In addition, you practiced soil improvement three times in one year—square by square.
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