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First, mix your compost. Empty the 5 bags of different kinds of con ¡post in the colter ofa large tar p.

explain to the kids the environmental three Rs—reduce, reuse, and recycle. Our Square Foot Gardening system is a great example oh

  1. reduce, by 80 percent,
  2. reuse, save the bags, and
  3. recycle plants in your compost.

Get a large tarp, at least 16X 16-feet, and open it near your garden where you have all your boxes built and located. Make sure you have them in their final resting place—check with the boss one more time and ask, "Are you sure this is where you want all the boxes, dear?"

All of the three ingredients are dusty when dry, so do this when there is no wind. Don t do it in the garage, or you 11 get dust all over your nice new car or workshop. Wear a painters mask and have a hose ready with a very fine spray. Don't forget to have a few mixing tools ready like a snow shovel, a hoe, or a steel rake.

Count out the bags and boxes, do the math one more time and start opening the bags and pouring the contents out on the tarp without walking on the ingredients. Roughly mix the three ingredients as best you can as you pour it.

Then drag two corners of the tarp to the opposite two corners. You'll see the material roll over, mixing itself. When you've pulled the tarp so that the mixture is almost to the edge, move 90 degrees

The Backbone of the Square Foot Gardening Method

You should have a fairly large pile of blended compost (above).

To mix, take two corners of the tarp and flip the tarp over itself several times. It helps to have two people do this (below).

Once the compost is well mixed\ add your vermiculite.

Next, add the peat moss.

These ingredients can be dusty; so water them lightly before mixing. You may also want to wear a protective mask.

and pull those two corners over. You just work your way around the tarp and repeat pulling corners together until your Mels Mix is uniformly mixed. It's finished when you don't see any single material or one color.

Use the hose with a fine mist or spray to wet down any dust, but don't spray so much you make puddles or wet the ingredients so the mixture becomes too heavy to move easily. Don't let the kids play in the mixture, or they will crush the large particles of vermiculite. (By the way, I'd save a small plastic bag of vermiculite for seed starting. We'll get to seed starting in the next chapter.)

The next step is to fill the boxes, wetting down the mixed-in layers as you fill it. Once the box is full and the top leveled off, don't pack it down. It will settle just right by itself.

If you have any leftover Mel's Mix, put it back in the empty bags you set aside for reuse. That extra Mel's Mix will come in handy to fill four-packs and use for transplants as well as extra to top off the boxes when the soil level settles. Turn the bags inside out if you want a plain look, label with a marker, and put them aside. Since you don't really water the mix until it's in the box, your stored mix will be fairly dry and lightweight to carry.

To fill other boxes, work with someone else to drag the tarp close to the new boxes. Don't try to carry shovelfuls of mix to the box as it will spill and be wasted. This is precious stuff. (Remember what Grandma always said, "Waste not, want not.")

That's also why we don't water the Mel's Mix in the tarp, but as you are adding it to the box—that way the remaining material in the tarp doesn't get so heavy that it is hard to drag. As soon as you add your grid to each box, you are ready to plant.

You have now completed the most important and rewarding step

Dampen lightly the Mel's mix for a dustless transport to your

4X4 SFG box.

The Backbone of the Square Foot Gardening Method

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