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THINK TWICE

Your aisles should be 3 feet wide. I would caution against 2-foot wide aisles because once the plants grow, some cascade over the sides or get bushy. Those 2-foot aisles begin to shrink down to maybe just 18 or even 12 inches. At the beginning, when nothing is planted or growing, it's hard to imagine what it will look like in midsummer with everything growing like crazy and taking up a lot more space. Pretty soon you're sorry that you made the aisle so narrow. But by then, it's too late to move the boxes. Since SFG takes up so little room, why crowd all your boxes together? The more spacious your All New Square Foot Garden is, the more time you are likely to spend there enjoying it.

so you can easily get in with a garden cart or wheelbarrow, or so several people can walk down the aisle at once. (Hey, how about a garden party or a wedding?)

Draw It Up

Once you get a rough idea of how much space you'll need, make a quick sketch more or less to scale. You don't need graph paper (unless you're a designer or want to use it); just draw the 3-foot aisles slightly smaller than the 4-foot boxes. Now you're ready to tour your property looking for nice open areas near the house. Later in this chapter we'll discuss design in more detail.

Location

There are five major things to look for when touring your property for a SFG location. Use these as a test for the area you're considering for your All New Square Foot Garden. (Remember, convenience is king so make sure you follow Rule 1.)

  1. Place it close to the house for convenience.
  2. Pick an area that gets six to eight hours of sunshine daily.
  3. Stay clear of trees and shrubs where roots and shade may interfere.
  4. The area should not puddle after a heavy rain.
  5. The existing soil is not really important, since you won't be using it.
  6. Close to the House

The All New Square Foot Garden has so many more places to put your garden than before.

Keep in mind foot traffic and sites where you will often notice and enjoy your garden. If your SFG is near traffic paths, you'll walk past the garden more often, hence take better care of it (remember— no need to change into gardening clothes, or run and get some tools). This means it will always look nice and the end result will be that you'll enjoy it more as will every other member of the family. (Chapter 10 covers different locations like hillsides or heavily wooded areas.)

I Can See Clearly Now

When you think about observing your garden, consider where you can frequently see it—especially from inside the house. What room are you in the most? Can you see the garden from there? The reason is not only for your pleasure but for protection. If it is close, you will see problems (like deer, wilting plants, a neighbors dog or cat) when they begin rather than hours later after all the damage is done.

Remember the Square Foot Garden way is to treat your plants just like you treat your children or grandchildren, and you know you would be glancing out the window at them. I believe that every plant out there is constantly seeking your attention by saying, "Look at me, look at my new blossom, look how big I'm getting." Isn't that just like children?

Placement of your Square Foot Garden opens up so many doors to the way you care for, enjoy, appreciate, and harvest it. Plus you'll show it off more often and get the whole family involved. It's even possible to split up your garden and place some of your boxes in different locations for perhaps a different visual effect or a different purpose.

REMEMBER THE OLD NURSERY RHYME?

One for the blackbird. One for the mouse. One for the rabbit. And one for the house.

So they're suggesting you plant four times as much as what you really want or need. Well, that's cute, but what a waste of resources and energy.

2. Sunlight

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The next thing to consider in selecting a location is sunlight. Growing plants need sunlight. How much they need depends on the type of plant. In general, large-flowering or fruiting plants need a lot—at least eight hours a day. These types of plants are referred to as a 'summer crop" or "warm-weather crop" and include most of the favorite things that people grow, such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, and sunflowers.

In determining the amount of sunlight an area receives, keep in mind that it changes throughout the year with the seasons. In early-spring and again in late fall the sun is lower in the sky than in the summertime. And of course, there are not as many hours of light in the day in the spring and fall as there are in the summer.

Iff You Only Have Shade

If you have shady conditions and no other place to locate your garden, you can still have a thriving garden but you'll have a limited selection of crops to grow. So, obviously, you'd stay away from the tomatoes, peppers, and squash and plant the root and leaf crops like radishes, spinach, and lettuce. Of course, there are many flowers and herbs that love shade, so check with your local nursery if you are in this situation.

Too Much Sun

Sometimes you might have a location that gets full sun all day long, from sunup to sundown. That would actually be too much for some of the cool weather and leafy crops, as well as many flowers. Of course, with a big, huge garden there's not much you can do. But with a Square Foot Garden, its very easy to provide shade by building a simple support and covering the 4X4 box with some shade cloth. That's all covered in Chapter 4.

3. Avoid Trees and Shrubs

When choosing your SFG location, stay clear of trees and shrubs for two reasons. The first is shade as we just discussed. Second, tree and shrub roots, if they sense a well-watered Square Foot Garden nearby, will grow into your perfect soil If thars the only location you have, then there is a way to counteract that situation. Put a plywood bottom on your boxes and raise them up off the ground. You can raise them up by just putting a brick under each corner and one in the center Or you can use a cement block, or even two blocks and build little piers and have it as a garden you sit down beside to harvest. Then, of course, the tree's roots won t even know that the garden is there. This is a nice way to have a shade garden right under a tree along with a bench or a few lawn chairs.

Keep in mind that shrubs are just as bad as trees as far as providing shade and root interference. Most shrubs are more shallow rooted than trees. Keep in mind, too, that as trees and shrubs grow, their shade will increasingly cover a larger area.

1 want to convert my entire garden to your method\"

4. No Puddles, Please

Roots will drown in accumulated and stagnant water, so you don't want to locate your SFG in an area that holds water after a rain. The materials in Mel's Mix, though they drain well and hold a lot of moisture, will soak up all the water in a standing puddle and your plant roots will be harmed. Areas that puddle also promise mud, which makes gardening less fiin.

If you have no other place and can't drain the area, then of course you could fill in the low area with sand to raise your box slightly and/or you could again put a bottom on it and raise it up with stones, bricks, cinder blocks, or something similar.

5. Existing Soil—Who Cares?

When you're choosing a location, it doesn't really matter about the condition of your existing soil. Many of the other gardening books tell you how to go around the yard and dig test holes and see what kind of soil you have. Sometimes you're even supposed to make a

Once you choose the spot, you'll love Square Foot Gardening for so many reasons. It's simple and easy to understand. It's quick and practical to do. It has every benefit you can think of. It fits anywhere in an existing or planned landscape; anyone can do it regardless of abilities. It costs very little. It requires few tools and equipment. And the best part of all is that you don't have to be an expert gardener!!

percolation test, in which you have to dig a hole, fill it with water, see how long it takes to drain, blah, blah, blah Or, how about all the unnecessary advice on how to take a soil test and what the results mean? Forget about all that now. You don't have to know about it because we're not going to use your existing soil. We're going to build bottomless boxes above the ground. You can even put your boxes on the pavement or a patio and it won't make any difference.

The Envelope, Please

The best location is where you can see your garden more often from more directions. Things like sunlight and avoiding trees and shrubs are merely precautions to help make your garden more successful. So walk around your yard and think about where the best place to locate and enjoy your garden.

Now that you've determined how many boxes you'll have and strolled around your yard to find the best spot(s), it's time to think about design. You can lay out your boxes so they turn corners, even intersect each other, but keep in mind traffic and walking around. Don't make dead ends or narrow places. Keep 3- or 4-foot aisles, and leave bigger areas for chairs, benches, and entranceways. Here is a fun idea, explain to the entire family the basic size and layout then let each member draw up ideas and plans. Maybe everyone could have an area to design, build, and plant. Wouldn't that be a great family project? Then, take a picture and send it to me so we can share all kinds of designs with others.

Line Them Up

You can probably guess that, being a former army officer, I am going to want all the boxes lined up neatly and precisely, even perhaps having them in a row (oh, what an unfortunate word)—excuse me— in a line. I might want the entire area has to be a square or at the very least a rectangle . . but that's just me. How about you—do you want a U-shape or an L-shape? Do whatever appeals to you.

Gardens Aren't Just for Yards Anymore

Here's another idea—no matter the season, you can build a SFG box with a plywood bottom and place it on your patio or picnic tabletop near your back door. You may want to use smaller SFG boxes on the patio or deck such as 2X2 or 2X4.

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Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

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