Sunday, April 28, 2013

Square Foot Gardening - Building the Garden Boxes

Before I get into square foot gardening, I just have to say something about my diet. When I was addicted to unhealthy foods I think my taste buds became desensitized. I was always putting salt or sweetener on the foods I ate, as well as other spices. Then I read Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book Eat to Live and of course he discourages the use of extra salt and sugar or sweeteners. He would talk about salad and vegetables as being delicious. I have to admit I had my doubts. But I wanted to loose weight and was willing to give it a try.

This is a lifestyle change for me, not a temporary diet. So I made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of salt, sugar, and other sweeteners in the foods I eat. And surprise! As my taste buds become more sensitive, the natural foods I eat taste so much better. Now I get excited about the flavors in my salad and that's important because salad is the foundation of what I eat. I'm not talking about just leafy greens—though I've discovered many different kinds and most of them are good, it's carrots, artichokes, cucumbers, peas, edamame, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and beans—all types of beans; they all tastes so good. Even cauliflower and broccoli taste good. I don't smother my salad with a heavy dressing either. I use a small amount of olive oil and vinegar or an O and V-based commercial dressing. That's it.

As good as salad is, the real flavor sensation is fruit. When I bite into an apple or an orange or a banana or a piece of pineapple my taste buds are overwhelmed by the flavor. Frequently I find myself thinking, Wow! This is so good. The flavor is so distinct, so sweet. And it isn't just the first bite. I might eat two apples and it's like an absolute flavor festival right up to the last bite. Dr. Fuhrman is right, the food is delicious. I never would have guessed my taste buds were so desensitized.

This is why I get excited about my square foot garden. Everything tastes better when it's fresh, and it's hard to get fresher than from your own garden. In The All New Square Foot Garden, Mel Bartholomew explains all about how to build the garden squares and what to fill them with. He's very clear about what to do. Get his book or borrow it from the library. What I want to share is my experience building the garden squares and using Mel's system.

Building the garden boxes was fun and easy. That I was excited about doing it probably helped, but really building the boxes wasn't hard. You use two inch by six inch by eight foot long boards. For one box you need only two boards. I had the lumber yard cut the eight foot long boards into four foot lengths. My boxes are four feet square. You can make the boxes in rectangles if that meets your needs. You also need wood screws that are at least two and a half inches long.

As you can see from the picture the garden box is just a box you can place on the ground. You don't have to dig into the ground. Because the boards are long and awkward, I had my wife help me build the boxes. I put three screws through the width of the first board (the board at the bottom of the picture) and into the end of the second board. To keep the first board from splitting, because I'd be going across the wood grain with the screws, I drilled holes in the board before I put in the screws. You don't have to drill holes in the second board because the screws go in to that board with the grain. Once I drilled the holes in the first board I just put the two boards together and screwed in the screws. I also put black garden mesh underneath my box (not black plastic). It isn't necessary, but I had some available so I attached it to the bottom with a staple gun. Hopefully it will help keep weeds from growing up through the soil I'm going to put in the box.

The next step will be to make the soil, called Mel's Mix, to go in the box. You don't use any of the dirt from your garden. And then divide the box into sixteen square feet.

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