Square Foot Garden – Grow It at Home and a Giveaway

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That box holds not just dirt, but the promise of garden fresh veggies that I can cook up in my kitchen this summer. Have you noticed how many people are starting to garden? People who have never grown anything in their lives are planting gardens in the backyard. Count me in as one of those folks. It’s been 15 years since I’ve grown a tomato in my own garden and I’ve been hankering to do it again ever since. This is finally my year.
My husband and I have a system for this garden thing. I plan, harvest and serve up the produce for dinner. He does all the other work. I like this system. It works for me. As part of planning the garden I bought the book The All-New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. In the book he explains how to grow plants in just a 4’x4′ square box that is only 6″ deep. Part of the magic of this is to use “Mel’s Mix” instead of any old dirt.
Here’s a step by step of how we (ahem, I mean my husband) built our garden boxes.
First he used untreated 2×6 boards to build a simple box with no bottom. He bought weed cloth and attached it to the bottom. I think you can also use newspapers, but we forgot to hold ours out of the recycle bin. Here, my husband and youngest daughter attach the weed cloth.

The “dirt” in this garden is 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite. You’ll need to figure out how many cubic feet of each you’ll need. Remember from math class that Volume=Length x Width x Height. For our box that’s V=4 x 4 x .5 (.5 for 6″ or 1/2 foot) That comes to 8 cubic feet total, or about 2 1/2 cubic feet of each ingredient.

The vermiculite is the white stuff in the photo. It was the hardest to find and also the most expensive of the three items. The brown is peat moss and the black is cow manure compost. My husband mixed all of that together in batches on a tarp in the yard and then shoveled it into our three boxes.
The cost for the gardens, wood and all was about $40 per box. That was a bit more than I thought it would be, but in the end it will be worth it. Next year, we will only need to add more compost. We still need to add the grids that make planting the garden easy and also give it the distinctive “square foot garden” look.
I’ve ordered strawberries, potatoes, carrots and lettuce seeds already. We’ll also plant tomatoes, cucumber, various peppers, basil, parsely and maybe some other herbs.
Want to join me on this gardening journey? I’m giving away one new copy of The All New Square Foot Gardening, which will be sent to the winner directly from Amazon. To enter all you need to do is tell me if you are going to be growing a garden this summer, what it will be like and if you’ve ever grown one before. Leave me a comment with your answer. One entry per person. The contest will run until Monday, April 13. Winner will be chosen randomly.
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  1. You are going to love it! We built our gardening boxes last summer and they were wonderful. When I wasn’t allowed to have purchased produce during chemo (because of food-borne illness risks)I *was* able to eat the lovely tomatoes from our garden. Yum! We’re using our boxes again this year–I already have lettuce, radishes, and carrots planted!


  2. Anonymous says:

    Your boxes look great!

    We are growing corn, potatoes, beans, melons, pumpkins, squash, peppers, and tomatoes.

    Connie (ggmom on Sonlight)

  3. Call Me Cate says:

    I know someone that plants her garden in multiple little plastic swimming pools. I don’t know the specifics as far as what she puts in them for soil but she’s been very happy with the results.

    However, I have to imagine your garden boxes look a lot nicer than her plastic kiddy pools.

  4. What a wonderful idea !!! We are considering ways to start a garden. With a smallish back yard and kids playing everywhere, this is a perfect solution !!!

    Now just to gather supplies πŸ˜‰

  5. MommaYoung says:

    Those look so nice.

    Yes we are going to grow veges this summer. All the things we eat the most of.

  6. Oh, this look so neat! Yes, we are going to grow veggies this year, but we rent our house, so we have to find ways around digging up the yard. The concept of square foot gardening is just what we need!

  7. Those look so neat! I have grown a garden before but don’t have plans for one this year. If I win, I’d do one though! Thanks for the chance πŸ™‚

  8. We started a garden this year. There are a lot of experimental plants in there as we have yet to determine what best survives the Texas heat. I can’t wait for homegrown tomatoes.

  9. From A Creative Heart says:

    Great Giveaway….we have been talking about square foot gardening as being a great way to do some small gardening…and I am looking at the garden set up I found at Sam’s Club too…

    I am not much for heavy duty gardening as we had to do lots of this growing up and it was a situation where you learned to love it or hate it…..and sadly I have hated it for some timee, but am trying to change.

    I would like to grow some herbs (basil, mint, lemon balm, etc), some heirloom tomatos, lettuce ( more of a “salad” garden for this year.)

    Thanks again!!!

  10. I borrowed the book from the library last year and liked it (but it was too late in the season to do anything) and was planning to buy a copy this year and get started. But I am not sure anything will get done this year now that it’s just me, but we’ll see.

    If Canadians are welcome to enter, then yes, I’d like to be entered!

  11. Janelle says:

    I am participating in a community garden for the first time. I have gardened in the past, but it’s been many years because there wasn’t a good spot at our prior home. This home has a huge yard, but it’s mostly shaded, so we’re trying the community garden. I hope it does well and has no intruders! I also want to do a small garden here, and this book would be most helpful as I figure out the logistics of that one! πŸ™‚

  12. Kimm at Reinvented says:

    We are planning to grow a garden this year, larger than we’ve ever tried before. I would love to have this book, as this is the technique we are planning. thanks for the advice!

  13. xbabymakes3x says:

    I am gardening for the first time this year. It started out being just a container garden, but I went ahead and made a spot in the yard too. I already have broccoli, spinach, and lettuce coming up from my containers.

  14. I’ll be growing Zuchini, green peppers, tomatoes and I’m going to try an herb garden as well. First time.

  15. Go for you! I would love to enter your giveaway. πŸ™‚ I had decided last month that when I got my new apartment I was going to start an herb garden for sure. I haven’t as yet gotten a place (dumb time of year for the rental places, and I have an upcoming job delaying me another couple months), but as soon as I do you can bet I’ll be growing! I would love to grow some lettuce and tomatoes as well…maybe some peppers. Can you grow brussels in those gardens? I’ve never tried before, but they’re one of my favorite veggies. In the past I’ve only grown flowers, so I’m excited to actually produce things I can cook with!

  16. Katherine Aucoin says:

    We are working on our garden now. I have one with herbs. We are also going to grow some veggies too. I did herbs last year for the first time and it worked out really well. My husband is an ace at growing veggies.

  17. knit1kids4 says:

    We are hoping to do this at our house. My son is so excited about gardening. Thanks for the cost estimate!

    I’ve checked the book out of the library twice!

    Kristal/Speedy Mom

  18. dragonmom64 says:

    I’m planning to do this! Since we live in a rented townhouse, these boxes would work just great! And winning the book would be a fantastic way to get started!

    dragonmom on the SL boards

  19. Krulish Family says:

    My mom and I are starting our first “garden” this year! We have a zucchini plant that we are growing and if that works out than we are going to try more veggies!!!

  20. Hi Tiffany! I WILL be having a garden this year! We moved over a year ago and I did not get time to put in a garden at The Glen last year so that is my big project THIS year!! I would love to read this book!

  21. I love the square foot gardening idea! What a wonderful use of space and time. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here in Austin, you can’t get a parking space at the garden centers on Saturday!

  22. Finding Normal says:

    My husband does tomato plants every year. I do herbs in pots–cilantro, basil, oregano. I’m thinking of adding mint this year so I can have a very mojito summer.

  23. Mommy of M's says:

    Hubby and I were just starting to plan a garden. We always had one growing up, but I haven’t done one myslef.

    I remember spending hours picking with my dad and then taking stuff to the market to sell.

    If I win I am so copying all of your recipes! Oh wait, I already do that! HA

  24. When my kids were small we rented garden space (Tiffany you might remember the Hinshaws from Richmond) and everyone pitched in. One year we didn’t get it weeded as fast as the guy we rented from liked and he plowed it under. We planted everything -corn,potatoes,broccoli, peppers,beets,squash, etc. The last few years I have only had herbs (basil,mint,sage,oregano and thyme) and tomatoes. Last year I planted heirloom tomatoes and that was fun. Nothing better than a fresh tomato from the garden.

  25. Cute idea! Yes, we have already got our garden tilled up.

  26. How would I keep the wild rabbits out….any suggestions??

  27. Anonymous says:

    HEy cool.
    I’m getting mine going this weekend. Just now to figure out what I want to plant.


  28. My husband has recently started trying to grow things and seems to be enjoying it…he might like this book.

  29. Ryan Ashley Scott says:

    We help my mom with her garden, but we don’t have one at our house… unless you count some random strawberries. I love gardening, though, and those boxes look really nice.

    I’d love to grow tomatos and fry up the green ones all summer long.

  30. Margaret says:

    We already have sugar snap peas coming up in ours. We have always had a garden with my family. This is the first one all by ourselves. Our son wanted to start it. We have carrots and peas. We are going to plant watermelons and tomatoes later. Then we also have planted lots of veggies in our larger family garden.

    Good luck with yours. Fresh veggies are so much better.

  31. justjoycee says:

    Just found your blog and became a follower. I would really love to have my own little garden, nice post.

  32. Oh, I could use this book! We just built some raised beds. πŸ™‚ You can see them on my blog..about 5-6 posts down.(if you wanna peak!) We have 5 large ones and 1 small one.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Hi! I have only grown a garden once, when my kiddos were little. We had a drought and I had to lug the hose up the hill over and over again to water it. Not a great experience. However, I have heard about the SFG and am very interested!

    Christine M. (mytwoboys on SL)

  34. Our Family says:

    My husband and I are in the process of buying our first house, so planting a garden is a great way to put our own personal touch on things. I love the idea of the square foot garden. I’ll admit I have a problem with things not being in somekind of order. This is a great way to do that. And with two kids, veggies will be our #1 priority!

  35. Trailboss says:

    My husband puts out a garden every year. We really enjoy it. I have wanted an herb garden for several years and this year I have planted one. I bought one of those cool thingies from Walmart to plant the seeds in. They are sprouting now and it won’t be long before I will transfer them outside. I’m not sure if I should put them in pots or directly into the garden though. What do you think?

  36. We are going to build a garden and we have never done it before. It is going to be an adventure!

  37. silverhartgirl says:

    this is going to be my second year growing a garden. I want to plant zucchini and tomatoes. they are my favorites

  38. Joanne + Michelle, kookie girls clothing says:

    I love this idea!! We are working on planning our 6 year olds garden and this would be perfect!!
    Thanks for visiting us!

  39. This is such a great idea. I just a job last fall at a college and they were nice enough to provide housing for me and my fiance but, since we are renting, my hopes of having a garden were very slim. This would be my first time having a garden since I was little so I can’t wait to have a few of these and be able to grow all of my favorite green vegatables.

  40. Michelle says:

    I have always had a black thumb, but this year, I am determined to make my veggie garden work. I am sure that it will help that we dug out lots of crud from the garden bed and amended it with lots of wonderful organic compost etc.

    In the ground are: herbs, lettuce, strawberry, squash, eggplant, peas, bush beans, artichoke and a cucumber. Wish me luck – it will be a wonderful adventure for the whole family and will really connect our kids to their food!

  41. Well I just started and plan on using seeding trays for planting the seeds, but will definately build some boxes as you described especially since the vegetables are going to need to be transplanted.

    thank you for this page.

  42. I am going to do my first garden ever. I am planning to grow tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, herbs, beans, garlic, onions, etc…
    I am very excited about the whole thing!

    Thanks for the tips, I will try to build my boxes in the same idea as yours!

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