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22 May 2020
latitude28 band grow vegetables

Build a Little Garden

Have you thought about growing your own veggies? I have, too.

I imagine rows of verdant crops, stretching into the distance and meeting at a point on the far horizon. The setting sun illuminates their robust leaves, and everything is golden.

Tomorrow we will harvest! Tomorrow night we will feast! With wine and song! And laughter! Outside on wooden tables with candles in tin lanterns and Martha Stewart plateware! And strings of twinkle lights overhead!

Ok, maybe not.

For me, and probably for you, raising acres of corn and beans is not going to happen. But what could totally happen is raising 16 square feet of assorted veggies in our side yards.

Wait. WHY AM I TALKING ABOUT THIS? In a Latitude28 Band blog?

We’re Still Home

Here’s why: some of us could use something inspiring to do.

The country is still in early-to-mid stages of re-opening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. Latitude28 Band is based in the Orlando area, home to three major theme parks, all of which are still closed as of today. Universal Orlando hopes to re-open on June 5. SeaWorld and Disney haven’t nailed down re-launch dates yet.

Restaurants, gyms, bars, and salons are in various stages of getting back to business (with safety protocols in place). And schools? Most if not all school districts across the country won’t resume on-site classes until later this summer or fall.

So, many of us are still home.

We’ve watched our movies.

We’ve sorted our garages.

We’ve assembled our photo albums.

We’ve alphabetized our spices.

We’ve folded our cleaning rags.

We’ve ironed our dollar bills.

And we’re still home.

So this blog is about something else to do. The goal here is not to raise quantities of staples that could feed the U.S. Army. No. It’s just to grow a few veggies (or herbs or flowers) in a doable and satisfying way.

A Square-Foot Garden: It Makes Sense

How to do that? I suggest starting a square-foot garden.

Square-foot gardening is a growing method that utilizes small raised beds divided into square-foot sections. Each square holds a different type of plant. Four-by-four-foot or four-by-six-foot beds are common sizes.

Square-foot gardens have lots of advantages over row gardens:

  • The soil doesn’t get compacted (you’re not walking on it)
  • The squares are plant-intense so fewer weeds can get established
  • Pest control is easier
  • The blocks allow you to harvest more vegetables
  • You can reach into them easily and thus experience less back fatigue
  • They drain better
  • You can put a trellis on one end for vining plants to grow vertically

Raised beds are usually built as open wood boxes filled with dirt. The box edges are six to eight inches high. Most of the time, they’re on the ground, but they can also be built on top of sturdy tables.

How to Make One

Build the frame with 2×6 or 2×8 rot-resistant boards, each four feet (or six feet) long and screwed together with 6-inch wood screws. String-trim the area where you want to put the frame. Position the frame on the ground and fill it with nutrient-rich dirt.

About the dirt: If your soil quality sucks, amend it. Add manure or compost to sandy soil. If you’re dealing with clay soil, amend it with organic material like bark, sawdust, manure, compost, and peat moss. Or buy bags of plain dirt from a home improvement store and amend that. (You could also buy potting soil, but that’s a lot more expensive than dirt.)

Next, mark out the square-foot sections. Lengths of string stretched across the frame in a grid work just fine.

Now it’s time to plant! Either buy young plants at a nursery or go all in and grow things from seeds. (Note: growing things from seeds takes more work and perseverance. Here’s a wikiHow on that subject.) Good vegetables for a square-foot garden include carrots, radishes, zucchini, peas, onions, beets, garlic, spinach, lettuce, chard, cucumbers, and bush beans.

Once you’ve gotten everything set up, water the plants. That’s the last step of the project for today. In the days to come, make sure you keep the plants watered, and when the weeds appear (which they will), remove them right away. Over the weeks, you’ll enjoy seeing vegetables appear and grow, and when they’re mature, you can harvest and eat them!

We’ve talked about growing veggies, but if you want herbs, grow those. Flowers? Use one square-foot section for a different kind of flower.

Build yourself one square-foot garden this weekend. Or build two, one for yourself and one for the kids. Who knows, by the time everything re-opens, your entire yard could be full of square-foot gardens.

My job here today is done.

As always, thanks for reading!

–Kim

Featured Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

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2 Responses

  1. Linda Burns

    Wow! What a great article. You’re such a good writer, Kim. Now I want to build a garden, but mine would need to be a raised one due to my back problems. Keep up the good work and stay safe.

    1. Thanks, Linda! What I love about these square-foot gardens is that they’re small enough to set up on an outdoor table–like a plastic table with metal legs. Then your garden could literally be waist-high! I haven’t done that myself but I’ve seen pictures of them at that height.

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