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Square-Foot Grid Garden


Here's an easy, orderly garden design that kids really like:


You just build a box as with any other raised bed (see #13 in Garden Planning, "Building a Raised Bed"). Then fill it with compost, and place a grid that you've made out of wood or recycled Venetian blinds screwed together, or even clothesline cord stretched between eyehooks. The grid sections are all 12" x 12" - one square foot each.


The grid guides you into planting the right quantity for an easy-to-care-for garden that gives everybody a chance to garden. A square-foot garden is a great choice for a school garden so that every student who wants to garden can be responsible for his or her square.


Because children's arms aren't too long, you should create raised beds that are no wider than four feet, with access from both sides. If you use 2" x 12' lumber, then you will have 48 square feet per bed.


Keep about three feet between beds for the "aisles." The students will stand or kneel in the aisles while working on their plants. You can put down 3 or 4 layers of newspaper, wet it, and put down clean straw for the aisle walkways, or use bark mulch.


The nice thing about this garden plan is that the gardeners never tromp on the garden itself. That way, the soil doesn't become compacted, or pushed down. The fluffier the soil stays, the easier it is for the roots of the plants to grow.


You can group the plants in different beds or spread them out by grade level. Each child's name with the plant name could be written with a Sharpie pen on a large wooden craft stick.


Follow directions on the seed packet for how many inches apart the mature plant will eventually need, if you're sowing seeds right onto the soil. That way, you won't overcrowd your square foot. You may plant only one cabbage in a square foot, for example, but you might plant four rows of four baby carrot seeds to wind up with 16 small plants in another square foot.


That means each student may plant just one seed or seedling for a plant that ends up being larger . . . or four (two rows of two) for medium-size plants, nine (three rows of three) for smaller plants, or 16 (four rows of four) for the smallest plants.


Some popular garden plants, such as bush tomatoes, take up so much space that they would need 9 square feet. If you wish, you could put in a pole support and grow a vining tomato instead, which needs only two or three square feet.


If a student chooses to grow strawberries, put just four plants in a square foot, and use scissors to cut off all runners once a week, or else you will have tons of foliage and hardly any fruit.


By Susan Darst Williams • • Planning 18 © 2010




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