Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Goes in a Gardening Box?

Soil of course!!!

Before I can plant anything my raised boxes need to be filled with some good dirt.  A tip I learned from the All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!book is mixing dirt on a tarp.  What a great way to contain the mess and then drag it to wherever I need it.

Square Foot Gardening also suggested a recipe for mixing dirt but what I discovered is that every manufacturer uses different values to measure their product.  Some are in litres, some square feet, some kilograms.   I came up with a formula of approximately 140 litres of peat moss, 18 litres of vermiculite, and 16 kg each of country blend compost, marine compost and sheep compost.  Obviously measuring is not my strong suit because there were times where the box was short of dirt and other times I had too much.  But the end result was a nice dark mixture that soaked up the water and feels quite light.

I should also note that I tried a couple of alternatives on the underside of the boxes.  Landscaping fabric was suggested as a way to keep the grass and weeds from growing up through the dirt but I have a distinct aversion to this stuff so under the first box I layered wet newspaper instead.

But then I got thinking about how newspaper breaks down and I started worrying that in a year or two the weeds underneath will break through and take over the box.  I also started reading another book called The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (10th Anniversary Edition)which talks about the root structure of vegetable plants and how much room they need.  It made me question whether 6 inches of soil is really enough.  So for my second box I decided to take out the grass.

Once the grass was removed I took a garden fork and simply stuck it in the soil and rocked it back and forth to loosen things up.

But then of course by the third box removing the grass just didn't feel like enough.  So I actually turned the dirt and picked out the rocks and then added a bag of compost.  Obviously my obsessive tendencies are beginning to take over.  It will be interesting though to see how these boxes with their different techniques turn out.  Maybe my first box will be full of grass or maybe it won't make any difference at all?  Time will tell.


  1. i can tell you that the broad beans are doing great in our square footer .. 9 plants in a square foot .. this could be very interesting .. and so beautifull, no doubt .. yup .. time will tell .. it's all just for fun, anyway, isn't it .. oh, and the great tasting veg ..

  2. Looking good! I tried the newspaper method when I made my perennial bed in the backyard. I wish I hadn't. The pieces just seem to work their way up. The labour is hard work, but digging it out is always the best way!

  3. @Jane - 9 beans in one square!! wow. I've just begun thinking about planting (it's so cold right now) and some of the SFG recommendations baffle me. 16 spinach plants in one square seems like too much but then they suggest 1 zinnia per square which seems like far too little. (can't all be veggies, I gotta have my colour too!). It sure will be interesting!

  4. Oh Laura, where were you when I was gleefully laying newspaper 3 weeks ago! I thought this was going to be the easiest gardening I had ever done. Glad I thought about it a little more and took the grass out of the rest of the boxes.

  5. Looks great. I am going to try the newspaper method myself.

  6. This is fantastic. We're all going to have to compare notes at the end of the season to see how the boxes worked and what the weed situation is like!

  7. The greatest threat of grass coming up in the box is not the buried sod but from the grass on the outside. The stuff growing outside will always try to reach under the boards and then reach for the surface.

    I have plans to build raised beds with fabric stapled to the inside of the boards and pulled out from under extending outward into the paths between the beds. The fabric from one box will overlap the next and then be covered either with mulch or pea stone.

    I prefer to remove the sod and use nothing as a weed barrier in the box itself.

  8. That's a really good point WiseAcre. I've been out this afternoon and the grass between the beds is growing up quickly. I had thought grass between the boxes would look nice but ripping it out and putting in gravel might be a better idea.