Square Foot Gardening

Now, you may think I’m having a laugh printing a picture of my untended square foot garden, but actually I want to show you just how idle you can be and still end up with some decent vegetables. I’ve previously made successful square foot gardens at school, before the government banned us from using the rooftop when we applied for permission to green the whole roof. But the one I’ve got outside my flat really is a pretty ragged affair. I had the four foot square base already, and was given the surrounding wood, which fitted nicely but was beginning to rot. I put in a mix of largely potting compost, because I didn’t have enough compost of my own, plus some river sand and some coconut coir, although not in the quantities that Mel Bartholomew would recommend: http://www.squarefootgardening.org/whatissfg

I would have preferred organic compost, but it’s not easy getting any such thing in Hong Kong, so I just had to make do. I put the garden on bricks in case of flooding, and planted four tomato seeds, a couple of cabbages, some curly endives, rocket, habanero pepper and basil and two cucumbers. Only one cabbage came up, but that’s looking very good at the back of the picture, and the cucumbers finished a good while ago, but produced plenty of good cucumbers despite the attention of melon flies. The rocket has bolted and I’ve not bothered removing it yet, the habanero peppers are finished, the endives seem to last forever, and I’m getting some excellent tomatoes. The basil has also been removed, and there are some pathetic strawberry plants that I need to transplant elsewhere. The wooden surround is still sort of in place but only out of habit, not because it is still fixed by nails – everything is too rotten for that – and the strings separating each square foot have long since rotted; in fact, the amount of attention I’ve given to the garden is shameful, to be honest. Setting the whole thing up takes time, but since then I’ve simply pulled out an occasional weed or defunct vegetable, put in a few new seeds, watered about twice a week with watered-down urine (keep a potty under the bed) and harvested the produce. I could and should have had much more produce, but I’ve been bone idle. Nevertheless, I’ve had a decent amount from it. Here are the tomatoes I’ve recently picked – some small cherries, large cherries and Romas:

The ones in the sieve I’m saving for seed.

If you’ve only got a chunk of concrete outside your home, or you’ve got a rooftop, then set up a square foot garden and enjoy eating a whole range of your own vegetables and herbs. Apart from what’s mentioned above, I’ve grown broccoli, carrots, sweet peppers, lettuce, oregano, thyme, radishes and chives in the same way. Gardening doesn’t get any easier. Three cheers for Mel Bartholomew.

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About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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