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Kitchen garden: Square foot gardening

September 20, 2011

First an apology for my absence in the last month. A PhD is made up of periods where you crawl through a research desert devoid of ideas, and eureka moments where you end up working from 6am until 3am the next day. I’ve been involved in some software testing and algorithm work with several space agencies (*geeky squeal moment*) as well as attending my first conference with my PhD results in the UK. It seems I’ll shortly be off to Lisbon, Portugal for another conference too…But for now I’m back and since I can barely focus thanks to over doing the diazepam on the flight home, I can finally justify getting around to my new post series…

Kitchen gardening: Getting serious…

Up until now our gardening exploits have really only extended as far as herbs, chillies and a failed attempt to grow vine tomatoes (they were eaten by the squirrels/Cape white eyes/Ben – not sure!). But with the new growing season about to begin and our interest in local, sustainable food solutions growing – we’ve decided to undertake a small food garden project.

Bens dad Martyn shares our interests in food sustainability and kindly provided us with a DVD about “square foot” gardening. It’s a really interesting concept – challenging some preconceptions about growing in rows and addressing some of the issues faced by those seeking small scale food solutions amongst our modern, often city bound lifestyles. The idea is to construct a grid consisting of 4,9,16 etc individual, square foot sized squares. Within each square you plant a different plant, mixing between root and green vegetables, flowers and herbs. With a bit of careful composting in between, you can then rotate your crops, changing the type of plant each time, to keep your patch productive in a more sustainable way.

Sounds simple enough, although the reality for us has been somewhat more complex! Unable to invest in anything other than the cheapest materials, we’ve constructed a 4×4 square grid using bamboo canes. We then went to the garden centre and tried to work our way around the seasonality of planting crops in SA – different to the UK seasons which I only had a little knowledge of anyway.

Making the grid...

The kitchen tiles provide a useful template for planning...

It’s winter/spring here at the moment so we have run the risk of our little seedlings being caught out by the last throes of the awful winter weather (mainly the torrential rain). Generally we’ve been lucky, a fair amount of our seeds have germinated and all the ready grown seedlings have survived thus far. In fact the major problem we’ve had, was the squirrels who delight in burying peanuts amongst our new seedlings and eating our marigolds! (I may have to have words with the neighbour who feeds them!)

Giving the garden a head start...

For round one of the garden we’ve planted:
Brown onions
Spring onions
A selection of lettuce
Nastursiums – for salad!
Pak Choi
Marigolds x 2 – apparently they help keep pests away (doesn’t include squirrels)

They all have different growth rates, so we should be harvesting at different times and ensuring an almost continual use/replacement scheme for our tiny patch as we progress through the seasons.

I’ll be updating with results of our project as we begin harvesting! Ever the scientists, we’re hoping to do a bit of a nutritional analysis of just how much we can grow in what time and with what expenditure so there’ll also be some posts coming up on that.

In the mean time if anyone has any ideas for squirrel deterrents/recipes for the little buggers, we’d be most grateful!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer permalink
    September 20, 2011 10:10 am

    Congratulations on all the superb accomplishments!

  2. Hepe permalink
    September 20, 2011 11:45 am

    Keep at it,

    We picked our radish while in Philippines; normally ten weeks to pathetic maturity in the UK, ours were ready in six weeks and with atiitude. They all fruited at once and so we had to pickle some, very successful. In Philippines they have a green leaf vegetable called ‘pichae’; seeds one day, germinate two days later and full (big) plants in about four weeks. These do well in SFG and I am sure in Cape Town they will do the same.

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