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I can’t think of a better spring/summer science project than planting a garden. It’s an experiment that can last for months.
This year, we decided to try our hand at a square foot garden. A square foot garden is, generally, a raised bed garden divided into 1 square foot sections. Seeds and plants of different kinds are planted in each square instead of in rows like a traditional garden. This allows gardeners to maximize their space.
Since we had never created a square foot garden, we had to do our research. There are many great sites that give advice on everything from soil mixes to plant selection. I’ve pinned some of the most helpful to The Homeschool Scientist’s gardening Pinterest board.
After researching, we were ready to jump right in.
Square Foot Garden Supplies
We wanted our garden to be simple as possible. It needed to be something the kids could do on their own or at least be a big help with. We, also, wanted it to be affordable. This is the most cost effective square foot garden supply list we could come up with.
2 x 10 lumber
twine or string
seeds and plants
The amount of supplies depends on the size of the garden. To determine the size our garden would be, we found the perfect location in our yard for the garden and measured the available space. (Tip—Don’t make your garden too big, because you have to be able to reach the middle.) Our space was 6 feet by 3 feet.
My husband is a home builder, so he found some 2 x 10’s leftover from a project and brought them home. We had some wood screws at home that he used to put the garden frame together.
After the frame was assembled, the kids took over. They spread the landscape fabric over the bottom of the frame, cut it to fit and the stapled it into place. The kids, then, flipped the frame over and it was ready to be filled with soil.
Contrary to what I originally believed, you can’t just throw some dirt into the square foot garden frame and call it good. There are things to think about like drainage, water retention, available nutrients, and weed control. The prevailing wisdom in square foot gardening seems to go with a special mix of ingredients to make the perfect raised bed gardening soil.
1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite
While I’m not one to question when something evidently worked so well for others, I had a slight problem. Vermiculite is expensive. After reading information from some others who said that mixing with vermiculite did help with water retention, however leaving it out was an option. I just might have to water more often. I’m good with that.
That being said, we went with a 1/2 compost, 1/2 peat moss mix.
Choosing Seeds and Plants
We have a local, family owned seed store that is over 100 years old. They have seeds and supplies for farmers and gardeners alike. The owners and workers know their stuff. My daughter told them about our garden project and they recommended some compact vegetable varieties. We bought our seeds there. Find a similar store near you and seek advice. It’s worth it.
For our garden, we ended up buying radish, lettuce, green beans, sugar snap peas and cucumber seeds. We, also, bought onion sets, tomato and pepper plants. We planted the snap peas along one edge so they could vine up the chicken wire we wrapped around the garden once the plants started to grow to keep the rabbits and deer out. The cucumbers went next to the onions so that when the onions got harvested, the cucumbers could have some extra room to grow.
Related post: Starting Seeds Indoors
Caring For The Garden
We are still early in the growing season. So far, we’ve picked some green onions and a little lettuce. The spring rains have been more than enough to keep the garden watered and the soil mix has been draining nicely. If we go with out rain for a day or two, we check the soil and water if needed. We have had a few weeds crop up, but they are easily pulled.
As vegetables are harvested, more seeds can be planted if the growing season is long enough or you can simply use the extra room for the other plants.
Learning From The Garden
There are so many lessons to be learned from gardening. Kids can:
- research soil quality
- research plant choices
- learn about and try different vegetables and herbs
- learn how weather affects gardens
- learn about pest control
- learn how to be responsible for taking care of a garden.
Ready to try a garden for yourself? What a great experiment! Start small. You can do it.
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