Posted by: Anne | 16/01/2010

I’ve gone wrong right from the start.

With all the snow and ice and being unable to actually ‘do’ any gardening, I’ve been reading my ‘Square Foot Gardening’ book.

I have to admit I think he’s my kind of man, I am loving reading it, because he has put into practise all the things that I have thought over the years when trying to grow flower seeds and veg in the past, but then got disheartened and gave up.

In the book he explains why 80% of people who get started in gardening give up, usually because they are confused about what is the right thing to do, or because they hate the idea of pricking out seedlings that are perfectly good and wasting them, or being overwhelmed with 10 tons of courgettes!  I have been there – haven’t eaten courgette for about 5 years!  Still can’t face them after wondering what else I could cook them in to disguise them from the kids – who had long since got sick and tired of them.

He talks about the fact that most gardening books tell you to open the packet, sprinkle the entire contents in a row, then a few weeks later decide which of your new babies will survive and which are YOU going to decide to remove to the compost heap!  Not an easy decision for the sensitive gardener who is so pleased that something has grown, now has to decide which lives or dies… This did seem like a stupid idea to me, but it would appear from his book, lots of us have thought this is daft, but never actually questioned who thought it up.  We have just done as we are told!  Is this a crafty plan by the seed manufacturers to sell us more seed every year?  After all isn’t Mother Nature a clever lady, who made seeds quite sturdy and able to last for years?

Mel Bartholomew is the only man it would appear, who was brave enough to ask ‘why?’ and then did something about it.

He plants the amount of shall we say lettuce he wants for a week i.e.  four in a square foot at a distance that is correct for the seeds to grow to maturity.  This removes the need to prick out seedlings and you only use 4 seeds! How easy is that?  Then a week or fortnight later, you do the same again in another square so those lettuce are slightly later than the previous ones.  Are you with me so far?  What if one doesn’t grow?  I can hear you ask, well you simply put another seed in its place.  It will come up just a bit later than the others.  But you haven’t wasted lots of seeds.

Now to this end, he stresses that you should only grow what you really want to eat.  And don’t be tempted to go back to your old ways of planting a whole tray or packet.

This is where I have already gone wrong.  Matthew had some cabbage and kale plants left over from the shows last year.  He asked me if I wanted them for the raised beds.  I have planted lots of them along with lots of red onions because there was a tray full and a packet full.  I know I will use the onions – no problem.  But one of the beds is full already and I have so many other things I want to grow.

This is hard to say for me, but I may have to jettison some of the cabbages and let the chickens eat them if I need extra space in the spring.  Tough talk for such a softie like me!

The other thing we all hate to do is weeding.  Mel talks about people putting of the dreaded task until the weeds have completely taken over – another true statement as far as I was concerned.  I was starting to wonder if he had secretly visited these 80% who gave up and noticed a common thread amongst us all!

But the thought of weeding only 1 square foot didn’t seem so bad and would probably only take a few minutes to complete – I was nodding at this point as I read on.  He encouraged me by saying that in half an hour, you could probably weed six square feet then I thought, go in for a cup of tea and of course you have done lots of exercise there so a piece of cake wouldn’t come a miss too!  I told you he was my kind of man!

Now gardening is starting to sound quite easy and I’m feeling like I would be one of the 20% who didn’t give up, but carried on with enthusiasm.

I love my Access Frame and raised beds, because they are exactly the right size for the Square Foot book.  The two ideas all be it thought up by different people in different countries go together beautifully.

So take heart and buy some seeds, but be brave and don’t use the whole packet.  Why not order seeds with a friend and ease the cost by sharing the packets?

The snow has all gone from my garden today.  I dashed out to see how the broad beans were, a few black leaves but they looked ok otherwise.  Shall I take off the black leaves?  What do you think?

The garlic and onions look ok, but time will tell.  They have had a tough start.  Tomorrow promises to be a nice day so I hope to get out there and tidy things up.

Looking forward to hearing your comments.


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