Start of a new square foot garden

I moved in to my new office (or should is say “workspace”) that came with about 100 m2 of land last week. The soil was sandy; I understand that many years ago this space was occupied by a river.

This is what it looked like when I just moved in:

Bare land

Bare land

Persimmon trees surround the space where I intend planting my vegetables. However, there’s plenty of sunlight even in winter (at least 6 hours) and the space seems ideal to grow lots of vegetables (space is pretty hard to come by in Japan!).

Dug up to a foot

Four beds dug up to a foot

I marked out four beds each 2.4 m x 1.2 m (to accommodate 8 x 4 squares) with adequate space to walk around between the beds and dug up the soil to about 1 foot. Removed weeds and stones, and generally got clean, workable soil. I also added about 25 liters of compost and mixed it thoroughly, and some magnesium lime to make it alkaline.

Next, I ordered for timber from the local forestry association; the official was most cooperative and cut the lumber according to my specs. Here is the photo showing one assembled frame and other frames in place, surrounding the soil that I had dug up and prepared.

Frames in place

Frames in place – one assembled and others in the process of being assembled

I collected a bag of dried leaves and dumped it into one of the beds as the lowermost layer. I also collected some ash and spread it all over the surface. Ash restricts rotting of the leaves, and I figured it would help. I then dug up the soil around the frame and filled it in the frame to build up the depth to about 200 mm (8 inches approx.) That would give the roots a clear space of 200 mm + 300 mm = 500 mm to spread.

Here’s one of the finished beds with fertilizer (white granules):

Ready for planting

Bed ready for planting

My experience with square foot beds in the last two years showed that the grid that gives the squares is useful only when planting seeds of saplings. So I prefer to mark out the squares on the surface before sowing seeds rather than install grids. I prefer this method for the ease of maintenance. Here is the bed with the squares marked on it:

Squares drawn on surface

Squares drawn on the surface

I checked the pH value of the soil at about four locations and it consistently gave a reading of about 6.5. This is just about right, and I decided that no more soil adjustments are needed.

I plan to have flowers at the four corners (squares). With this in mind, I marked out the four depressions in each square of the first longitudinal row of squares and sowed carrot seeds.


Depressions made using a circular piece of wood

In each depression, I sowed three seeds (carrots 65% success rate). Finally, I plant to have one plant per depression, which will make it four carrot plants per square.

Similarly, I planted spinach in another longitudinal row (of eight squares) . In the other two rows, I planted potatoes after cutting the potato seeds in half, drying them in the sun for few hours and for extra protection, applying ash on the exposed surface to prevent rotting. In the last row, I  planted Chinese cabbage. So my first bed contains:

Seeds sowed

Seeds sowed

First long. row: Carrot   Second long. row: Potato   Third long. row: Spinach   Fourth long. row: Chinese cabbage or “hakusai”

I will probably grow companion flowers at the four corners.

Until the next post, have a great day!

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16 Responses to “Start of a new square foot garden”

  1. March 14, 2010 at 3:53 am

    Hi, Gururaj, What a great new office site. I can totally picture you taking gardening/weeding breaks. 🙂 That is quite a bit of open space for Japan. How lucky. You’ve really transformed it quickly, the neighbors are going to be jealous of your garden. I’m so excited that you have so much more space!

  2. March 14, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks, Lzyjo. ‘Tis exciting for me because the new site has brought a lot of new friends with inquisitive looks; I haven’t seen anybody in this area with square-foot gardens. So local residents drop by to see what I’m up to 🙂 I should have the second bed ready for sowing other seeds this week. Have a nice day!

  3. March 15, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Wow Gururaj,
    This is so exciting! And how lucky you are! You can grow plants even during work now! And with so much space and sunlight too! 😀

    • March 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Sandy, thanks for stopping by. Yes, I feel great. As I work, I can look over the plants that I’m growing. All the best with your bonsai adventures!

  4. 5 deborahelliott
    March 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    You have done a lot of work in a short time. Your garden will be fabulous!

    • March 18, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks, Deborah. I certainly hope it works out well since this is new soil and new environment for me. Do stop by again soon – I hope to have the other three beds operational.

  5. March 26, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    The japanese garden titel caught my attention. It is nice to see the photos and not the usual city crowded photos. The soil seems good and I am under the impression that you know what you are doing. Do you have any “bugs proplems” – eating the plants? Just thinking with less wild space there could be less bugs.

    • April 2, 2010 at 4:10 am

      I have bug problems in summer especially in case of fava beans. So I grown them in winter and harvest around May (in spring). Since moving the new place, with lots of open spaces, sometimes I experience strong gusts of wind and have to securely tie up my plants. I am told that there may be rabbits and raccoons around that might make merry with my veggies!

  6. April 4, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Wonderful that you can have a garden at work! Your beds look great and I hope your harvest is bountiful.

  7. April 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Looks great! Your hard work is paying off! Looking forward to seeing this gardens after things start to grow!

  8. 13 Sueb
    April 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I like your idea of planting in a square foot garden It is very much like mine. I am looking forward to seeing your garden in a few weeks when things have grown!

  9. April 9, 2010 at 5:40 am

    How are your beds progressing? Do you have veggies coming up yet? Do any of your co-workers help in the garden? You may want to check out my post on BBG’s Japanese Garden, posted April 8. I would be interested in your opinion!

    • April 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      Hi Deborah, thanks for stopping by. Yes, quite a few vegetables are already up! I hope to post updates this weekend. I’m now working on stringing up a net all around the beds to protect the plants against strong winds. I work all alone during my spare time – I carried the logs in myself, assembled them and tacked them together with joints. It is entirely a one-man effort!

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