Square foot gardening

Many of my readers are likely to be familiar with square foot gardening. But for those of you new to the idea, here are the nuts and bolts of this great space saving way to garden.

Mel Bartholomew is probably the most recognized proponent of this garden system. I can’t say for sure whether he invented it or not but he’s written about it extensively. You can find his book(s) in just about any library and I recommend them.

The basic idea is to plant a large amount of stuff in a relatively small space. Each garden bed is sectioned off into, you guessed it, square feet. Each square is devoted to a plant or group of plants. Ideally, the plants in one bed will complement one another, either by positioning them so they aren’t shaded by their taller neighbors or by the time it takes the plants to grow.

Raised beds are ideal for this method. We made ours from 2″ x 12″ cedar planks. If you’re growing vegetables, it is best to avoid treated lumber, but you do need something that is rot resistant. The simplest way is to just make a square, four feet on each side. Nail or screw the boards together, put the bed where you want it, and fill the box with soil. Some sources recommend putting down a weed barrier first.

Using raised beds like this is great for areas with poor soil. You can easily add soil amendments like compost to the dirt in the boxes, working it in so it is thoroughly mixed.

Another advantage is you can leave space around all four sides of your beds, making it easy to weed as well as harvest when the time comes. You won’t have to trample the soil to be able to reach the plants.

Also, for those like me who live in northern climes, you might find it necessary to cover the seedlings at night until the weather truly warms up. It is very easy to drape your covering over boxes like this and just weigh down the edges with rocks or bricks to keep it from blowing away.

For plants that climb, such as beans, adding a trellis to one side of the box is very easy.

In his books and found elsewhere online are lists of veggies that do very well with this system, as well as planting guides to show you how many seeds of each variety should be planted in a given square.

Unless you live someplace where you have zero access to the outdoors, there is no reason you can’t adapt this system to your location.

Water procurement in urban settings

Just as in a home in the country, there are a few “hidden” sources of water in an apartment. First, the moment you discover the potential for loss of water pressure, fill your bathtub. Use only the cold water tap so you don’t drain your water heater. You could go a step further and get a special large bladder you can fill and leave in the bathtub. The advantage of this is it will prevent dust and bugs from landing in what would otherwise be open water. In a pinch, use the shower curtain liner to drape over the filled tub. Either way, you can store about 60 or so gallons this way.

Go downstairs and see if you have access to the water heater. If so, buy a cheap garden hose to attach to the drain AFTER water becomes an issue. Depending on the size of your water heater, this will give you maybe 30 or so gallons.

Obviously, it rains in the city just like it does out in the sticks. The trick is to figure out how to capture it. A little ingenuity with some plastic gutters coupled with a rain barrel and you can be in business collecting rainwater on your porch/patio.

Many older buildings might still have large tanks of water on the roof. It may also be possible to drain water sitting in the sprinkler systems of buildings, but this is ONLY FOR EXTREME SITUATIONS.

No matter where you live, you should have several different methods to filter and purify water on hand at all times.

Weekly Assignment — Inventory Emergency Kits

Starting today, every Monday I will give you a weekly assignment. This homework is designed to keep you thinking about preparedness and working toward it. No one will be looking over your shoulder to make sure you complete each week’s assignment. But, by following along and completing the tasks, you’ll be all the better for it.

This week, I want you to do a complete inventory and inspection of every one of your emergency kits. Get your bug out bag out of your trunk and empty it. Inspect every item, checking for signs of wear or damage. Rotate your food and water. Resharpen any bladed tools. Check the expiration dates on first aid kit contents and food items.

Go through your home emergency kit and replace all batteries. Make sure everything that is supposed to be in there still is present and accounted for. We all have a tendency to grab things out of the kits and not put them back.

If for some reason you don’t have a bug out bag or home emergency kit yet, now is a great time to get them assembled. I’ve done several blog posts on how to do this. Just do a search for bug out bag to find those posts.

Please comment below with how you did with this assignment.