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This year I want to see just how much can be raised and harvested from a small space.  We’re all being encouraged to have a go at growing at least some of our own food, but allotments are in short supply and not everyone has space for a big vegetable plot in their garden.  Back when I had no garden I used to grow as much as I could in pots.  This worked well, I could grow enough to feel it was worth while and, if I moved house I could take my pots with me.  Crops of tomatoes, salads and herbs did well, others were not so successful (runner beans in a small pot was never a good idea).  Pots are great for edible gardening, and I still use them a lot, but if you do have a small space for herbs and vegetables, how much can be grown and how much work is involved?

After a good deal of intensive research, (or flicking through gardening magazines as the rest of the family likes to call it), I’ve decided to give square foot gardening a go.  It’s an idea developed by Mel Bartholomew over 30 years ago, and sounds ideal for anyone with limited space and time to devote to their vegetable patch.

First step is to build a raised bed – I have a space marked out in the garden for a four foot by four foot (about 1.2m x 1.2m) bed.  Once the edging of the bed is in place I’ll fill it with rich, fertile soil and divide it up into equal sized squares – 16 in total.  Good soil is really important, the plants will grow better and produce more if they have all the nutrients and water they need to keep healthy.  Then it’s just a case of choosing 16 different crops to grow – one in each square.  Using block planting instead of the more traditional rows of vegetables means I should be able to squeeze more into a small space, and because it’s a small area there should be less weeding and no digging.

As well as having a raised bed at home, I’m going to be using the square foot gardening method in the garden of the Dutch House, a local cafe and art centre(link).  In my own garden I’ll be growing lots of salads, some carrots, peas and beans, because that’s what we like to eat.  At the Dutch House I’m going to focus on growing vegetables, salads and herbs that are tasty, look good, and can be used in the cafe.

Progress reports will be posted through the year…

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