Urban Homestead Garden (squarefoot Gardening Abridged)





Introduction: Urban Homestead Garden (squarefoot Gardening Abridged)

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We're turning the concrete jungle backyard of our townhome into an experiment in sustainable urban homesteading. Here's how you can add some OCD (i.e. easy to maintain) gardening space using an adaption on Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening practices (build up, don't dig down and organize in sq. ft.).


Super easy, lots of fun.

  • NOTE!!!! Before anyone comments about pressure treated lumber...READ THE INSTRUCTABLE, we already advise against it in there and just because the wood LOOKS like treated lumber to you, doesn't mean it is. It's poplar. Poplar and a non-white balanced cheapo camera!!! Leave it alone or offer to buy me a better one. And YES, I totally abuse my kids. We've already dealt with THAT too in the comments...so if your comment isn't about the topic at hand or not a question, with all due respect....keep it to yourself. Thx.

Step 1: Planning and Materials

Bartholomew's plans call for 4'x4' boxes with space for walkways around the edges. This makes the perfect size to reach the garden from all sides. Not having the luxury for space, we cut this down to 2'x4' boxes since we wouldn't be able to access the back of the box. So adjust your materials accordingly if you go full size.

MATERIALS we needed for 2 2'x4' boxes:
- 3 pieces of 1"x6"x10' lumber*
- screws (we used 2" decking since we had some laying around)
- covering for the bottom (we used old window screen, but plastic, fabric, plywood would work too)
- industrial screws
- String
- compost, newspaper, potting soil of choice (See Bartholomew's site @ http://www.squarefootgardening.com for his super mixture. This should probably vary depending on what you will be growing though.)
- Plants and/or seeds

- Saw (we used a jigsaw since we are masochistic...I mean live in a townhouse and don't have the room for a table saw)
- Industrial Stapler
- Electric Screw Driver

  • bonus for reclaimed lumber, but sadly since the building slump hit our area pretty hard and we haven't had any hurricanes (knock on wood) recently, recycled/reclaimed lumber is hard to come by. Use poplar if you can afford it, some plants dislike pine and pressure treated could release chemicals into the soil (or so I heard).

Step 2: Playing With Wood

You'll need to cut your wood. We had lots of innuendo in this project, it started here with the getting of the...well, you get it. We needed two 2' cuts and two 4' cuts per box. Plus we were making 1'x1' extenders to grow potatoes in.

The theory is, start the potato plant on the same level as all the other plants and as the sprouts break the dirt level, keep adding more dirt in the extended. So instead of only having 6" of growing room, an additional extender increases the space by 6" and with two additional, we'll have 18" of dirt for the potatoes to grow through.

So in total we had two 2'x4' garden boxes and 4 1'x1' extenders, for a total of the following cuts of wood:

Four 2' pieces
Four 4' pieces
16 1' pieces

Step 3: Screw It

Put your pieces together with..screws! 3 in the sides of the main boxes and two each in the sides of the extenders. Bartholomew suggests alternating which ends meet at each side so you have a consistent 2'x4' interior

Step 4: Staple Your Screening

Staple your screening (or plastic, materials or whatever you are using (use small nails if using plywood)) along the bottom edges of your main boxes to hold in the dirt.

Step 5: Fill 'er Up

With newspaper, compost, leaves, and other organics. See the great composting instructables for more.

Step 6: Gettin' Dirty

Dump in your potting soil (or special mix of your liking) and spread around.

Step 7: Measuring

Mark off 1' increments along the edges of the garden. You'll be using these to lay out your squarefeet pods.

Step 8: Create a Grid

Staple your string or nail your recycled wood (Bartholomew suggests recycled venetian blinds) along the marks you just made to make a grid.

Step 9: Planting and Maintaining

Now that you have 1' sections, you can get to planting.

Plant according to your plant's directions, for example if you are suppose to plant every 12" apart, place1 plant in each area, 6" apart = 4 plants/area, etc.

Comparing 4 plants in a 1' square area compared to 36" needed for row gardens plus the space for walking between the rows...this method seems to be a great idea for gardening, plus if you ad a plywood bottom and legs, you can bring the planters up to wheelchair height.



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    just a little tip for anyone having problems with slugs and snails munching their crop - Put broken egg shells around the edges of your box with something like a hot glue gun. the mix of pointy edges and a porous material means that the slimy buggers dont like it one bit! as for caterpillers im out of ideas unless you cover the area in a fine mesh to keep out all flying critters!

    Ha... one time I had a massive amount of caterpillarsjust as I started my crops... not really sure why, but they died off.

    and you still ate the crop? u werent worried that maybe thats what was killing the caterpillars

    Plus it was far away... they were in a tree stuck in a spider web like thing.

    Sorry to say that even the branch which the tent caterpillars infest with their webbing MUST BE REMOVED, CUT OUT AND BURNED. They are a plague and must be dealt with mercilessly. We've only had to remove small parts of trees because we always look up for those things. Sometimes we see bird nests and that makes us happy!

    It was in my tree... from what I saw they were kind of... small... almost like they were cut in half... kind of looked like they were in a spider web or something... No I wasn't worried... if it was toxic then all of the other bugs would have died.

    If the caterpillars were skinny, about 1" long, dark grey or black & slightly striped, they were probably tent caterpillars. They eat tree leaves - don't know if they eat garden plants - and they should be eliminated. What we do around here is wait till dark, when they all return to their webby nest. Then we cut the branch off and burn the nest in the bonfire. If you leave them alone, the whole neighborhood could get webbed up in the coming years, and the trees will be eaten bare and occasionally die from it!

    Crush macadamia nut shells or hazelnut shells (also called filberts) last a long time and deter the tenderfooted slugs and other varmits. Some orchard managers are surrounding the bases of their trees with these nut shells once a year and enhancing the soil via slow composting. A two-for-one effect.

    I wouldn't use treated lumber because it might be treated with poisons like arsenic and mercury to keep termites at bay. You can use terracotta troughs instead.

    Lumber yards label the treated wood with the names of the chemicals. Mercury is not allowed by default in many countries. Not a big concern for a thinking person. Have a nice day!