Friday, March 20, 2015

Square Foot Garden Plans for 4 x 4 Beds


Today is the first day of Spring, so it's fitting that I post about my garden plans! I made these plans for myself, but I thought that I'd share them with you.


Just to be clear, I am not a master gardener. I am average in my experience, but above average in my passion for growing things. What I lack in experience I make up for in random knowledge of gardening that I've picked up over the years.

I am so thankful to be living in that Age of Information. Several years ago when I was planting my first garden I checked out dozens of books from the library and did countless hours of research on the internet. Anything you want to know, it's out there! You just simply have to ask Google!


Our backyard is on the south side of our house, which is perfect for full-sun loving plants. I have set up our raised bed garden boxes to orient along with the east-west axis that the  sun travels in. I purchased our raised bed garden boxes as kits from Home Depot. While it may be slightly more money than making the boxes on your own, there are several reasons why I chose to go with a kit. #1 I could do it myself. I'm a small person and working alone I needed to be able to handle the materials and build the boxes. #2 No tools required! While we own all of the tools needed to cut wood, I am not comfortable using them without help. #3 My step-dad was recently building some garden boxes for my mom and had an accident resulting in a hospital visit and loss of fingers. #4 These come with untreated cedar. Treated cedar will poison your food and I didn't want to hassle with finding untreated wood. I know these garden box kits are still available because I recently had to purchase another one to replace broken boards from a passionate soccer player we have in the house.

Knowing which direction the sun moves across your garden is very important.


Knowing where North and South are will help you decide what to plant in each garden box. This is very important because you will want to make sure that the taller plants are on the North and West sides of the garden, otherwise they will shade your other plants and block the sun that they need. In my case, I need to make sure the taller plants are on the left and back sides.

Below are the details of the 4 garden boxes that I am planting in this area. You may wonder why I chose the plants I did or did not use. First and above all else, you'll learn quickly to only plant what you will eat. Also, there are things that I love, like carrots, but after 4 years of trying with no luck to grow them I am giving up on them. Maybe a neighbor will trade some with me.

The 3 Sisters method using cantaloupe instead of squash.
C = Corn, B = Beans


In the back left corner I am using the Three Sisters method. This is a Native American technique of growing food. Traditionally the 3 Sisters are corn, beans, and squash. The corn gives the beans something to climb on. The beans feed the soil nitrogen that the corn and squash use. The squash with its large leaves shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist. I love squash, but my family hates it. So I am not opting for summer, zucchini, or pumpkin. Instead I am using another relative of the squash family, the cantaloupe! Since I am working in a 4 x 4 garden box, I am using a dwarf variety. But honestly, any variety would work. In the Three Sisters method, plant the corn first. When it is 6 inches high, plant the beans and cantaloupe (squash). I am also including Marigold and Nasturtium because they are companions for them, deterring pests. I'm using a dwarf variety of Nasturtium to save space. Did you know you can eat the flowers and leaves of the Nasturtium? Hmmm...



In the back right corner I am using the 3 Sisters method again, but with a dwarf variety of watermelon. We want a full size variety also, so I'm going to find another spot in the yard for that. I have enough wood for one more square foot garden box, I just need to decide where to put it.

Tomato Garden Plan for a 4 x 4 Raised bed


In the front left corner, or southwest corner, I am planting a square foot garden box for tomatoes. Mainly what I want to note on this one is the placement of the taller plant varieties so that they don't shade the shorter varieties. Also, I'll be planting companions basil and marigold to deter pests. I've had issues with Hornworm in the past. I know they aren't completely avoidable, but I detest them, and I'm hoping the basil and marigold will cut down on them. When I prepared my boxes (another post maybe), I did search for any larvae. The box I'm using for the tomatoes is a new addition this year. I'm hoping that will also help. Did I mention that I hate loathe Hornworms? I'm going to plant several different varieties with different color. We eat a lot of homemade salsa in the summer, and it's beautiful to see the different colors in it.

Cucumber & Pepper Garden Plan for a 4 x 4 Raised Bed

My final garden box in this area is for cucumbers and peppers. I always grow my cucumbers vertically. The easiest way to do this is to put a round tomato cage over the mound. As the cucumber vines grow, train them onto the cage. You have to do this; they won't do it on their own. My daughter and I love to find the "curly q's" (unofficial term) at the end of the vines and wrap them onto the cage. You can also use twist ties from bread to keep the vines on the cages. I do this for two reasons. #1 It saves space in a small square foot garden box. #2 It keeps the vines off of the ground and away from pests.

Notice that the lettuce is intentionally planted to get shade. This is another reason you need to consider sun movement. Also notice that two weeks after the first cucumbers are planted there is a second planting. This is will just extend the time we can harvest cucumbers. For this planting I will possibly NOT grow them vertically. They can shade the ground and keep in moisture for the peppers.

The other plants are companions and will keep pests away. (Hopefully!)

I hope this helps you! Maybe this will be your first year gardening...you can do this! I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. I'm not an expert, but I don't mind sharing what my experiences have been. Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below.



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