I was delighted to receive an email from a friend requesting more information about our raised garden beds! Though my husband grew up on a farm, it was huge with at times over 1000 head of cattle and 4000-5000 acres of grain. If you grew up in Jersey, it's hard to imagine that magnitude. They always had a vegetable plot with potatoes, cabbage, and onions but he was out with the animals or out with his gun hunting gophers (but most likely, out with a book!!). So the little plots we've had over the years have been mostly trial and error.
After reading All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, I realized we were trying to garden for one family like farmers do to feed hundreds and there was so much wasted in the process--seed, soil, water, time and money.
So I hope this answers some of your questions, Melissa!
RJ and a few of his college students put our boxes together! They were inexpensively and quickly made. We didn't want to invest too much money because we don't have that much and weren't sure this was how we'd always want to use the space.
The boxes are wonderful for those who don't have a huge yard but even if we ever have a larger yard the boxes still make sense. Here's why:
1. Being only 4x4, you can easily sow and tend from any spot rather than walking up and down long rows. You never walk on the soil! This is especially nice with little children. The raised beds keep kids out of the garden but they can also reach all spots if you do want them to help. G. is in charge of watering! We give her a big bucket of water and a little cup (recommended in the book) and she diligently waters every square!
2. There is little wasted space, thus you don't need all that wasted water, seed, soil, and fertilizer with long rows. You save money on all those things too.
3. Since it is so compacted with no rows, there is very little weeding! Something I hate to do, I can get the motivation to plant and water, but weed--ugh!
4. We could put time and money into making our own soil mix b/c it wasn't such a huge plot. It took us years at our old house to improve the soil and we started right on the very first day, so we hope that this will help us keep our garden organic!
5. My mind works well in the grid. It was fun to plan what would go in each square and when it is harvested what vegetable will go next.
6. I hope they will look pretty:-)With a mix of flowers, lettuces, pepper plants all together blooming and growing at different rates, especially since a normal garden with rows would take up half the yard.
7. We're also using them to create a sense of enclosure for a sitting area/fire pit. Though they are still pretty bare now so we'll have to wait a few more weeks to show you what we're going for!
8. Our neighbors have had problems with rabbits and especially squirrels who can jump and climb over fences and destroy all their harvest. With small beds, we could easily create cages which we hope will keep out even the smartest pests! And the cages double as weather protection. One frosty night, I covered them with sheets to keep them nice and warm. For hail, you can cover them with a tarp. But then when they aren't needed, the cages are light weight and easy to store.
9. No digging or using herbicide to kill existing grass/weeds! With beds raised above ground, we just laid down a weed cloth and filled the dirt in on top. The book now recommends that the beds only be 6 inches deep, anything else will be wasted.
10. Well, I can't think of a 10th reason! But I'll post more on how to create the beds and how to grow so much in such little space.
If you want more info, Mel has his own site. And here's a YouTube clip: