Friday, 24 October 2008

Finally There, Finally Square!

It has taken me three months from dream to reality, but today I finished it. I now have two 4x4, two 2x4 and one 1x1 raised square foot beds, complete with a fantastic soil mix and grids. I was even able to transplant my plants from the old existing bits of vegetable garden I had. Even now, nearing the end of what has been an unusually warm October here in mid-Germany, the plants are still coping despite a couple of ground frosts.
It might seem a silly idea to start gardening now, but there's an advantage in having my SFG beds ready by spring. I won't have to build raised beds in the freezing cold on the terrace all winter and everything will be ready come early March. Now only that, but I want to sow spinach, chard and lamb's lettuce in the hope of getting some early spring veg.
I've left 3-4 foot aisles between the beds with the 1x1 deep SFG in the middle for leeks, carrots and lovage. At some point soon I'll get some weed cloth, lay it down on the aisles and spread bark chippings over that. It'll look beautiful.

I'm a complete beginner to this. I was inspired by someone from the UK who visited us last May and looked at the garden, saying that he had discovered something called Square Foot Gardening and explained the rough idea behind it. He had seen my pathetic patch of broccoli and lettuces, struggling with attacks from slugs in our abysmally poor sandy soil. What he couldn't have known is that the inefficiency of what I had been doing up until now had begun to dawn on me. I had been thinking that I needed organisation in the garden, I needed boundaries, I needed a rhythm and automatic rotation. I always ended up with more vegetables than I needed, all at the same time and then lost all desire to plant more. The SFG method was an answer to unspoken prayer. Not only that, but I had been preparing for both children going to boarding school in the UK and was praying for something to keep my mind occupied once they were gone. SFG was the perfect answer.
Another good reason for doing it was that I wanted to become as self-sufficient in vegetables as possible, what with rising food prices. Over the last year I've been buying locally produced veg from our local farms, but it's been going up in price because of the cost of electricity for heating and water. And I feel bad about buying veg which has been flown into the country from Guatemala or East Africa where farmers aren't paid a fair price for their produce or work and where global food chains rake in the profits.
As far as I can see, it's going to become increasingly important to grow one's own food again. I can guarantee that what I grow is organic and free from genetic manipulation. Agreed, genetic veg isn't allowed in the EU, (YET) but who's to know that some horticultural saboteur isn't going to contaminate the system here? The Eurocrats are gunning for it. God help us all. The future is full of superweeds. If genetic engineering in cloning animals has been shown to be a disaster, only providing mutated copies of animals, which soon die a painful death, why should we expect good results from genetically mutated (sorry, modified) plants?
It's the huge multinational corporations and globalist companies like Monsanto which are behind this. They have been shown to be corrupt many times. And it's rich and powerful people who own such companies and couldn't care less about ordinary people. They call us 'useless eaters'. It's all part of the Club of Rome de-population programme.

So I bought the book(s) and devoured them. That was in July. Since then I've been planning, buying wood, peat, compost and vermiculite (see the link for a good German supplier - (you need 3-8mm) - because the local DIY stores don't stock it - not even the pet shops - vermiculite is used as cat litter). I had the wood cut at the DIY shop, treated it with organic linseed oil and screwed it all together. I made the grids (a silly mistake was measuring the first one on the SFG frame instead of calculating the measurements mathematically. When it came to drilling the holes for the nuts and bolts at the cross-over points, I found that once opened out, the grid was uneven. I had to start all over again, which was a nuisance.) Second time around, with new holes drilled, the grid opened and folded evenly and accurately.

I went to one of our local riding stables and carted home 6 bags of horse manure which I mixed into the soil recipe. This is remarkably friable, light and fluffy to touch and even smells pleasant, in spite of the horse manure. Our son, who's got half term at the moment, helped me mix it all yesterday afternoon and wheelbarrow it to the SFG beds. We were racing against the encroaching darkness to finish on time.
I placed square flagstones as a foundation for the wooden frames, so as to make them last longer. Then I put down chicken wire to fend off the moles and voles (which are playing havoc with the lawn at the moment) then a thick layer of autumn leaves and then another thick layer of cardboard. I HOPE the weeds and roots won't get through this. I've read that it should be adequate.

So this morning, with the grids screwed in place, I transplanted sage, chives, lovage, leeks, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and a pumpkin plant, which had somehow seeded itself over the summer. It really looks lovely. Now that it's all done, I feel a slight anti-climax and wish it were already spring!

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