We have been very fortunate to have had great weather for the potager. The rainy days of early June boosted growth and reduced our need to water, most weeks. Most of the plants, especially the radishes, have thrived. We enjoyed multiple salads out of the 2 squares we planted, last year we had only one crop. Some plants have done worse in the, comparatively, larger space of the square foot garden than in the pots on the deck last year. Yes, carrots, I am talking to you!
Soil has been a key factor for this garden. We used a soil which was close in composition to the formula, advocated by Mel Bartholomew, the original proponent of square foot gardening, of one part compost, one part vermiculite, and one part peat moss. We bought a premixed soil as Mr. Lane is not a fan of mixing soils and Mrs. Lane is no longer up to the task of arguing that mixing soil is not hard, we can do this, and the results will be better!
How does one know how many plants or seeds to plant in one square? I searched the web like mad for this answer, looking for a table of how many of each type of plant fit in one square. When I found the answer, I was kicking myself for not figuring it out earlier. It is so simple! Flip over the seed packet. On the back, there should be a designation as to how far apart to thin the plants. Divide this number into 12. For example, 12 / 3 = 4 plants per 12 inch “row”. But you are not planting a row, you are planting a square, therefore you need to square the number, 4 squared is 16 plants per square. And you said you’d never use Math!
Note that there are no dividers in the garden. I just measured and dragged my finger in the soil. Then I poked the planting holes as Mel says to do. If you are planting 4 plants in the square, with one finger, draw a cross in the square, then use one finger to poke one hole in each square. If you are planting sixteen plants, after dividing the area by four, use two fingers to four holes in each quarter. For spacings that are a multiple of three, divide the square into thirds, using two fingers on one hand to subdivide the squares into thirds pretty easily into 9 squares.
Yes, we planted last year’s seed for the radishes. In fact, we planted some radishes from 2009, beans from 2009 and cucumber from 2009. They are all doing well. If you feel you must, you can perform a seed germination test. I have done these in the past. This is a simple test with 10 seeds sandwiched between two layers of dampened paper towels, until the seed sprouts. The percent which sprout in the towels gives an indication of the percentage which will sprout when planted. This rather reminds Mrs. Lane of her first grade science experiment which demonstrated that seed could germinate in a jar with moistened Mosinee paper towels as the soil. Frankly, I no longer do a pre-planting seed germination test. Now I perform a seed germination test in situ. If the seeds don’t come up within 10 days, I buy some more and plant again. This year, the only seeds that seemed to “fail” were the lettuce seeds. Only two lettuce plants came up. The beets are struggling, too. Realize that much of the seed is from five year old seed packets, yet they still grew.
Soon, we will be filling the squares vacated by the radishes with something, not quite sure yet what that will be.