Sunday 11 May 2008

Building our Square Foot Garden

I bought more materials today for constructing DS1's vegetable garden. It's loosely based on Mel Bartholomew's "Square Foot Gardening" concept, but I may end up compromising on the soil composition. The official "Mel's Mix" is supposed to be 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite. I had 1 cubic meter of "vegetable soil" delivered last Wednesday (which is around 75% compost), so today I wanted to purchase some peat moss and vermiculite to make up the required mix. It turned out that peat moss is not readily available, so the closest I could get was Cocopeat, which has very similar properties to peat moss, but is produced sustainably from coconut husks rather than strip mining peat bogs. Although I could only buy it in small packages (a brick that makes up 15L of peat when rehydrated), this isn't too expensive at $1.81 per pack (around $120 per cubic meter).

The vermiculite was another story. Although it's available (in small packs), the cost is very high at $7.51 per 5L bag. That works out the $1,500 per cubic meter, which is ridiculous. I bought three packs, but unless I can source vermiculite in bulk for lower cost I'll have to use around 5% rather than 35% vermiculite in my soil mix.

I'm building two 5' x 3' wood boxes for the vegetable garden, which will fit nicely into the available courtyard outside DS1's bedroom window. I happen to have a few nice 88x44cm granite slabs (benchtops that someone was throwing out when remodelling a kitchen) that will make a nice access path between the garden boxes. Each box has a volume of 1/3 cubic meter and will provide 24 square "plots" for planting a variety of DS1's favourite vegetables.

I also bought a timer tap and a simple sprinkler, so DS1 can just turn on the timer each morning before school to give the vegetable garden a good watering a few days a week. On the days when watering by hose isn't permitted he can keep the plants moist using his new watering can.

Tommorrow I'll cut and assemble the pine garden boxes and give them a coat of marine varnish spray. The boxes will be sitting on a layer of leaf mulch and be lined with a damp course (to make the wood box last a bit longer). Since the varnish takes 8 hours to dry we probably won't be able to fill them with soil and start planting seedlings and seeds until next weekend. We're starting with a selection of carrots, onions, brocolli, cauliflower, corn and chinese cabbage. I'll have to buy a few potatoes with lots of eyes at the supermarket and leave them in the sun to see if any sprout and can be planted.

This vegetable patch looks like it will end up costing a few hundred dollars altogether in materials (it could be built much cheaper using second hand lumber etc) and take several hours work putting it together. It should provide lots of fun for DS1 (and some educational value), but I'll be interested to see how much produce we get from this small area, and will track the quantities and calculate their value (based on the local supermarket prices).

I'll post some before and after shots of the couryard and assembled garden boxes, then some photos of whatever produce we get by springtime.

Copyright Enough Wealth 2008


Anonymous said...

I kill anything I plant, but it seems like you guys know what you are doing.

Debt Dieter said...

I can wait to read & see the progress updates on this one!