Greenspace: Not too late to start a 'square foot garden'

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A square foot garden box in full bloom. Square foot gardens are good options for urban gardeners with limited space.

Between the recent cool weather and the abundance of rainy days, getting your garden started might have been pushed down your to-do list.

Fear not, a solution awaits at the Houston Nature Center. Audrey Alfson, director of the Houston Community Garden, will provide a course on square foot gardening.

"It's a different way of looking at gardening," Alfson said. "Instead of really long rows, the concept is you make a box and you divide it into squares." And the production you'll get from those squares, she said, will amaze you. "And it's very easy for kids, anybody really, to do this."

Alfson, who has been promoting square foot gardening at the Houston Community Garden and working in conjunction with the elementary school to teach gardening to students, said square foot gardening has a couple of big differences from traditional row gardening. First, your gardening is not done in the ground.

You build a box — 2-foot-by-2-foot, 3-foot-by-4-foot, whatever dimensions you like — and fill it with soil that you make yourself.


"You make your own soil with mixture of peat moss, compost and vermiculite," Alfson said, referring to the white granules you'll find in potting soil. "You make that the first time you build the box, then you just add compost to add nutrients to it each year."

The bonus is you won't be adding sulfur or phosphorus to the soil. Furthermore, the soil you create will have no weeds or grass among your plants. "And you don't have to till it," she said. "You can just get in there with your hands."

Once the box is made and filled with soil, the garden can be divided into square foot segments that planted with different veggies in each square.

In fact, a square foot garden is perfect for urban gardeners, working like an expanded version of a container garden.

"You don't have to have a labor intensive garden," Alfson said. "You can do it in the city, you can do it in the country. And it's fun."

Alfson said she plans to share her experience with square foot gardening and even take her classroom on a field trip into the adjoining community garden to see some square foot gardens first hand.

Best of all, if you're behind in prepping your backyard plot for a garden, a square foot garden might just be the simple, easy solution.

"If you don't think you have the time, it's not too late to garden," Alfson said.

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