September 2011

Square foot gardening - The ultimate urban garden in reduced space (10-10)

By Arnold Brouwer
Director Programa Huertos Educativos

Gardening box on a roof top

Photo: Arnold Brower

The ultimate urban garden in reduced space

The last article of this series is dedicated to square foot gardening. A technique in-vented in the early eighties, by Mel Bartholemew, that is based on 30cmx30cm boxed gardens (1foot). The typical box size is 1.2mx1.2m so each contains 16 squares. Every square is managed separately with different crops. For example, you use one square for a tomato or cucumber plant while you can fit 16 carrots or radishes in another square.

The biggest advantage of a square foot garden is the soil mix that enables intensive gar-dening. The original soil substrate also known as “Mel’s mix” contains different ingre-dients all contributing to the mineral and nutrient content it is also highly absorbent, which prevents it drying out. In Cochabamba the team “Huertos Educativos” of the NME Mundial foundation simplified this soil mix into a very well fertilized soil made up out of 50% soil, complemented with 50% of compost.,/

Two square foot gardens in Cochabamba set up in coordination with the Huertos Educa-tivos Team.

Photo: Arnold Brower

Setting up a successful square foot garden in 10 easy steps:

  1. Find a location with an entire morning or afternoon of direct sunlight
  2. Make a box of 0.3 x 1.2 x 1.2m out of wood, logs or whatever material you can find
  3. Line the box with plastic to maintain the special soil inside the box. Don’t forget to punch a few holes to drain excess water
  4. Fill the box with the soil mixture; 50% (dark) soil, 50% organic matter (compost, dry manure, earth from underneath a pine tree)
  5. Divide the box in squares of 30 x 30cm, creating 16 small garden beds
  6. Use a variety of crops in the 16 squares taking into account the fully grown size of each crop to define how many plants fit in a square, write down the date to have an idea when the crop should be ready and don’t forget to rotate between crops (root  leaf  fruit  leguminous crop)
  7. Irrigate in the early morning with a (homemade) watering can imitating the rain in order not to disturb the soil with too much water pressure
Tiwanaku - Gateway to the Sun

Tiwanaku is a massive pyramid and temple complex located between the sacred Lake Titicaca and equally revered, snow-capped Mount Illimani in Bolivia’s Andean “Altiplano,” where llamas roam and condors soar. The site was built by the Tiwanaku, a pre-Incan culture that lived in the area from 1500 BC to its height in A 00 to 950. Archeologists estimate the population of the city was from 250,000 to 1,450,000 people. A climate change caused a food shortage in AD 1000, and the site had been abandoned for centuries when the Incas arrived in 1445.

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