How do I garden in a small space?
Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
For complete instructions, you simply must read All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, or Google square foot gardening. A typical square foot garden is 4’ x 4’, allowing for 16 square feet of gardening space. Your 4’ x 4’ box can be made from boards or cinder blocks, or you can buy a kit and assemble it. The box can be placed on the ground or built at a higher level (even placed on a table) to allow for less bending.
Each square can be planted with a different crop, and you can place 1,4,9, or 16 plants in each square, depending on the size of the plant. For example, you can plant one pepper plant per square, 4 lettuce plants, 9 spinach plants, or 16 carrots. Some very large plants, like squash will take more than one square. One square usually supplies enough food for one or two people throughout the growing season. Large families may need 6 squares of the same crop.
Besides saving space, this system saves time and effort. There is less weeding to do, less thinning, and no tilling. You will use no fertilizer because your soil is so rich and friable. Mel Bartholomew recommends 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 Vermiculite, measured by volume. Your soil will not become compacted because you can walk around your box, reach all of your plants, and never walk on your soil. Crop rotation year to year is easy. Just plant your crops in different squares. Maybe best of all -- you will use less water and waste fewer seeds with this gardening method.
You can even go vertical with your square foot garden by installing a vertical frame with nylon netting. This method accommodates vining crops such as cucumbers and pole beans very nicely.
Besides constructing square foot gardens, you can also garden in small spaces by using containers, planting vegetables in your flower beds, and trying some of the fancy “new” techniques that allow you to garden on a fence or wall.
How do I support melons that are grown vertically so that they don’t pull the vine off of the support?
First of all, you can grow melons on the vertical structure that you attached to your square foot garden, or you can use other supports such as fences, hog wire, livestock panels, or lattice. You will need to train the vine to grow up the structure by carefully weaving the tendrils through your netting or wire and loosely tying the vines to the supports with a soft material such as hosiery cut into 1” strips.
Larger fruit, such as melons, will likely need additional support to ensure that the vine isn’t pulled off the structure (as mentioned by the questioner). I suggest making slings from an old pair of panty hose. Tie a knot about 8” from the toe and more knots up the leg, about 8” apart. Then cut 1” below each knot to make individual slings. Slip a sling over the fruit when it is tennis ball size, and then tie the sling to the trellis. For very large melons, you may want to use an old t-shirt or some type of mesh material to make slings.
Penny Wallace is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is guadalupecountymastergardeners.org. The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at 210 East Live Oak Street in Seguin.