One Saturday morning, not so long ago, I attended the square foot gardening workshop at Daily Dump in Indira Nagar, Bangalore. With just one objective: to unlearn whatever little I knew of gardening and growing vegetables/flowering plants in my humble balcony garden. 16 of us got together to begin the day with some yummy cookies. For the rest of the day, we were known not by our names, instead our identity was the vegetable/fruit of our choice. What an enthusiastic bunch raring to have our green space and not be constrained by no space, no water, no sunlight etc.
Over the past year, I parted away with most of my pots- some that had been with me for years; a few heavy ones that my father-in-law had painstakingly got upstairs. This was the last one to go, but it had to go for with no sunshine, thanks to dozens of tall Eucalyptus trees in the adjacent plot, all my plants were dying a slow death. It was sad to see the green wither away one by one.
So, why square foot gardening now? The idea of starting again on just one square foot space appealed a great deal. I wanted to unlearn whatever I knew/read about the right potting mix on various forums, how to water plants, how frequently to water them, what do yellow leaves mean, how deep should apt be, how much sunlight do various plants need, what is the right time of the year in Bangalore to sow certain seeds, why some seeds don’t germinate, how to keep Stuart Little (as we call rats at home) bay etc. Have you sowed the seeds too deep in the soil that never germinated above the ground, but when you dug deep you saw it underneath the soil?
The list was endless, and I wanted to start on a blank slate. Give all the care I could to that one square foot of space. Learn to love that space and see the plants thrive. Learn from my mistakes earnestly. It’s time to share the pictures of the newborns… I chose palak seeds to sow in my square foot box. They have germinated, and I can’t tell you how happy I am..Before we get into it, a bit about the class:
Square foot gardening workshop is conducted by Vishwas and Anil (of Square Foot Farmers) once a month at Daily Dump. You can check with them if they have workshops elsewhere in the city too. They are urban farmers in true sense of the word.
What is square foot gardening? The gardening concept is based on Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening technique. The space required is relatively less and plants are grown in square foot boxes of sizes 1*1, 1*2, 2*2, 1*3, 3*3, 1*4, or 4*4. The box is ideal for balconies, accessible from all sides.
Potting mix: the potting mix is 1 part of cocopeat (peat moss), 1 part of manure(compost) and 1 part of vermiculite. The mixture is quite light relative to the soil.
How many plants in box? This is the interesting part; one we all had fun in answering. For instance, there can be 9 palaks in one box,or one tomato, or one cabbage, or 16 radishes. Yes, 16 radishes or carrots. Can you believe that? It’s based on what kind of plants you are growing: small, large, or vertical. In case you are wondering, the depth of the box is enough.
How does it work? Take the square foot box o your size; fill it with the potting mix, decide what plant you want to grow (typically only one type ina square foot box but for larger ones you can go for companion planting), sow the seeds (soaked in water prior to planting) at a depth of 2 to 4 inches the size of the seed from the surface, and you are good to go. Water them (using a sprinkler and never on top of the plant) preferably in the morning and never in the afternoons.
I could go on and on..but in case you are interested, you should go! That’s the best way to learn!
Taken by me in my balcony