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Learn vegetable gardening by the square foot

March 31, 2010 |  8:04 am
Square foot

When Jo Ann Carey was diagnosed as pre-diabetic a few years ago, she was told to eat more vegetables. After reading Mel Bartholomew's book "All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space," she was inspired to do more -- she wanted to grow them.

In a square-foot garden, seeds are planted in squares instead of rows, wasting little space. Using string or bamboo dowels (shown above left), gardeners map out a planting grid in raised beds. Vining crops are grown with trellises -- a space saver that also keeps vegetables from rotting on the ground. The benefits of square-foot gardening? You can plant the same amount of vegetables in 1/5 of the space, use less water, and no tilling is required.

SquarefootThe beds can be made any shape you like, four-by-four, two-by four, six-by-two, etc. Carey has 10 beds and is currently growing bok choy, herbs, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, onions,  tomatoes, leeks, cabbages, radishes, carrots, Japanese cucumbers and flowers to “confuse the bugs.” 

It’s not surprising to learn that Carey, 75, would tackle gardening with such aplomb. She also teaches pole walking, digital photography and computer skills, and is raising her 14-year-old granddaughter. And she recently added square-foot gardening classes at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden to her busy teaching calendar.

This method is well-suited to seniors, she says, because the beds can be elevated to eliminate squatting. "Even people in wheelchairs can do it," she says. "Just put it on a sawhorse and drill holes in the plywood base."

Gardening is a positive way for people to take charge of their lives, she says. "I'm always encouraging people to be more involved in life," she says. "If there is a God, I want him to tap me on the shoulder when I'm in the middle of something and tell me it's time to go." 

Square-foot gardening classes, Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia. April 11, May 16 and June 13, 9 a.m. to noon. Classes are $22 for members, $25 for non-members. For more information, call (626) 821-4623.

-- Lisa Boone

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Photo credits: Lisa Boone

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