Adventures of a Gardener: Building Raised Beds and Square-Foot Plots

Although I've been getting seed catalogs in the mail since December, I'm running a little late in getting my garden started this year. Secretly, I'm hoping this turns out to be a good thing. Usually, I'm gung-ho about gardening well before the frost is out of the ground, leading me to burnout just about the time the weeds start taking over in early summer. Maybe the late start will keep me interested well through the season.

Every year, I add a few new things to my garden. In the past, I've had success growing cucumbers vertically on hog panel fencing and making tomato supports out of the same. This year, I'm adding raised beds and trading row cropping for square-foot gardening as detailed by Mel Bartholomew in his book Square Foot Gardening.

As the son of a farmer, it's going to be hard to break out of the row mentality, especially when no matter which window I look out of, I'm staring down straight lines of wheat, corn or sunflowers, some of them a mile long. But the square-foot system promises to make things easier, which I'm all for when it comes to gardening.

Still, whatever hard work it entails, it all becomes worth it when those first radishes are ready to pick by Memorial Day, and come next winter when I crack into a jar of pickled green tomatoes, I'll forget all about the hot, sweaty summer days spent stooped over scratching in the dirt.

I'm sure more than a few of you Wild Chef readers also enjoy growing your own food. Any tips you'd like to share? I'd love to hear some square-foot success stories to boost my confidence in this new-to-me way to grow.