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The square vegetable method is inspired by the thinking of an American gardener, Mel Bartholomew, who was looking for a simple and effective way to grow his vegetables according to his real needs in order to avoid overproduction and unnecessary working hours. . By designing a system of huts inside squares, he demonstrates that 3 to 6 vegetable squares can meet a family's vegetable needs. The interest of the square vegetable garden lies in its small size. It can be placed anywhere, on the sole condition that the location is sufficiently sunny (at least 6 hours a day). Other advantages are derived from its reduced dimensions. Where 12 hours of weekly work was required for a conventional vegetable garden, it is easy to go to 2 hours, or ¼ hour per day. The costs are also limited (water, seeds, pesticides, etc.). In addition, its small size, the luxuriance of its vegetation and its vertical development give it an aesthetic superior to that of a conventional vegetable garden. Let’s sum up! This cultivation system makes it possible: - to drastically reduce the area to be allocated to the vegetable patch, a small garden is enough; - optimize the harvests, diversify them and distribute them throughout the year; - to make savings in maintenance time, in water, in treatment products; - to cultivate in an ecological way while preserving the quality of the soil and the biodiversity in the garden.
Make your first vegetable patch
For understanding, we will call "square" the outer planks delimiting the square itself, and "boxes" the inner squares delimiting the crops.
Each basic square measures 1.20 m by 1.20 m. Thus, it is possible to access the center of the square without going inside. Each of these squares is divided into 16 boxes 30 cm wide (1 English foot). For small spaces, we can reduce the principle to squares of 90 cm side, even 60 cm for an initiation square for children or intended for a terrace for example. To appropriate this culture method, it is advisable to start with 1 or 2 squares. Each square is made using 4 oak or chestnut planks (rot-proof wood), at least 20 cm high, joined and screwed at the corners. These mini vegetable squares will be placed level on the ground, previously digged or ventilated. Placed on the ground in the garden, it is advisable to line the bottom of the fine mesh in order to prevent moles and field mice from going up in the tank, upsetting the vegetables or munching on them! Each square will then be filled with garden soil or soil available in the garden center.
Square vegetable patch: the principle
The first choice to make is that of the number of squares to create in your garden, asking yourself the right questions: how many salads do you eat per week? Are children fond of vegetables? Do we have lunch at home for lunch? Let's take a concrete example with an answer of "two" to the first question, namely the number of salads tasted per week. Considering that it takes 2 weeks for a salad to reach maturity, brought back to the vegetable patch, this means that a 30 cm side box must be reserved for salads, one in each corner. As soon as the 2 salads are picked to be eaten, you must replant 2 others immediately which will be harvested 2 weeks later. Thus, there will never be a shortage of crisp leaves to decorate the end of meals. Here is a diagram to illustrate the previous example and understand how this technique works on a square in a vegetable patch.
Credit J-F. Mahe This reflection is the basis of the cultivation of the vegetable patch in squares.
Some vegetable distribution plans to start your square garden
With this method, each vegetable should be grown in the right location so that it does not disturb its neighbors. For example, we will gladly plant onions on the sides of the square, because they love to push outwards. The low plants will be cultivated on the peripheral huts to allow better access. Tall plants (corn and beans for example) will be grown behind the small ones to prevent them from shading the lower ones, placed in front. Finally, it is advisable to plant or sow the exact number of vegetables per box in order to allow the vegetable to have the space necessary to reach its harvest size. A 30 cm square box can contain, depending on the case, 25 seeds divided into 5 rows of 5 columns for lamb's lettuce or watercress, 16 seeds (4 rows, 4 columns) for radish or arugula, 9 feet (3 rows, 3 columns) for leek, chervil, parsley, carrot, 5 seeds (like on a dice) for round beets, turnips, black radishes, sweet corn and 4 plants (like on a dice) with 1 plant in the center for 4 lettuces and 1 foot of pepper, 4 chews and 1 eggplant, 4 basil and 1 foot of tomatoes, 4 feet of dill and 1 cucumber, 4 basil and 1 zucchini, etc.
The square garden uses the principle of crop rotation
To manage your vegetable patch, it is advisable to apply the principle of crop rotation. Crop rotation consists of managing the succession of crops in the same location over the seasons by varying the varieties cultivated. This technique which results from the observation of peasants over the centuries is very well explained today by science. The same type of vegetable, always replanted in the same hut or in the same plot over the seasons and years, "attracts" diseases and depletes the soil. It promotes the development and installation of pests that wait in the soil, season after season, for the return of the crops they delight in. It impoverishes the soil by promoting the overconsumption of some of its wealth, the same vegetable always seeking the same type of nutrients in the soil, without giving the latter time to re-stock them. The principle is to rotate the vegetables according to their category: "leaf" vegetable (basil, celery, chicory, chives, watercress, spinach, lettuce, parsley, leek, etc.), "fruit" vegetable (eggplant, cucumber, zucchini , corn, melon, pepper, tomatoes…), “root” vegetable (beet, carrot, turnip, radish…), “flower” vegetables (artichoke, cauliflower and all flowers in general). Find the vegetable seeds from the shop!