Athens Review, Athens, Texas

March 18, 2013

Master Gardeners brave high wind for Saturday workshop

Jeff Riggs
The Athens Review

Athens — Neither the hard wind, nor the cool temperatures kept the warmth out of the subject of square-foot gardening, in a workshop staged at the East Texas Arboretum early Saturday.  This event attracted about 250 people.

An educational workshop was administered by Pat Kriener, a program sponsored by the Henderson County Master Gardeners.  The program focused on growing vegetables using the square-foot gardening method.

According to Kriener, square-foot gardening is “a simple, unique and versatile system that adapts to all levels of experience, physical ability and geographical location.  Grow all you want and need in only 20 percent of the space of a convention row garde.  Save time, water, work and money.”

Kriener said the need for less work is one of the excellent features of the method.

“There is no weeding, no digging, no tilling – no kidding,” she said. “By using raised beds, individuals with physical limitations can also participate in vegetable gardening,” Kriener said. “If you can grow your own food, you can never go hungry.”

She said square-foot gardening is a “great hobby, stress relieving and beautifies the environment.”

The layout of square-foot gardening is an arrangement of squares, not rows, in 4-foot by 4-foot areas.

The gardener builds boxes to hold a new soil mix above ground, only six inches deep.  The boxes are spaced 3-feet apart to form walking aisles.

Boxes are filled with special soil mix, consisting of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite.  Existing soil doesn’t matter.

Make a square foot grid for the top of each box to organize the garden for planting.

Never walk on the growing soil.  Tend the garden from the aisles. Few, if any weeds sprout, and are easily pulled with a person’s fingers.  Soil stays loose.  They are easy to protect from weather.

Plant a different flower, vegetable or herb crop in each square foot, using spacing of one, four, nine or 16 plants per square foot. Crop rotation happens naturally.

Conserve the seeds.  Plant only a pinch (two or three seeds) per hole.  Place transplants in a slight saucer-shaped depression. Plant only what you will use during each season.

Kriener enjoys all kinds of gardening at her 2-acre mini-farm, Wildwood Cottage, located in Johnson County. She is a Certified Square Foot Gardening Teacher, a Master Gardener, a Master Naturalist, Master Composter, horticulture therapist and Certified Herbalist.  She teaches classes related to all these specialties.

Henderson County Master Gardeners Vice President Cheri Tannenberger said the occasion was a success in spite of the wind.

“Mother Nature gave us the sun we were looking for, but the wind was strong,” she said. “I am happy about how everything came out.  Master Gardeners are used to conditions in which the weather is not exactly as it should be.”

Joyce Hester won the largest door prize, a square-foot garden box and square-foot gardening book donated by Henderson County Master Gardeners. The prize’s soil mix was donated by Athens Organic.  Other door prizes were offered.

For more information about square-foot gardening, call 903-675-6130, or visit henderson-co-tx-mg.org