Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finally, Finely Spaced Spacings

Sorry about the title, I just wanted to use finely and finally in the same sentence.

I've become a big fan of the square foot concept of backyard gardening as developed and put forth by Mel Bartholomew in his great book, Square Foot Gardening. I have copies of each of his additions, I have proven to myself that his concepts work and I love the high yields that I get when I space my plants out acording to his directions.

However, with all of that, it can be a pain to implement. His books show wonderful little gardens that are 4-feet by 4-feet. That's...cute. It's easy to plant when you are only planting one square foot of radishes or onions or beets or corn or garlic or whatever. But his simple grid system and finger spacing just don't translate when you have larger beds. My beds are 3-feet by 75-feet. That can be a lot of scratching tic-tac-toe designs in the dirt. I needed something that was faster and just as accurate.

Last year I made a 3-foot-square frame and strung it in one-foot squares with a cord. That helped a lot and was much faster than my one-foot-increment sticks that I had previously used. It also kept the rows a lot straighter and neater.

But it wasn't enough. No, I wanted more. I needed it to be faster and simple and repeatable on a large scale. I don't have the budget to buy a mechanical like an Earthway or a Jang, although I would love one. My budget is roughly $0.00 right now and there are some other improvements I need to make before I spank out a hundred bucks for that. (One can always hope for the gardening fairy to magically drop one off. Christmas, anyone? My birthday is in February. Just sayin'....) Nope, I had to do something myself.

While I was viewing some online video of other gardeners, I came across some old folks who have been supporting themselves on a few acres by growing and selling food. They've been doing it for decades and are really good at it. They also had some great ideas that I can borrow.

Here is the link to the video I watched:

Now, he made his to fit his seedling trays. I wondered why I couldn't make some to fit my garden when I was direct-seeding. I couln't come up with an excuse why I couldn't. So I did.

Last Saturday morning I went to the garage and cut three pieces of plywood at 12" square.
3/4" exterior grade plywood salvaged from another project.

I used Mel's spacing formula and marked one at 4/square foot, one at 9/square foot and the third one at 16/square foot.
Marked at 3" from the edges
and 6" from each other
Marked at 2" from the edges
and 4 inches from each
Marked at 1 1/2" from each
edge and 3" from each other

Then I cut some 3/4" stock at about 1 1/2" long. I cut one for each of the plant spacings.
A total of 29 for the project and a couple
extra in case I split some.

Then I drilled a hole into one end of each piece and a hole in each location on the 12" square.
I rounded over the non-drilled end to sort of a dull point.
I figured that a rounder tip might go into the soil
easier than a squared-off blunt tip would.

I drew out a handle and cut it out. Then I traced that handle two more times and cut them out.
I made these out of plywood. Don't. Use
a solid wood. Plywood splits when you
drive screws into the endgrain.

I needed a total of three handles. Remember,
don't make these out of plywood. I'm going to
have to replace them.

Then I sanded the handles down a bit to avoid splinters.

Then I mounted the spacing pegs and the handles to the squares with drywall screws.
Think about where you will put the handles and drill
those holes before you mount the pegs. You can see
how close these are to the screws for the handle.
It was only a problem on the 9-peg unit.

A sanding on the edges removed some of the roughness and helped to avoid spinters.
I hate splinters

Tomorrow's post will show how I used these in the garden.


  1. Great idea.

    I saw how you blocked out the boards you will use for marking the soil into various plant spacings, but I did not see how you cut out the pegs or how you inserted them into the boards. Did the pegs come out of the boards? Or did you cut a board into a bunch of pegs??

    I am enjoying your style. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for commenting. I cut the pegs from some 3/4" by 3/4" stock, actually an old stake I used last year in the garden. They are about 1 1/2" long. The holes I drilled in the boards and the ends of the pegs line up and I connected them with a drywall screw, one per peg, two per handle.


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