It turns out we’re already 25% through the year. The temperatures are falling, the clocks are going back again. I thought I should probably give an end-of-season update on the Square Foot Garden experiment I began planning in August.

When we last checked-in on it, the garden was thriving, but not yet really producing. We had rain right through December, but when the January dry period hit, we ran into problems.

The January dries

My biggest failure was the irrigation not being enough to adequately water all the plants. The first to go were the capsicum, which were truly pumping.

Suddenly, they began to look sad, then withered, then dead. Honestly no amount of water applied directly to them seemed to work. They just carked it over the space of a couple of weeks.

Then the lettuces shot to seed just before guests were due to visit. They all went at the same time. As did the rocket, mesclun, and coriander.

The situation in January - dried out plants, plants shooting to seed.

20 Jan 2022. Capsicum plants very dead, (front right). Lettuces shooting to seed at the back. Everything is just a mess.

Even though we were running the irrigation daily each the morning, It turned out that there was a blockage in the system. By the time that was diagnosed and fixed, it was too overgrown to change the system. We were stuck with what I’d installed, and that wasn’t enough.

Too successful

The cucumbers and one tomato plant really went for gold. I’d chosen my cucumber variety (‘Spacemaster’) based on the fact I’d grown it before. It had previously stayed quite small, but productive.

It turned out the cucumbers really liked the Square Foot Garden and they just took over everything. I had to cut them back, pulling out dozens of cucumbers. Once I cut them back, the plants died.

Garden stuffed to the brim with plants
Cucumbers uncovered in the garden

Then there were the tomatoes which were falling all over the show and hitting the top of the insect netting. When I really inspected them, two of the tomato plants had no flowers, no fruit.

The third plant was (and still is!) heaving. So I pulled out the two that weren’t doing well and gave the third some industrial stakes.

Bye bye bugnet

The tomatoes couldn’t have their industrial stakes and the bugnet. So this is when the garden lost its bug protection.

Tomato plant on sturdy stakes

Post-tidy, the tomato plant looked great on the heavy-duty stakes.

That’s when the green vegetable bugs and caterpillars got in. Once I picked a tomato and it had SIX green vegetable bugs on it!

Six green vegetable bugs on a tomato

It’s about this point I gave up specifically looking after the garden, but it didn’t stop looking after us.

Harvests

The basil eventually took off, and I used it in my big basil harvest a couple of weeks ago. The carrots are able to be harvested now.

I’ve spread coriander seed all over the garden, so hopefully that will come back when the rains do.

The remaining tomato plant continues to feed us brilliant juicy tomatoes, though they are affected by bug damage. I’ve been harvesting the multiplying spring onions for months now. Even the rocket managed to keep going for longer than you’d think with regular chopping.

What I’d do different

I’d definitely invest in more irrigation next time. One or two drip irrigators per square. And I don’t think I’d grow cucumbers or tomatoes in this system again. They cause too much compromise with the bugnet.

Instead, I’d focus on two good capsicum plants in the middle 4 squares, with a rotating and regularly-refreshed series of musclun, lettuce, rocket, carrots, coriander, basil, and spring onions on the outside. With better irrigation, perhaps I’d have better luck with direct sowing.

The bug net also needs to stay on! Though I am tempted to build a larger frame and sturdier hook system for this bed that allows for easier access.

Overall, it works. Sometimes too well! I’ll see what happens over winter and try again next season I guess!