Final Square Foot Gardening Update

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on October 10, 2009

The last several weeks there hasn’t been too much to report on the garden front. Time is running out. The sun has shifted enough that its not getting the same sun it had all summer. And I found myself in a fight for the last tomatoes!

I got into a fight with a chipmunk.  Not really a fight, per se.  But a battle.  The “see who can get to the ripe red tomatoes first” battle. 

It wasn’t pretty.

I declare myself the victor because I was able to get to more of the ripe tomaotes than he chewed up!  Plus, I decided to grab some of the green tomatoes and diced and froze them for a soup, or something.

The green beans are still producing, but not near as frequently as they had been.  Another batch of onions sprouted.  And of course, I picked all the carrots this last week.

I thought it would be fun to take a walk down memory lane…

May 2 – Sprouts

May 18

May 30 – Spinach Harvest

June 12 – Tomatoes showing signs of life!

June 20 – Post-spinach harvest (I did replant, but it got too hot for them!)

July 4 – Eggplant Bud


July 11 – Picking the first tomato


July 18 – Tomato plants starting to take over


August 1 – Herbs and Tomatoes


August 15 – Tomatoes just about knocked down the trellises!


September 5 – Round 2 of the Green Peppers


Why did I choose Square Foot Gardening?

We have 48 trees on our property, which means very limited “full sun” space for us!  I love the shade it provides in the summer (think lower A/C bill in the summer!), but it’s quite problematic for gardening!

I choose Square Foot Gardening because I could make planters that could go on our patio (the only space with enough sun to grow a garden) and I could grow quite a bit in the small space.  I used 2 4′ x 4′ wooden planters, for a total of 32 squares of garden space.

This was my first year attempting any sort of gardening, other than herbs in pots on the picnic table!

What did we harvest this year?

I wish I had written things down.  I detailed some of the harvests, but not every single thing I took from the garden!

Here’s my best guess:

  • Spinach – Several meals worth plus big batch of Rice with Garden Greens
  • Yellow Summer Squash – at least 15
  • Lettuce – Several salads and sandwiches worth
  • Onions – About 16 small onions and 16 itty bitty onions
  • Eggplants – 2 medium
  • Snap peas – Quite a few…most of them never made it inside, as I would snack while I worked on the garden
  • Carrots – However many you see here
  • Cubanelle (Italian frying) peppers – at least 20
  • Spicy hot peppers – About 6 (I planted this later in the season!)
  • Green Peppers – 7
  • Cherry Tomatoes – Oodles
  • Heirloom Tomatoes – Oodles
  • Roma Tomatoes – Oodles
  • Green Beans (bush variety) – Many meals worth!
  • Basil – Oodles
  • Rosemary – Oodles…with still more to pick
  • Parsley – Oodles
  • Mint – Oodles

How much was the initial investment/cost?

You can read all about the cost and startup of the garden here.

What’s the plan for next year?

Do it again!  I dream up all sorts of “scenarios” for my planters.  We shall see come end of April 2010 what ends up in the beds!

The Concept and The Book

I learned and followed the plan outlined in the book All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana Hayes October 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Great job. You can harvest that spinach in the fall too. Or plant some chard.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 10, 2009 at 12:56 pm

@Diana Hayes,

I thought about it…but my expanding belly is preventing me from getting down there to plant and harvest! I will certainly do that next year!!!


ter October 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I read that book once or part of it, I borrowed from the library…. I was planning to do that this summer but since this was my first year alone I had a hard time getting regular things done. Well maybe next summer. I am planning to buy the book. But thankfully, the farmer’s market is only minutes away from me so I have been able to have fresh veggies most of the summer. Now winter is here (we totally skipped autumn – and heck, most of this past spring and summer didn’t really exist either!) Go figure.

Congratulations on the success of your square foot garden. It convinces me even more that this is the way to go.


Alea October 10, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Gardening is addictive isn’t it? I have enjoyed watching your garden this year, and I have benefited from the recipes your harvest inspired!

I just saved a bunch of tomatoes, but it was from a freeze rather than a chipmunk:

I have found that my chard, parsley, and lettuces can survive pretty harsh weather, so I will continue growing those. I also have some peas in, barring any really severe storm, we will be dining on those for Thanksgiving.

I am looking forward to watching your garden again next year.


Amy B October 10, 2009 at 7:29 pm

oh your garden is soo cool..I live in an apartment building with no where to have a garden, so i’m jealous! how much money do you think you saved from having a garden? it seems like you got a ton of food in a small space.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 12, 2009 at 7:58 am

@Amy B,

I wish I had paid more attention to how many meals that I used things from the garden. Herbs are expensive to buy in the store, so I’m sure I saved at least $30-40 in herbs alone. I can tell that I will have to “up” the produce portion of my budget soon, as I’m not picking from the garden as much. I’m hoping to keep better track next year :)



Mary W October 10, 2009 at 10:28 pm

My warm weather veggies are pretty much over…still a trickle of tomatoes, basil, zucchini and okra. Here in So Cal I’m in the process of planting my fall/winter garden. All of the cool weather veggies most of you can’t plant until Spring, I can plant now. (smile) So far I’ve planted radishes, arugula, lettuce, chard, rapini and beets. Still to plant are carrots, flat leaf parsley, garlic, green onions and cilantro. Maybe leeks.

I enjoy gardening and especially free food.


Susan Thompson October 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Erin~ i don’t know if you were aware, but if you pick green tomatoes they can be ripened inside. We live in an area where gardeners are frequently caughty by frost with tomatoes on the vines, and they just pick them green, set them stem down in a sunny spot and almost always they will ripen. I just thought i’d throw that out there. I’m jealous of your garden. We don’t get enough sun, or have a long enough growing season for me to bother with a garden. wish i could. Fortunately, my mom will share the abundance of hers when we get over to see her during the summer.


Sarah October 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Great results!!! Thanks for sharing. I have to say I also read the book and sort of modified the method. I didn’t use the “Mel’s Mix” soil and I didn’t plant as much, and my results were NOT as spectacular. My recommendation, follow the method to a ‘t’. (I know, he says it over and over in the book.) ….Hoping for better results next year. And this gives me motivation!


Karen October 11, 2009 at 8:19 pm

it looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it!


Becky L. October 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Erin, thanks for the update on your square foot garden. You are an inspiration. I looked at your start up garden and think I could do that next year. I work at a hardware store and we have some lumber products so I could use my discount to get some of the wood and soil. We have a couple big trees that shade our side yard so will really have to figure out how to make it work, especially for the tomatoes. They didn’t do good last year in my pots and my sister’s in WA state didn’t do well….not good year for tomatoes for some reason…I want to grow cilantro. I love it and will have to figure out how to dry it.
I’ve got a recipe to share with you when you need it but don’t know how to link my blog page on your blog. I know how to put your link on mine though. I’m still new at this stuff. I’d appreciate your help. I made creamy turkey ravioli. Yummy and with photos! Take care and rest well and have a great day!!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm

@Becky L.,

Email me your link and I’ll get it posted :)



Becky October 12, 2009 at 11:10 pm

@Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom,

Erin, I just got my post done with the Creamy Turkey Ravioli. My link is


Becky L. October 12, 2009 at 5:58 pm

ok will do that soon!! Need a nap first then I’ll down load photos to my blog. Have been fighting a virus of some sort. No fun. Am feeling better, just am tired. Thanks for your help.–Becky


Jennifer Barker October 14, 2009 at 5:54 am

I just got his book from the library and am planning on using this method next spring. Can’t wait!! I hope to have as bountiful a harvest as you have had. It should be an adventure.


Larry Gibbs October 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Stumbled upon your site, looks to be very interesting.

If you have a chance please check out my attempt at a vegetable gardening website, and let me know what you think of this approach.

Maybe we can link or something.



Megan February 17, 2010 at 10:25 am

Just wondering, are you already starting to think about your garden for this year? I’m out here in So Cal and hope to have my seeds in the ground in the next few weeks for the spring. I’m so excited and hope you post about your garden again this year. I was really hoping to expand mine this year but we might be moving in July so I’ll have to stick with what I have for now.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom February 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm


Yes Megan…I’ve got an introductory post for this year’s garden in the works! I can’t plant until mid April, early May though!


Wendy April 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I’m reading this long after your garden was done but for this year I though it would help. To ripen green tomatoes put them in a brown paper bag (lunch bag works great), they ripen in just a few days. You can also cook them up green. Dip them in an egg wash then in flour or a mix like bisquick or corn flake crumbs and fry them. It’s pretty much like you cook eggplant. Very tasty. If you have an abundance of fresh herbs that you can’t use up quickly, you can dry them in a dehydrator or an oven on low (200-225) with the door cracked. After they are dried out vacuum seal for later use or even put in a ziplock bag (removing as much air as possible of course). The will keep a long time this way. I’m still using cilantro and basil from my garden last summer. It’s so much better than store bought dried herbs. For those people that have short growing seasons, so do I up here in Wyoming. I look for seeds that have a shorter growing time, start seeds indoors and grow a container garden year round in the house. For vegetables that I really want but have a long growing season, the containers work well. I start them indoors, or buy plants at a garden center, transplant to containers, grow outdoors when the weather is right but if it starts getting too cold (or hail storms) I move them indoors near a window. I also use a cold frame to help extend my growing season (works great with raised bed gardening). I learned about all this from books I got at the local library. Happy gardening!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom April 6, 2010 at 8:13 am


Thanks for hte great tips! I did some dehydrating of herbs, but want to do more this summer! And I haven’t tried the cold frame yet…it’s “on the list”! Happy Gardening to you as well!


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