Sustainability: Tabletop square foot gardening

In the spring of 2008, I pitched the idea for this column to the Daily Sentinel’s managing editor Laurena Mayne Davis.

When she expressed interest in the concept, I was thrilled.

Then she told me it would run on the Home & Garden pages, and I was baffled.

You see, for more than 50 years I have had a black thumb, and I am completely missing the genes controlling housecleaning and decorating.

But I am now about to embark on an adventure called tabletop square foot gardening.

Perhaps after two years of exposure to domestic delights, I have accumulated some interest through osmosis.

The miniature size and elevated height of this venture should create a gardening ecosystem where I won’t kill everything.

Friends are used to my home being a nearly plant-free zone. I do have a couple of very hardy aloe vera plants that have survived nearly 10 years.

I did not grow up in a gardening family. Being in the U.S. Air Force was not conducive to planting a thriving garden, at least for my parents. My only attempt at cultivating a backyard garden was almost 30 years ago when Jim and I were newly married and living in a rental house in Aurora.

Once Jim got everything planted, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Needless to say, it was an unmitigated disaster. Bugs, weeds and watering issues brought the project to a screeching halt with hardly any food to show for an enormous amount of effort.

This time around, I’m counting on the diminutive scale of my new project and a little help from my friends to ensure success in the gardening arena.

Master gardener (and avid reader) Laurie Reiser will serve as my guide for this intrepid journey into the botanical realm. Last year, Laurie gave me a tour of the demonstration gardens at the Tri-River CSU Extension Service office near the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

I was fascinated by the plethora of container gardens, especially those of the adaptive tabletop square foot variety.

In my ongoing effort to eat locally, I decided I couldn’t get more local than my yard. There is no place like home to grow food. With Laurie’s wise counsel, I am collecting materials to start my very own micro-garden.

A trip to Laurie’s Redlands home revealed a veritable Garden of Eden perched above the Colorado River. I left with a handout titled “Container Growing” that outlined pretty much everything I need to know to get started.

Laurie also donated two cherry tomato plants for hanging baskets and loaned a few volumes of recommended science fiction, a shared passion.

Being a cheapskate, I didn’t want to spend much money on supplies, so I decided to use an old beat-up card table for the base and take advantage of fortuitous timing in relation to the Grand Junction Spring Cleanup.

During the past week, I have become an accomplished scavenger. So far, I think old desk drawers will be the best containers to subdivide into mini-plots for my plantings. They should hold enough soil and do not require assembly, just a few small holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.

After I get prepped on soil depths, good vegetable companions and vegetable combinations to avoid, I’ll be ready to buy my seedling.

I’m shooting for wild strawberry, miniature rose, microgreens, baby bok choy, small peppers, chives and a few other herbs.

Are you getting hungry yet?

Next week, I’ll fill you in on my shopping trip to Chelsea Nursery located on G Road on the way to Palisade in Clifton. They specialize in xeric and native plants.

Let the gardening games begin!

Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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