In a recent VisionAware article, I described how transitioning my vegetable garden from flat row to raised beds has made me a more productive “Out of Sight Gardener.” To summarize, a raised bed garden is a plot framed with wood or blocks or some other material formed into raised growing spaces no wider than four feet and as long and as high as you have the desire, space, and garden soil to accommodate. There are many advantages of raised beds for the “Out of Sight Gardener,” but chief among them is the ability to navigate your plot without risk of tromping on seedlings. Instead, you do all of your work from the well-defined outer perimeter.
What Is Square Gardening?
In that same article, I mentioned a gardening technique that is growing in popularity, and that also works well for the “Out of Sight Gardner.” It’s called “Square Foot Gardening,” and you can read more about it in the NLS recording of the book, “All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!” by Mel Bartholomew (DB 69864). Square foot gardening is an intensive gardening technique which involves sectioning and marking your growing space into one- by one-foot squares, and then planting either a single, four, nine, or 16 plants in each square depending on how much space each vegetable requires to thrive. A green pepper plant, for example, will require an entire square, whereas you can probably plant four rows of four carrots or radishes in the same amount of space.
Previously, I used a set of hand-cut templates to mark my squares and plant seeds, but recently, I learned of a handy new tool to help me mark my squares and do my seeding. It’s called the Seeding Square, and it’s available from Amazon.com and from the creator’s website SeedingSquare.com. Below is a picture of the Seeding Square.
How Square Gardening Works
The Seeding Square is a 12- by 12-inch sheet of high strength plastic with a one-inch lip all around. Press the Seeding Square into each mini-plot to mark your squares and guide you to properly plants seeds. The flat top surface contains the planting template with overlapping grids of color coded one, four, nine, and 16 seeding holes. There are also larger “grip” holes that assist in positioning the square and lifting it after you have planted each new square.
Low vision users may be able to distinguish the various grids by their brightly colored markings. The red holes mark 16 per square foot. The yellow holes mark nine per square foot. The blue holes are four per square foot, and the orange hole marks the single plant for a square foot mini-plot.
Blind users will be able to feel the difference in the rows; the 16-hole grid has four across and four down; the nine, four, and single template holes are recessed and indented progressively and can be easily detected.
The Seeding Square arrived packaged in a heavy gauge plastic zipper storage case. Inside, along with the Square itself, there is a funnel which stores by snapping onto the bottom of the center hole. On the top, there is a recessed well holding a combination seed spoon and planting wand. The wand is marked every inch with a tactile ridge, so if you wish to plant your seeds one inch deep simply push the wand through the seeding holes until you reach the first mark, two for two inches, etc. The wand is magnetized—it snaps back into its storage well, so you can easily keep track of it.
First Know What You Will Plant
Before using the Seeding Square, decide what you are going to plant and how many seeds you will place in each one by one square. The Seeding Square comes with a chart with color codes matching various plants to their seeding holes. There is an informational PDF on the company’s website, but it’s not accessible. However, it’s easy to find this information. Do an Internet search for Square Foot Gardening. Your best resource will be the “All New Square Foot Gardening Guide” itself. It contains not only a comprehensive planting guide but also start-to-finish tips demonstrating how you can get the very most out of your raised bed garden.
Time to Start Planting
Now that you know how many seeds you want to plant, you can use the wand to push through the proper holes. You should be able to feel these holes. Because you have already pressed the unit into the soil, there’s not a lot of play. Sighted users would now position the funnel over each hole by turn and drop in a seed or two either by hand or by using the spoon. I was able to hand seed 16 radish seeds though it did require a great deal of back and forth with one finger figuring out where each new hole was located while I held the seeds in the other. That’s when I discovered a way to accomplish the seeding much easier.
In another VisionAware gardening article, I suggested blind gardeners use wooden shrimp skewers or toothpicks to mark where seeds have been planted. This technique can also help plant seeds.; position a skewer into each hole you intend to seed, all 16 if you plan to put in radishes, carrots, or parsnips. Think of these skewers as flag pins in a golf cup and drop seeds alongside each skewer. Make sure you pull the skewer out when you’re finished as not to accidentally over seed.
Sighted users can now remove the Seeding Square and use the lip indentations in the dirt to guide them to their next square to the left, right, front, or back. These marks aren’t easy to locate by touch, but that’s OK; before you removed the Square, you marked each corner with another skewer. Spread some potting soil over the top of the planted square, pat it down to ensure the seeds made contact, then repeat with the next square and the one after that. Wait until you’re done to water being careful to set your nozzle on the lightest spray setting.
My Final Comments on the Seeding Square
Using the Seeding Square with these modifications, I found the work went a bit more slowly but also a good deal more accurately. Here in Florida, my garden was mostly in place when I discovered the Seeding Square, but I did use it to plant radishes and Bush beans. I also used it to mark out a two by two plot and planted zucchini at the very center. I finished up with some celery.
On the Seeding Square’s YouTube Channel, seeding square creator, Jennifer Pratt, demonstrates planning celery in Seeding Square holes. I have discovered that celery seeds do better if they are allowed to sprout from the surface. Because I won’t be needing the Seeding Square again for a while, I dropped the seeds into the holes without poking them into the dirt, watered it down, and left the Square in place, so the delicate seeds don’t wash away. We’ll see how it goes. Wish me luck.