Square-foot gardening — a gardening style based on planning and creating small "one square foot" gardens in wooden boxes, is an intensive use of small areas. The wooden boxes, or raised beds, are divided into foot squares.
The young people at California Kids LLC on Lake Drive were introduced to that concept Friday, March 17.
Facility owner Anny Wolford, who is active in the statewide food program, applied for a grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. She was one of those selected for the "Farm to Preschool" grant.
Once the setup work is completed, the youngsters will tend the raised beds, learning some basics of gardening, plus being able to enjoy the benefits of fresh vegetables from a growing garden.
Part of the experience for the young gardeners is learning how different plants grow and the space needed for them.
Brian Wolford brought in materials for construction of the four-feet-by-four-feet boxes and bags of the ingredients to mix for the soil for growing the plants. Two boxes were constructed, with fabric bottoms to slow mole activity.
The youngsters helped mix the materials, which included composted manure, mushroom compost, peat moss and vermiculite.
The bags of soil materials were dumped on a large plastic tarp. The children, staff, and a few parents of the young people, mixed the materials by rolling it on the tarp from side to side, interspersed with some shovel work.
When the soil was mixed to the satisfaction of everyone, it was shoveled into the wooden boxes. Then, several of the children who assured everyone that they weren't afraid to get dirty, began breaking up the clods to even out the soil.
Wooden strips were then used to divide the boxes into 16 one-foot-square planting areas. As a general rule, there will be, in each square, one large plant, four medium size plants, nine small plants or 16 really small plants.
It is recommended that the plants be arranged in a preset pattern. Basically, you should place one large plant in a square, then four medium plants, nine smaller plants, and 16 very small plants in the adjacent squares.
To take care of the needs of climbing plants, such as beans, peas and cucumbers, a small lattice was placed for each box. To finish the raised garden boxes, a chicken wire netting cover was put over each bed to keep squirrels, rabbits and birds out of them.