Outdoors, Green Living, Homesteading, Sustainable living, Green Building

Zai Square Foot Gardening 1

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The Survival Pod Cast
Off Grid Net

This years gardening begins with this old Datson bed trailer I bought for $150. I have hauled 2 loads of rabbit manure 150 miles with it and 2 loads of yard waste compost 15 miles with it. It holds about a yard and I think the loads weighed over 1/2 ton. The rabbit manure cost $25 a pickup bed load or per yard. I had to do half the shoveling work in loading it. The compost cost $20 per pickup bed load. The guy with the compost loaded it with his loader. I next hope to use it to get some wood chips for mulch.

In this next group of photos I show a 5 gallon bucket/pond water/soaker hose experiment. It had a pretty good flow rate at first but gradually slowed to no or little flow. I think the pond water is not pure enough and stops it up. I may try to poke small holes in it where it lays in squares to improve water flow and see if we can make this work. We are attempting gravity flow with this.

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Next I test a $20 fountain pump I got from the hardware store. It said it will pump up to 120 gallons per minute(gpm). But that depends on how high it is above the source. We needed to go as high as possible. If you get above 4 feet it stops pumping all together. So I pumped water from the pond about 3.8 feet high into a 5 gallon bucket. It took 30 minutes. Not good. I think I will get the $200 pump that will supply two sprinklers instead to use for our purposes. This $20 pump would be good for aquaponics or hydroponics.

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Here I show 3 yards of rabbit manure Me and the rabbitry owner loaded in about 2 hours of shoveling. I had already got 2 yards of manure prior to this trip with the Datson bed trailer. So I acquired 5 yards this year, and his rabbits produce that every 6 months. I paid $75 for the 3 yards of rabbit manure that day. I also spent about $130 in fuel to go get the rabbit manure.

Zai is a form of gardening where holes are dug in a grid pattern and filled with manure then planted. This started in Africa for turning sand into soil and desert into plant life. I have chose to use this method because of time constraints. So I use a trenching spade I have to cut a 1’x1′ square in the grass. Then remove the surface grass and roots. I then dig and load 6″ to 8″ of top soil into a wheel barrel. I shovel in 3 shovels of rabbit manure and 3 shovels of compost then mix. I put 1/3 of that back in the hole and dump the other 2/3s at the end of the row for garden box fill.

Now we have pond photos. This is about a 1 acre pond. The water level drops quit a bit
in summer. We intend to water the garden from it, which is aquaculture I guess. We want to figure out a way to pump water up to 50 gallon or 200 gallon tanks. We will then gravity flow water from those. We may also try to catch rain water into those same tanks. In a couple of those photos I took pictures of dam erosion. Beavers were stopping up the overflows so that water flowed over the entire dam and almost ruined the pond. Gary the owner did some beaver hunting to fix the problem.

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Here is where we dumped the 3 yards of manure and 4.5 yards of compost. It had been raining a lot and the ground was very slick. I couldn’t get the trailer back far enough and we ended up dumping part of the load on the circle drive. Gary was not happy about the pile of rabbit manure in his drive. I told him we would all laugh about it later.

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Below shows the compost facility at London AR, Smiley Vincent is the compost guy. The compost I was getting was 2 years old and he had once every month or so turned the pile with his loader. I loaded 4.5 yards that day and I don’t know exactly how heavy it was. This was a 5 ton dump trailer that I had borrowed. It hauls about 10 yards. There were also piles of wood chip compost at this facility. I may get some of that for mulch later on. He charged me $60 for that 4.5 yards of compost that day.

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Next we have the rabbitry in Oklahoma where I bought the rabbit manure. The owner of this made the barn from cedars that he cut down on site. He has about 50 cages and about 50 rabbits. When they have bunnies he has up to 200 rabbits.

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Finally we have the start on the garden. I laid down 4′ mulch cloth in 20 and 30 foot rows 4 feet apart. I pinned them down with the U shaped pins you can buy. The plan is to cut 1’x1′ holes in the cloth then dig a zai hole. I will refill with soil mix then plant. I space the holes 2″ apart and have room in the 4′ wide cloth to do 3 rows of holes. This is for plants that require one square foot. For plants that require more than one square foot of space I will simply space the 1′ holes out further. For example plants that require 2’x2′ will have holes spaced 1’2″ apart. Plants that require 3×3 will be spaced 2’2″ apart. In this way the plant’s runners will lay on the mulch cloth. I will also only have to work on e 1’x1′ area of soil for that plant, not 9 square feet.

A 4×50′ piece of mulch cloth would hold 128 squares. I used a square foot garden stepping tile I bought as a cutting guide. A razor knife blade works great for cutting out the squares. The left over squares can still be used with gravel or mulch on top to keep down grass.

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Another thing I did for herb production and deer deterrent was to dig 30 5×5 holes in a circular pattern around the perimeter of the garden about 2′ out from fence and vegetation.
I then planted lavender every 16 feet or 4th hole. The holes were 4′ apart. I planted every kind of herb you can buy in the other holes 2 holes each. This included chives, rosemary, sage, ore3gano, tarragon, thyme, etc. We have other deer countermeasures to implement. One is an extra fence 4 feet out from the existing one. Another is stringing up fishing line a few feet out from the 2nd fence. Another is placing objects just inside the fence to eliminate landing pads. Hedge rows of holly bushes outside the fence or in between them might work well also but cost more. I poured human urine on tree trunks around the garden.

I was able to get 9 holes prepared in the mulch cloth row. I started 2 more by removing grass. I planted those 9 holes with spring type plants, some greens, peas, onions, beats, radishes etc. I had 3’x3′ x 6″ deep soil mix left over at the end of one row and planted half in one type of tomatoes by seed and half in a larger type of tomato by seed. I bought and setup a garden box that is 5″ high and about 42×42″ in size which will become the potato box next time I’m in. I will remove grass, loose up the soil to 6 to 8″ deep and then fill with extra soil mix as I make new zai holes next time I’m in.
I also planted 3 1’x1′ herb holes Each one had lavender in the mix. I planted one or two sun flowers in every herb hole.
I also need to plant some Marigolds which I here deter rabbits. So I was able to work and plant 33 square feet those 2 days off.


One response

  1. Hi Larry. While I like the method you’ve described above I hope you will consider not using the term “Square Foot Gardening” unless you’re talking about the method created by Mel Bartholomew. What differentiates Square Foot Gardening are two things – the use Mel’s Mix growing medium (1/3 peat or coco coir, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and 1/3 of a great blended compost AND the use of a grid on top of the Mel’s Mix. I am a certified SFG instructor and the reason we are so sensitive about the use of the term Square Foot Gardening is that if people are not successful using your method they tend to say, “I tried Square Foot Gardening and it sucks!” (LOL I’m not saying your method sucks, but you get the gist.) When their friends hear that, they have the Mel Bartholomew method in mind and might not used it based on incorrect information. I ran across your post because I am fascinated by Zai. Best wishes ~ Kim (FB: Square Foot Gardening 4 U)

    March 16, 2015 at 7:31 am

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