Illustration courtesy Mark Roach, South Africa

Plant More Using Efficient Spacing Designs

The spacing chart above illlustrates a method of plant spacing used by square foot gardeners.  This format for plant spacing is said to increase plant yields up to 50% when compared to traditional row planting.  Each of the larger squares above represents one square foot. The number of square feet in such a garden doesn't matter as long as it is no more than four feet wide so the plants can be reached from either side.  Of course you will need to have all four sides of your raised bed accessible so don't place one side against a fence or wall.  The general rule is that the size of the plant at maturity determines how many of it you put in each square.  For smaller plants such as onions you can plant 16 but for larger plants such as pepper, you should only plant one per square foot.

The traditional row design wastes a lot of space the urban gardener often does not have. For example, there are those long halls between rows that you must  allow for access to the plants.  It is in these spaces that weeds crop up and then later encroach on your crops--thus the need for that back-breaking work with the hoe which you can avoid entirely with raised beds and square foot crop placement.


Crop Diversity Combined with Companion Planting Helps Ensure Healthy Plants

Planting different crops near to each other for the purposes of pollination, pest control, providing habitat for beneficial creatures is known as "companion planting."  Companion planting increases your chances of producing a successful garden.

Here are a few examples of companion planting:

Chives planted around the base of a fruit tree will discourage insects from crawling up the trunk of the tree.

Geraniums planted near grapes will discourage the Japanese beetle.

Marigolds keep the soil free of nematodes and discourage many insects.  Plant freely throughout your garden.

Here is a Companion Plants Chart for you to increas your chances of successful gardening.


If you want to see a square foot garden being planted, stay tuned.  Tomorrow I should have more information on the planting of one at tne new Garland Community Garden to be opened this Saturday April 12 --rain or shine (unless its an absolute downpour complete with lightening). 

Loving Garland Green meets tonight 6:30 to 7:30.

216 East Kingsbridge Drive - Garland Texas  75040

Open to the public.



Photos of some of the bounty from my first garden ever last fall (2013)

Much More to Gardening than Economics

Growing a garden can reduce household expenses; however, there are several things to consider when starting a garden. Adjust your expectations accordingly--especially if this is your first time. Let's begin by remembering some of the benefits gardens can provide in addition to reducing household expenses. Your garden increases food security for your family--particularly if you grow herbs, vegetables and fruits organically. You will know that no harmful pesticides or herbicides have been used in the production of your crops. You will know for certain that you are providing safe, healthy food for your family.

Gardening is good for the gardener.

You will get more fresh air and exercise. Gardening is good for the spirit as well. It provides a strong connection to the seasons and to the continuity of living things (particularly if you plant perennials). You will experience firsthand the fragility of nature as well as its strengths, adaptability and perseverance. Last and certainly not least: gardening is a social activity that can strengthen relationships and build new ones--especially if you dig up your front lawn as I did. Because of that one decision and my resulting garden, I've met and made friends with over 100 people in nine short months. A garden in your front yard is a social magnet. If you are allowed in your neighborhood to put a raised bed in your front yard, I highly recommend that you do so. Your life will change in the most unexpected of ways. When that happens, please write to me. I would love to hear your story.

View your garden as a long-term investment

You will get a return on this investment the minute you begin to plan your garden, but be forewarned, it won't be an instant monetary return on your investment.  In fact, you may reach an early point where you ask yourself why you are spending all this money to grow a few edibles that you could purchase at the store for a fraction of the cost.

There is definitely a front-loaded expense to creating a garden. For example, creating one 4 x 8 foot raised bed can cost as much as $150--particularly if you purchase new cedar boards for the sides of your raised bed from your local lumber yard and purchase your plants, garden soil, compost and other soil amendments at retail prices.

[By the way, members of Loving Garland Green encourage this route if you can afford it--as long as you buy local. Even purchasing from a chain store located within your city can help to stimulate the local economy. If you shop in Garland, all items you purchase which are subject to the 8.25% sales tax will give back 2% in tax revenues to our city. This is not chicken feed. It amounts to several million dollars annually. Thus, if you live in Garland and shop at a grocery store located in Sachse, you are not helping the local economy of the city where you live.]


Additional Tips for Successful Gardening  

One important tip that trumps all other gardening tips for people who live in Garland:  Unless someone before you had a garden on the same plot where you plan to put another one in, don't expect to till up the soil and grow edibles without first amending the soil. You'll get the first hints as to why when you start digging.  Most of the soil in Garland and the DFW area is compacted clay--very tough to dig and hard on roots.  You need to add materials such as expanded shale, vermiculite, or pearlite to create airpockets for aeration.  Roots need room to move and clay makes it difficult for roots to breath properly.  You'll also need to mix in compost for nourishment and add some garden soil to enhance the mineral content.  As for nitrogen, green manures usually work well.  Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, recommends a mix of 1/3 compost; 1/3 vermiculite; 1/3 peat moss to hold the water.  Some argue that peat moss is a non-renewable resource and they have a point.  Bartholmew argues that you only have to add it to your beds once and the savings to the environment of an organically managed garden offset the use of peat moss.   As I've mentioned before, there are levels of green. There are some folks who go so far as to only eat fruit than has fallen from the plant.  If you are bothered by using peat moss, then use sphagnum moss.

1. Obtain the wood needed for your raised bed for free or at reduced prices.

For example, if a friend is tearing down an old shed, ask to use some of the lumber. Drive around Garland on Monday and Tuesday. You will be surprised to find what gifts are waiting for you curbside. This is where members of Loving Garland Green have found some of the wood for our beds and much of the items for our yard sales.

2. Obtain compost you'll need to amend the soil in your raised bed from Mesquite.

The city of Mesquite sells two cubic yards (enough to fill the long bed of a 3/4 ton pickup) for $10. This same amount of compost would cost approximately $125 or more bagged retail in 2 square foot bags and sold at $5.98 to $7.98 a bag. Get together with a friend who has a truck. You don't have to shovel it into your truck. The city of Mesquite has a front loader that dumps it in the truck in a matter of seconds. The whole process, including paying for it, takes about 8 minutes. (Of course, you do have to shovel it out once you get home.) If you live in Mesquite, you can get up to 4 cubic yards free each month.

3. Grow your plants from seeds and plant cuttings donated by friends.

4. Plant perennials that will come back year after year.

My appreciation for perennials is boundless. Last year in June I was having some serious second thoughts regarding the several beds I put in containing: 20 blueberry bushes, 4 blackberry vines, 2 grapevines. two peach trees, two pomegranate bushes, one plum tree, two almond trees, rhubarb, countless numbers of strawberry plants and several drought-tolerant flowering bushes.

This year, seeing them in bloom and noting the comeback of the rhubarb was a wonderful reward that I hope to reap year after year for many years. This year I also planted asparagus--a perennial vegetable. No tilling, no back-breaking work for perennial beds. All beds are mulched with a layer of straw.

5. Start small and grow your success from there.

It will be less expensive and more manageable to begin with one raised bed or perhaps two or three containers. You might be surprised at what can be grown in a container. I know I was. Last year I grew what turned out to be the best tasting cantaloupes I have ever eaten our of a pot about 2.5 feet high and about 1.5 foot in diameter. Look in the early archives for my articles to read about that story. This year I planted potatoes in a container and then three in an enclosure in my raised beds--all are thriving.

6. Plant food that you like and that is also expensive to buy.

For example, this year I planted artichokes and okra--both of which are ususally expensive to buy and both of which I enjoy to eat.

7. Keep records of how your garden grows.

Learn from your mistakes and triumphs.  One of my larger gardening regrets is that I did not keep records of my crop yields last year.  I planted very late--June 12. However, I had a bumper crop of kale, radishes, and okra.  I wish I had kept records of my crop yields.  This year, however, I'm ready.  In fact, I've already created a format on which to kept track of my harvests. If you go to the Loving Garland Green site, you can download a crop yield record sheet for free.  Crop Yield Records.

You may not need all the spaces provided as I designed this particular sheet for me.  I have about 40 different beds (plots) so far in my yard.  To determine market value, look in your local newspaper advertisements for the price of the produce the week you harvest it.


Come join us at the Garland Community Garden!

Stay tuned for the installation of our first raised bed, Saturday April 12 at 4022 Naaman School Road here in Garland!  Find out more about Loving Garland Green's plans for loving Garland and our economy green by attending one of our meetings which are open to the public.

We meet every Monday from 6:30 to 7:30.


216 East Kingsbridge Drive

Garland, Texas 75040

For more on our program "Another Urban Garden"

For more on our plans for the Garland Community Garden  Exhibit C




Take a look at my potatoes today (April 3).  Soon I'll need to add another layer of soil to the potato tower. Who knows?  Perhaps I will win my race against the heat and harvest potatoes.  

AND Speaking of Potatoes. . .


I received this delightful email the other day from Sarah Geer at Real School Gardens:  She writes to me about her School's   "Smart Potatoes Project'


Hi Liz! I loved reading your piece and seeing your potato "nest" photo. J I wanted to comment on the blog post directly but I didn’t seem to have the right account to be able to do that, so I decided to email you.

I thought you might be interested to know that thousands of school children in North Texas are racing alongside you as part of REAL School Gardens' "Smart Potatoes" project. Every spring our school partners grow potatoes and dig into lessons on science, math and social studies that are motivated by their potato crop.

In May, students will harvest their potatoes and partner up with local food pantries to donate a portion of their harvest, providing fresh, organic potatoes to neighbors in need. Last year our schools harvested more than 800 pounds of potatoes! I think our students won that race for sure. 

Thanks for all you do as an urban farmer and community-builder – it’s awesome to connect with others in North Texas who are working to strengthen our food system and the knowledge and relationships that sustain it! 

Have a great day,


Sarah Geer

Director of Foundation and Individual Relations

REAL School Gardens

1700 University Drive

Suite 260

Fort Worth, TX 76107

817-348-8102 x213

REAL School Gardens


We create learning gardens that grow successful students.



Photos above are from Denise Franklin's 280 square foot cottage near Oliver British Colombia.  She had the home built for $28,000.  All building materials were sourced from within 100 miles of the site.


46th anniversary of the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act and the 17thAnniversary of the passage of the Garland Fair Housing Ordinance.

April 2014 marks the 46th anniversary of the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act and the 17thAnniversary of the passage of the Garland Fair Housing Ordinance.  The Fair Housing services of Garland are celebrating the significant accomplishments of the various Fair Housing Laws and reconfirming our community’s commitment to upholding fair housing standards.

Join them for a celebratory and informative lunch on April 8, 2014. The event is free but registration is required and is designed for property managers, landlords, community leaders, elected officials, civil rights leaders, city planners, HUD representatives, fair housing agencies and other interested parties.

For more details, Visit this link:


We still have miles to go . . .

Comments from the Peanut Gallery:  Regarding the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act, in my opinion, has indeed helped thousands of people over the years to gain access to housing they need and legally qualify to have.  And, of course, while there are still issues regarding the enforcement of this law, there are few who would deny that it has shaped and changed America's viewpoint for the better regarding "acceptable"  behavior toward others.   It is always good to question the criteria governing the exclusion of others because many times we will learn the criteria is invalid and based on irrational and unsubstantiated beliefs stemming from fear and ignorance.
Frankly, it comes down to answering two questions:  Do others have the right to hate me? I guess they do. But do they, because of their hatred, have a right to deny me access to benefits that I legally qualify for (outside of their hatred)?  In a democratic society, governed by just laws for all, the answer to that question must be "no."  

Affordable Housing Is a Challenge

I regard affordable housing as our largest challenge--especially for the city of Garland.  We have an almost overwhelming need.  Effective August 9, 2009 at 12:01 a.m., the Garland Housing Agency  no longer accepts applications for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program because the need is too great–many more people need affordable housing than housing is available.  Even today over a thousand people are still on the existing waiting list.  This is not acceptable.  We can do better.
Instead of relying on assistance from Washington or Austin (because frankly, foks, it 'ain't' coming) we might put our combined skills together as a community and design our own unique solutions for affordable housing.  To begin, accomplishing this might require some of us to rethink our idea of "home"--particularly when it comes to  size.  Here in the USA, we tend to associate size with success:  the bigger home you have, the more successful you are; the bigger car you drive and the more cars you have, the more successful you are; etc.
Members of Loving Garland Green are hoping to work with other nonprofits and community agencies to build a model micro village for our community.  Micro villagess are another level of community located on a level somewhere in between Neighborhood and family.  They make affordable housing and sustainable living along with all the amenities of home ownership possible.  Because of their own micro community garden, the home owners in the micro village are able to stretch their earnings  even further.  Rethink mortgage as a $20,000 to $30,000 commitment--sometimes less than we now pay for an automobile.
Here is more information to assist in understanding about Micro Villages.  If you like what you read, you can call me at 972-571-4497 and tell me what you are willing to do about making affordable housing possible in Garland, Tx.  What can you bring to the table?



Charlie Bevilacqua, board member of Loving Garland Green, stands in front of a pile of mulch delivered to the Garland Community Garden yesterday.

Doug Athas, as mayor of Garland, and leading official and representative for our city, has been highly supportive of our efforts at Loving Garland Green to establish a Garland Community Garden from day one. In fact, I can say for certain:  Without the mayor's encouraging input and support over the past six months in the process of obtaining permission to establish this garden, I would have thrown in the towel a couple of months ago.

I have just recently learned that Mayor Athas is not the only top official in our city who cares about our garden.  We can add Mr. Bill Dollar, our City Manager, to the list of our city's top leaders who support urban agriculture in our community as well.

Yesterday, before delivering the License Agreement with my notarized signature, to Felisa Conner of the Neighborhood Vitality Program (another strong advocate for the garden), I stopped by the Mayor's office to let him know that I had signed the agreement.  He took me over to Bill Dollar's office and introduced me.  Bill promised the city would deliver several cubic yards of mulch to the garden.  To tell the truth, I thought "Yeah, when?  At Christmas?"

Well that was about 1:30 in the afternoon.  At about five PM when I drove by the site (4022 Naaman School Road)  there was the huge pile of mulch--just as Bill had promised.  Not only was I extremely grateful, I was totally amazed.  The sight would have knocked my socks off had I been wearing a pair.

Our city of Garland has great leadership who care not just about Loving Garland Green the organization but who care as much as we do about loving Garlnd green.



For those who are interested in learning more about our plans for the Garland Community Garden,   "Exhibit C" created as an attachment for our License Agreement, describes what we want to do with the licensed space.  Of course, we can expect this information to evolve as time moves forward.