World on Your Plate and square foot gardening

On Saturday, October 11th, I went to an event that was held at Daemen College, near Buffalo, New York, titled World on Your Plate. 
Because I am both silly and literal, I can imagine a globe on my plate. OK, so maybe a big, round cake, decorated to look like a globe. Hmmm, that sounds delicious… but no, no cake.
World on Your Plate as an interesting event. On the evening that I couldn’t attend, there were both a keynote speaker and a panel discussion. Maybe next year, I’ll attend the entire conference, including the first day’s keynote speaker and panel discussion. I did attend on the second day. I had my choice of a variety of workshops and I also enjoyed a delicious vegetarian lunch. The food for the lunch is donated by local farms. So everything is fresh and tasty, both delicious and nutritious! You can’t beat that. There was also a room, where people with something to sell displayed their wares. The variety was quite interesting!
Below are photographs with stories describing the workshops and the display tables.

Eveline Hartz is one of the organizers of the World on Your Plate event. Here she is at a table with some of the colorful things that her daughter sews. One of the interesting things that she sews is a little cloth wallet that is filled with a variety of tasty herbal teas.

Here is a closer view of the wallets and bags and other things. 

El Buen Amigo sells a variety of things from all over the world. The store was started by Santiago Mansferrer Chito. He is from Chile, and he and the Latin American Cultural Organization originally started the store in Buffalo to import fair trade crafts from Latin America. Now, fair trade goods are brought in from all over the world. The store also doubles as an art gallery. Also offered at El Buen Amigo are Spanish classes and salsa lessons.

Merchandise sold at El Buen Amigo.

Vase with a design that seemed very photogenic to me!

Awesome jewelry fashion statement! Courtesy of El Buen Amigo.

Delicious taste test of cookies!

Rob D’Alimonte is an artist and a business owner. He said that he worked in Information Technology for 20 years. While he was working in the cubicle and “chasing the dollar,” he became interested in gardening, in addition to art.

After reading the works of Mohawk iron worker Stan Hill, Rob decided to follow his example of pursuing his passion, rather than money. At the age of 55, Stan Hill gave up “chasing the dollar” and became a bone and antler carver. Rob, who is Tuscarora and belongs to the Beaver Clan, got into wood working and began a business, called Tuscarora WoodWorks (click website to see more about Tuscarora WoodWorks (that’s not a typo; it really is all one word).

Rob said that, when he told his former boss that he was interested in gardening, the boss suggested that he look into square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is a technique that involves raised beds and homemade soil. The person who created the technique is a man named Mel Bartholomew, who, in the 1970s, wrote his first book about square foot gardening. He is from Utah and he got his community to participate in square foot gardening. It is now taught in schools there.
Mel Bartholomew said that a square foot garden produces one hundred percent of the harvest in twenty percent of the space.

The square foot garden can be placed anywhere. Because it is made in a box, it doesn’t even have to be in the yard. If it is in the yard, however, location is very important. It must be in a place that is close to the house and close to a water supply. The place must receive eight to twelve hours of direct sunlight daily. Also, you should make sure not to place the square foot garden in an area that puddles when it rains. If you have more than one square foot garden, you must leave three feet between boxes.
As a beginner in square foot gardening, you must know your limitations. One of them is limiting the number of square foot gardens that you grow in one year. Don’t plant more than three boxes in your first year. Rob said that he got enthusiastic and he planted six boxes but he found out that entailed a lot of work.
And, speaking of work, square foot gardens are supposed to reduce the amount of work that is done in a garden. The gardens are grown in large (eight by eight foot) boxes. There is no tilling and no weeding. There is no weeding because the boxes are divided into squares. There should be sixteen squares in the box. When you build your box, you must use a grid format. There’s a lot of details about that in Mel Bartholomew’s box. It explains how to build the box and what it should look like. The box can be smaller, if you want to place it in an apartment balcony. It can be raised on stilts so that people in wheelchairs can tend to their gardens. It is a very versatile approach to gardening. You don’t need to have a lot of space and you don’t have to be in excellent physical condition to make your square foot garden an activity that you can enjoy.

Rob said that another important factor in square foot gardening is making your own soil. Do not use your existing soil he said. He described “Mel’s Mix” as having three components to it:

  • coarse vermiculite. This acts as a sponge.
  • peat moss
  • blended compost (this is the nutrient that feeds the plants)
You don’t need to add fertilizer to your garden, ever! You need eight cubic foot of homemade soil for your box. The soil is totally organic so that you will know, if you grow food, your food will be organically grown. You can have three growing seasons per year: spring, summer, and fall.
One warning: Do not walk on the soil! Also there is a suggestion: keep a bucket of water next to each box. The water is sun warmed and very nice for watering your garden. Try to avoid using a hose when watering your garden. Rob said that is too impersonal and that the square foot garden needs a more personal approach.
Winter is coming, and gardens are going dormant but it is never too early to plan for how you plan on gardening next year. 
Another thing that you can start planning for in the next season is joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). That is a good way to get fresh fruits and vegetables through the growing season. 

5 thoughts on “World on Your Plate and square foot gardening”

  1. Love the concept of "world on a plate" and there were certainly some amazing talent displayed there.

    I've not heard of square foot gardening but I'm keen to learn more – I live with a pebblecrete yard!

  2. I read Mel's book back in the 1970's We didn't do it right, and failed, but I would have loved to have seen Mel's talk. I didn't know about the technique being taught in Utah schools. Gosh, I live in upstate New York and didn't even know about the conference. My loss. Thanks for blogging about it.

  3. You're welcome. Apparently, the conference needs to be better publicized so that more people hear about it. It's an annual event in October. There is a fundraiser for it in late June in Grand Island called "Earth Bowl." You get a wonderful, hand made bowl to take home when the event is done!

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