For a short period of time, my garden grew exponentially. It started with one raised bed, then two, then four…and at some point I had to slow down at six raised beds, nine half barrels, three in-ground beds, and three reclaimed tree planter boxes. Okay, those reclaimed planter boxes I took over this year, so maybe its still growing.

I had a point to this. Something about taking on more work that one can handle? I don’t remember.

Here is the thing, I do work full time and have a non-napping toddler, so I do find my time to be limited. The toddler is less helpful than you would imagine with specific instructions, like “plant these seeds 1.5″ in inches deep and 6″ inches apart in the south-east facing bed.” As a tactic to handle it all, I do “year-round” gardening, meaning I plan the crap out of the garden in the winter, including a week-by-week chore list to break up work into manageable 30-minute daily tasks. God I love a good plan.

I have always been a proponent of the square foot gardening (SQF) method by Mel Bartholomew. It is advertised as easy, in my experience it can be intense, but I can maximize my space in a very productive way. Over the years, I have experimented with various alterations of the standard process. Sometimes successful, more often much failure. For this year, I am sticking with the tried and true SQF rules about a spacing and grid-use. One of the main components of the SQF method is you must divide your garden into squares, and I do that, sort of. I usually eyeball it with moderate success, but this year I upped the ante by marking the square foot sections with exterior house paint.

The pièce de résistance though, was the acquisition of a fancy planting tool…a PLANTING SQUARE. Made specifically for this purpose. It is extremely time consuming to get accurate planting spacing consistently, when planting in so many spaces. Seeding fatigue, if you will.

Square Foot Seeding Tool

No measuring needed!

This little doohickey I got from Amazon…er…I mean Santa Claus if anyone in my family asks, worked out really great. Seeding went significantly faster and I’m confident my spacing accuracy went up as well. The best part is that so far this year I am planing ON TIME which is a miracle unto itself.

So far I’ve used it with just seeds, but the markings will become useful for transplants too. For example, this week I will plant out the onion seedlings, which I will space anywhere from 4-16 plants per square foot. I could use to the tool to mark where the plants should go.

This year I am also trying to mark what I plant. How ingenious is that?

What new tools or tricks are you trying out this year?