Gardens were an important part of the culture of the peoples of Bible times. According to an article in The Woman's Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers), enough drawings of ancient gardens in the Near East exist to confirm seven general features:
Planning for attractiveness and convenience of using water supplies. " And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere...like the garden of the Lord" (Genesis 13:10).
Beauty and fragrance of flowers and fruits. " And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food" (Genesis 2:9).
Shelter and shade. " It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches" (Luke 13:19).
Pleasure such as a meeting place for friends... " He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which He andHis disciples entered. And Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, for Jesus often metthere with His disciples" (John 18:1-2).
or site for social events... " The king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace" (Esther 1:5).
Provision for food. " Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit" (Jeremiah 29:5).
Protection. " A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse" (Song of Solomon 4:12).
Retreat for quiet meditation. " Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, 'Sit here while I go and pray over there" (Matthew 26:36).
Gardens take time and effort to prepare, but the rewards are more than worth the work involved.
Square Foot Gardening: Efficient Planning for Beauty, Pleasure, and Provision
Mel Bartholomew published a revolutionary gardening book in 1981 called Square Foot Gardening. The method he teaches is called "square foot gardening because you build up your garden in a series of squares. Each square is 12 inches by 12 inches." (Square Foot Gardening, page 11.)
The first year I used this method, my husband built three 4-foot by 4-foot raised beds from 2" X 10" boards. Into the boxes I put a mix of garden soil, compost, and vermiculite. Using cotton string and a staple gun, I divided each box into 16 12-inch squares. In two of the gardens I planted a variety of vegetables along with marigolds in each outside corner. In the third box I planted 16 corn seeds (one per square) and harvested 32 ears.
This method has the advantages of little-to-no weeding, easy watering, and no waste of seeds. With square foot gardening I grab my ruler and my seed packet. If the packet says to "thin seedlings to stand 3" apart," I plant one seed every three inches. In one 12 inch square I planted 16 carrot seeds. Even when a couple didn't germinate, I still had 14 carrots to harvest.
Watering is super easy. Tomatoes require about 1-2 gallons per 4-foot section (or 1-2 quarts per plant) per week - twice weekly in very hot weather. I can use the water hose to fill my 5-gallon bucket, located in a corner of the garden, and then dip the needed water out with a reused milk carton. The leaves of the plants provide for a shady mulch that keeps weeds from getting a good start and the loose soil allows easy removal of any that do start.
My kitchen garden has expanded to 20 feet by 24 feet with 4-foot beds around the perimeter, 3-foot walkways covered in mulch, and a 6'x10' center bed. My total planting space is 320 square feet. With good growing conditions, I will have plenty for fresh salads throughout the summer, some herbs and vegetables to put up in the fall, and vases of cut flowers to adorn the dining table from spring till the first frosts of winter. My entire time in the garden once the first planting is finished can be as little as 20 minutes a day if I choose to limit myself.
A beginning gardener can start with just one 4 foot square bed. See the possibilities...
Row 1: 1) Tomatoes and 2) Cucumbers grow up the vertical support. Row 2: 3) Ruby lettuce, 4) Bush Beans, 5) Swiss chard, 6) Chives. Row 3: 7) Oak Leaf lettuce, 8) Carrots, 9) Salad Bowl lettuce, 10) Radishes (plant 8 more seeds 2-4 weeks later). Row 4: 11) Dwarf marigold plants, 12) Beets, 13) Onions, 14) Nasturtiums.
Your harvest from that first planting: 12 plants leaf lettuce, 16 carrots, 16 beets, 24 bunches beet greens 6 pounds beans, 16 radishes, 16 onions continuous harvest of Swiss chard continuous harvest of chives continuous harvest of marigolds and nasturtiums continuous harvest of nasturtiums for salads continuous harvest of tomatoes and cucumbers through the summer, a total of over 8 pounds each.