Square foot gardening is an efficient method of growing vegetables and herbs in small, organized spaces. So-called “square foot gardens” are raised beds divided with 1“x1” wood into individual sections that are, you guessed it, a square foot each. So what’s wrong with row gardening? Mel Bartholomew, the creator of the Square Foot Gardening Method, says it’s all wrong:
“After looking at other people’s gardens, it was usually very predictable. Here’s what I found out about single row gardening: Too big an area Too much time Too much work Too much effort Too many seeds Too many weeds Too many plants Too many problems Too costly Too much harvest Too many tools IT’S JUST TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING. People can grow 100% of the crops they used to grow in large plots in just 20% of the space. These smaller more organized gardens are easy for beginner gardeners, can be located close to the house, and are easy to protect from pests and frost.”
What you can grow
Herbs and bulbs are great for square foot gardens as are beans and most vegetables. The only things that don’t work well are bulky vegetables like artichokes, ground spreaders like melons and root spreaders like blueberries.
Good picks are:
Picking a location
6 – 8 hours of sun a day
Away from trees where shade and roots can interfere
Close to house for convenience
Making the box
Boxes should be 6“ deep and should be 4’ x 4’ square with no bottom. Fill the boxes with new potting soil, ideally a mix of 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. Each box should have a permanent grid on top that divides it into 1’x1’ squares. (Don’t skip this step or you’ll miss out on many of the benefits!)
Planting and care
Plant a different vegetable or herb in each square foot. If you’re growing from seed, plant seeds sparingly. Water the entire bed gently by hand with tepid water (never cold). As you harvest each square foot you can add a little potting mix then replant it.
Of course, you’ll have to deal with insects and critters just like you would in any garden, but it’s much easier in a square foot garden. To keep hungry critters like deer and rabbits out of your garden, it’s easy to build a removable wire mesh cap. If you end up with garden pests, use organic pest control methods so your food stays safe to eat.
For more information on Square Foot Gardening, check out Mel’s excellent website at http://www.squarefootgardening.org