A Square Foot Gardening
Layout and Great Tips for Garden Designs
Square foot gardening
needs planning in
layout and design, but a square foot garden using raised bed gardening methods will
have more vegetables, in less space, with half the effort.
Mel Bartholomew is a man who has been
attributed to creating a different method of growing
vegetables and flowers, and that is not in rows,
but in squares. Thus, the term Square-Foot Gardening, or for some,
squarefoot gardening. However there is far more to this way of planting
other than how you plant your plants.
To quote Mel about his square foot
method of gardening
he says, "Square Foot Gardening is a new way to garden, in less space,
with less work."
What is Square Foot Gardening?
- Plants are planted in squares rather than rows.
- The layout of a square foot garden means that the squares
are in multiples of 12 inches x 12 inches - the
total measurement being 1 square foot.
- The squares are designed so that you never have to stretch
more than 2 square feet to reach your plants.
- As a result, you never have to walk on your garden, which
prevents the soil from becoming compacted.
- Once your beds have been created, there is no need for any
- The number of plants per square foot will vary due to size
- Crop rotation and companion
planting are to be encouraged.
- All climbing plants are trellised, further optimizing the
use of space.
- It is a popular concept for raised
bed gardens, especially for those who don't want to
bend all the time.
- The sets of squares are separated by pathways.
Square Foot Gardening Versus Conventional Gardening
Often we start off with
of having a vegetable garden. But soon we find we don't have the time
to dedicate to these plants that are soon overrun with weeds and pests.
Square Foot Gardening for vegetables is the answer. According to Mel,
by using this system you will save 80% of your space, time and money
normally needed to garden, and in addition your results will produce a
better harvest that is continuous with less work.
Square Foot Gardening: Getting Started - The Soil
Many people find
themselves with soil
that is not the perfect growing medium for growing great flowers and
vegetables. Furthermore, to try and improve this existing soil will not
only take a lot of time, effort and money, but it could be several
seasons before one gets good results. If you have poor soil then growing
vegetables in containers
, as squarefoot gardening
is, is the only way to go.
The soil composition proposed is 1/3
vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost
. Vermiculite is
over perlite which may be cheaper but it does not absorb as much
moisture, keeping your soil moist for longer, and it also floats up to
the top of the soil when you water your garden, making it look
The composition of the compost is
important too. Most commercial bags of compost are only made up of one
or two ingredients. To grow great fruit and vegetables you need at
least five different composting materials. Therefore, it is advisable
to buy five different types of commercial compost and mix them, or the
best solution would be to make your own in your own backyard from
vegetable scraps, grass clippings, leaves and farmyard manure. You can
make compost very quickly. See our article on compost
making using worms
and making compost
The depth of your boxes and soil would
be fine at 6 inches. The richness of the soil mix provides all the
necessary nutrients for your plants and therefore there is no need for
further depth to your soil.
Square Foot Gardening: Placing a Permanent Grid
Once you have built your
filled them with soil you will be tempted to start planting straight
away. Don't! You need to build an additional grid that will be a
permanent feature of your boxes. On a 4x4 foot frame you will have a
grid with 16 squares. This is your guide as to where you will need to
put your plants.
This grid can be made out of strips of
wood, doweling etc. and can be left on your frame throughout the year.
With the grid you will be planting according to the squarefoot
gardening method, without it, you will be tempted to go back to
planting in rows.
Square Foot Gardening: Planting the Seeds
With the square foot
method of gardening
longer are we left
with a surplus of crops we don't know what to do with, nor do we end up
thinning out crops which results in further wastage. Instead each
square is planted with exactly the right number of seeds that you will
be harvesting. For example 4 seeds of lettuce in one square foot of
garden is all you need to harvest 4 lettuces at the end of it. If you
want to harvest more lettuces you will plant accordingly. But at the
end of the day, you only plant the number of seeds that you want
However, no one family would ever end
up eating more than 4 lettuces a week. So what one needs to do is to
validate what you plant, and make sure that you plant successively to
extend your harvesting season. This is done by planting another 4 seeds
a week or two later. That way you can eat what you plant, without
ending up with a glut.
The essence of the square foot method is that when
you plant your seeds you space them according to the final thinning
spacings on the seed packet. So if the seeds should be thinned out at 5
cm each, this is where you plant each seed, and only one seed, and they
are placed in the square foot and planted the same distance apart in
Square Foot Gardening: How Many Seeds Per Square?
How many seeds will be
how big your plants will grow, and how much space they need to mature.
and radish seeds need only 3 inches around them to mature, allowing you
to plant 16 plants in such an area. Whereas, spinach and bush beans
need 4 inches. Therefore, only 9 plants can be planted per square foot.
16 squares a
grouped together forming a 4 foot by 4 foot block, thus allowing
accessibility from all sides, and preventing the need to trample
through your veggies to weed and maintain them. With an average of 8
plants per square foot, this means that with a 4 foot x 4 foot frame
you would be planting 130 plants.
Square-Foot Gardening: So What can you Plant in Each Square?
SMALL PLANTS FOR YOUR SQUARE FOOT GARDEN:
||9 bush beans
4 Swiss chard
LARGE PLANTS FOR YOUR SQUARE FOOT
VERTICAL PLANTS FOR YOUR SQUARE
Square Foot Gardening: Planting to Extend the Harvest
With nearly 2000 seeds
the average lettuce seed packet one really doesn't need to plant the
whole packet if you are growing lettuces for the average family, as you
would never get through that many lettuces in a season. Therefore it
stands to reason that the best method is to plant successively to
extend the harvest period. This is easily done in square foot
gardening by leaving some of your squares vacant for a week or
two and then planting them with more seeds of what you have already
Gardening: Companion Planting
I am a great advocate of
planting and in a square foot garden system you can easily plant those
plants near your crops that will protect them. Marigolds, garlic,
chives, onions and nasturtiums are just some of the plants that you can
plant to deter bugs and beasties in your garden. We also advocate that
you use natural
that are less harmful to the
Buy your own Square Foot
Raised Bed Garden Kits
Click on each of the pictures for prices and details.
Books on Squarefoot Gardening
We hope that this has given you some
insight into Mel's concept of creating a square foot garden, and
something for you to try next time you get into that veggie patch of
yours. For more information you can buy his book through our Best
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