Square Foot Gardening 101
I did an interview a while back about urban homesteading and our experience on becoming more self reliant. One of the topics that I received the most questions on was our garden and how we produce so much food in such a small space. Currently we have 10, 16 sq ft raised garden beds which we grow all year round. We are a small family of three but I produce so much food that I eventually have to give it away to friends and neighbors.
I currently use the Square Foot Gardening method which was developed by Mel Bartholomew back in the early 80’s. There are so many benefits to using this method, it’s crazy. I would highly recommend getting his book and adding it to your library. The book is called “All New Square Foot Gardening“
The Square Foot Gardening Method
You do not have to strain your back reaching down as far, making it much more manageable to weed. You also save water because you will be watering each plant directly without watering your walkways unlike with traditional, in ground, gardening. Similarly, turning over your garden after each harvest is much easier because you are dealing with a much more manageable space, and by having your gardens in raised beds, the drainage is highly improved, protecting from rot and over-watering which can lead to disease among your plants.
Setting Up Your Square Foot Garden
Setting up your own square foot garden is easy too. You will need to build simple boxes, 4’ long, and 4’ wide, from untreated lumber, and they will need to be filled with a good mix of earth and compost. Make sure when filling your boxes that the finished soil you will be using is not too heavy because heavy soil will not drain properly. If it is too heavy, mix in a universal potting soil or sand to break up the soil, resulting in better drainage and aeration, which in turn, gives you a greater harvest. Repeat this step for each box, and you can create as many of these boxes as you feel you may need. Make sure, however, to leave a space of at least three feet between each box for you to walk.
The next step, after your boxes are set up, is to grid off your box, into one square foot sections. For garden boxes that are 4’x4’, you will then have sixteen 1’x1’ sections to plant in each of your raised garden beds. You can now begin to plan and plant your garden.
When deciding what to plant, consider a mix of different plants for each bed, and read the instructions for each seed to know spacing. Plant your garden in squares, not rows to maximize space within each box. By gridding your larger garden bed into smaller portions, you can effectively plan and maximize space in your garden. After each season, it is important to turn over the garden beds, and to add compost for the next growing season.
By utilizing the square foot gardening approach, you are using less work, less water, and less space. You are able to walk in between the garden boxes, not directly in your garden, and you are able to reach and water directly, every plant, at its base. You do not need any large tools or machinery at the end of the season to prepare your soil, and you can quickly change your plans without very much hassle.
Square foot gardening also allows you to garden in a much more controlled size, which means that weeding is much easier, and by having your beds raised, they warm up faster resulting in improved crop yield. Square foot gardening can be done in any size or configuration, whether you are growing a lot or a little, and can be fit into virtually any space easily.
Look at These Results!
By now you have all seen my garden so I thought I would post someone elses, my mother. Yep, I got her involved a few years ago and she loves it. This is her results up in New Jersey.
Rapidly increasing in popularity, square foot gardening is the most practical, foolproof way to grow a home garden. That explains why author and gardening innovator Mel Bartholomew has sold more than two million books describing how to become a successful DIY square foot gardener.
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