When I first became interested in gardening several years ago, I was introduced to a method of gardening called Square Foot Gardening. A friend lent me a book called “The Original Square Foot Gardening Book” by Mel Bartholomew, the founder of square foot gardening. His method of gardening is the most efficient way to utilize your space and plant many vegetables in one 4 x 4 square foot area, as opposed to the older method of planting the same crop in single rows.
When you learn how to apply the square foot method of gardening, you will be able to grow a large variety in a small area. Although I do follow this method of gardening closely, there are a few variations in my approach. The original method calls for a plant grid on your raised beds as shown below, but I don’t find this to be necessary. For me, it is easy to visualize the grids and plant and space accordingly. For those that are less artistically inclined, a plant grid may be of great use for you.
I also tend to plant a bit less than what is actually allotted in a square foot garden, since I am just growing for two (me and my son). I would say my plants get one and a half square feet a opposed to the standard recommended one square foot. Mel also recommends a weed cloth to be placed on the bottom of your bed, before filling the bed with dirt. This will prevent weeds from growing up through the bottom of your beds into the vegetable. I think it depends on the type of yard you have. I have a fenced yard and the beds are placed on flat ground away from bushes, trees etc. I have not had a problem with weed invasions and I just stay on top pulling them out early if they do appear.
The most important things to consider when using this gardening approach is how much space to allow between plants, and what specific plants to place next to each other. This is also referred to as companion planting as certain plants prosper next to certain plants, as well as inhibit the growth of others. You will want to allow room for each plant to grow and each plant will grow differently. Cucumbers trail, squash spreads, and herbs and lettuces require very little space. Although each plant will be dedicated one square foot of space, you need to know how many of each plant to plant in that space. The following charts are a good example of what I am referring to.
Mel also sells bagged soil at Home Depot for those of you who want to fill with your beds by the bag. http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-1-5-cu-ft-Square-Foot-Gardening-Potting-Soil-Mix-NW-11760/203272590. Our local home depot didn’t carry his brand so I went with another organic garden soil. His soil would contain the perfect blend of vermiculite, peat moss, and soil for you beds. Don’t forget to add the compost! I purchased the compost below at Home Depot as well.
So now that you have a general idea what square foot gardening is and how to plant the seedlings, you will need to decide what plants and herbs to plant in your garden. This is an easy decision-plant what you love! And then plan accordingly.
The vegetables I chose are eggplant, green pepper, hot peppers, Roma tomato, sungold tomato, cucumber, black zucchini, kale, speckled romaine, buttercrunch lettuce, 4 cut lettuce, garlic chives, and several herbs including cilantro, basil, oregano, and dill. I also have a herb pot on my deck with rosemary, targon, coriander, chocolate mint, rosemary, parsley and Italian oregano.
Now before you place your beds in your yard, be sure to watch your yard for at least a few days to a week to see where the sun hits and at what hours. My backyard is sunny until about 3 p.m. and is most sunny in a specific spot on the left side of my yard, away from any trees that cast shade. You want to have at least 6 hours of full sun for most vegetables. So be sure to take your time choosing the spot for your garden.
My next post will discuss in depth companion planting and where to place the vegetables you have chosen into your grid. In review, to begin your square foot garden you will need;
- A 4 x 4 raised bed
- plant grid if deemed necessary
- A weed cloth, if deemed necessary
- Organic garden soil
- Organic compost
- Seeds or seedlings
- A plan for where to place your beds
Take your time with the planning stages of your garden and enjoy the process. You are creating something healthy and amazing for you and your family!