Horticulture/Square Foot Gardening
Square Foot Gardening is a type of intensive gardening popularized by author and horticulturist Mel Bartholemew. It is based on the idea that the wide rows in conventional home gardening are a waste of time, work, water and space, and that more quality vegetables can be grown in less space with less effort.
In this method, the garden space is divided into beds (a 4' x 4', 16 sq ft or 120cm x 120cm, 1.4m² garden being recommended) and separated by paths. These beds are further divided into squares of approximately one square foot, and planted with your vegetables. Common spacing is one plant/square for larger plants such as Broccoli, Basil, etc.. four/square for medium large plants like Lettuce, nine/square for medium-small plants like Spinach, and sixteen/square for small plants such as Onions and Carrots. The beds are weeded and watered from the pathways, so the garden soil is not compacted.
Benefits of Square Foot Gardening
- Much less work. Conventional gardening requires heavy tools to loosen the soil, whereas in this method, the soil is never compacted and it remains loose and loamy. Weeding takes much less time due to the compact nature of the garden.
- Water Savings. Due to the nature of the soil and its water-holding capacities, this type of garden needs water less frequently than other methods. Also, water is placed very near the plant roots, wasting very little in the process. It also increases your harvest due to the rich soil mixture.
- Very little weeding. One benefit of this close planting is that the vegetables form a living mulch, and shade out many weed seeds before they have a chance to germinate.
- Pesticide / Herbicide Free. Natural insect repellent methods like companion planting (i.e. planting marigolds or other naturally pest-repelling plants) become very efficient in a close space and thus, pesticides are not necessary. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily.
- Accessibility. A plywood bottom can be attached to the bottom of a box, which can then be placed on a raised platform for elderly or disabled persons to use.
Summary of Methods
- Layout. Don't think in rows, think in squares. Start with a 4 foot by 4 foot box.
- Boxes. Create boxes to hold new soil above the ground.
- Aisles. Leave at least 3 feet between boxes for walking aisles.
- Soil. Use 1/3 good, diverse compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite. (Coarse vermiculite may be hard to obtain, especially in UK).
- Grid. Make a grid for the top of each box in 1 foot by 1 foot squares.
- Care. Never walk on or compress the soil.
- Select. Plant a different crop, herb, or flower in each square foot. Depending on the spacing indicated on the seed packet, plant 1, 4, 9 or 16 per grid square.
- Plant. Don't waste seeds. Plant only 1-3 seeds per hole.
- Water. Don't waste water - water by hand directly to the base of the plant.
- Harvest. Add a trowel full of a good, diverse compost after each harvest.
Square foot gardening is especially compatible with: