Square Foot Gardening – Complete GuideSquare Foot Gardening – Complete Guide
Square Foot Gardening
With a raised garden bed and some old Venetian blinds, you can produce the same number of vegetables as your current garden in just 1/5 space. Don’t believe it? Our square foot gardening explanation has all the details on engineer Mel Bartholomew’s revolutionary gardening system.
Most innovations are head-slappingly simple in retrospect, and such is the case with square foot gardening. Bartholomew’s idea was raised bed gardening with a twist, or more precisely, a grid.
By separating garden boxes into 16 smaller boxes of one square foot each, a square foot gardener can discover increased yields and an almost constant source of space for crop rotation. Square foot carpet gardeners get all the benefits of raised beds, such as well-drained soil and efficient water usage, plus the advantages of companion planting and visually appealing garden design.
If you have yet to discover the advantages and pleasures of the square foot gardening explanation below is a great place to begin.
Square Foot Gardening Tips
Square foot gardening may be easier and more efficient, but the novice gardener can still benefit from a few tips and tricks. In our collection of square foot gardening tips, we look at soil and size and ask the question “Just how square does square have to be?” Square Foot Gardening Tips Of sunshine and soil and separating squares
You may not have a green thumb, but if you have a square foot you can grow a successful garden anyway. Square foot gardening is an efficient and easy method of vegetable gardening that will cut down on work while simultaneously improving results. If you’re planting a square foot garden for the first time, these square foot gardening tips will help you get growing.
Always look on the sunny side
Regardless of which gardening method is employed, all free vegetable gardens planners need lots of sunshine. If you’re starting a square foot garden from scratch, choose a spot that will receive at least eight hours of sunlight every day. Well-drained soil is not as important in square foot gardening as it is in traditional gardening because you’re likely going to be importing a soil mix to fill your raised beds anyway.
The square foot gardening method consists of raised beds usually measuring 4 feet by 4 feet that are divided into grids of 16 boxes measuring one square foot each. A larger square foot garden can be achieved by placing an additional 4 foot by 4-foot beds about 2 feet apart.
Plant different vegetables in each smaller square to take full advantage of the benefits of square foot gardening. To help you visualize this approach, try cutting old Venetian blinds down to size and crisscrossing them in each raised bed. Your square foot garden should resemble a checkerboard pattern.
The good earth
A common mix for filling raised beds in a square foot garden is 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite. You may want to supplement these with coarse sand and leaf mold, as well as standard garden soil.
Remember that with square foot gardening, practically none of the water and fertilizer you provide will go to waste. Employ moderation when watering and feeding. There’s no need to walk on the soil in a square foot garden. Your plants will benefit from the increased oxygen available in the uncompacted soil.
Accommodating vegetables great and tall
Not every vegetable can grow in a space of one square foot. In the case of larger vegetables such as zucchinis and pumpkins, you may want to provide a separate growing area so they have room to spread out.
Other plants such as tomatoes or beans will need space to grow vertically. A simple way to accommodate that is to plant them at the corners of your square foot garden boxes. A trellis or stake can be attached to the corner of the box, providing support for the plant and avoiding interference with the other boxes.
Sizing things up
One of the great benefits of square foot gardening is how easily adaptable it is to your available space. You can start slow with a 4 foot by 4-foot garden and add further blocks as time and space permits.
Just because you’re thinking inside the box doesn’t mean the box has to be square. If you have a small or odd-shaped yard, there’s no reason a square foot garden can’t be long and rectangular or any other shape that can be broken down into square foot boxes.
A discovery you’ll make as you gain experience with square foot gardening is how easy crop rotation becomes. Quickly ripening vegetables will free up available squares for new seeds, providing successive yields all through the year — or at least until frost time.
With a large square foot garden, you can also stagger your planting times so that new squares will constantly be opening up for “new business.”
Square Foot Garden Boxes – In the square foot garden, every day is Boxing Day
Square foot gardening begins and ends with square foot garden boxes. Without them, you will not experience the full benefits of square foot gardening. So how do you go about getting these all-important boxes? Some people prefer to purchase garden boxes, but many gardeners find it easier and cheaper to assemble their own square foot garden boxes. If you’re the do-it-yourself sort, you’ll appreciate these tips on building square foot garden boxes.
Square foot garden boxes vs. raised beds
Square foot gardening and raised bed gardening are two of the most popular gardening trends around and are often mistaken for one another. The major difference between square foot garden boxes and raised beds is that square foot garden boxes are built on a grid.
Raised beds offer easier access and a convenient means of using well-drained and fertile soil, but raised beds are otherwise planted much like traditional open soil gardens. Square foot garden boxes are broken down into consecutive areas of one square foot each. This grid is what gives square foot gardens their unique checkerboard appearance. A square foot garden grid makes for easier crop rotation and supplies gardeners with all the benefits of companion planting.
Size and materials
The commonest size for square foot garden boxes is 4 foot by 4 foot, though small space gardeners may prefer boxes that are 3 foot by 3 foot or 2 foot by 2 foot. Square foot garden boxes should be about six to eight inches deep. Deep bed gardeners may build up to heights of 12 or 16 inches.
Square foot garden boxes can be built from many different materials. Wood Garden is the most popular choice. Most gardening sources caution against used treated lumber when building raised garden beds because treated lumber can become toxic to plants. Untreated wood is an acceptable choice. Some gardeners enjoy using traditional rustic furniture woods such as pine and cedar for their square foot garden boxes. Bricks, stone, and cinder blocks are alternative materials used in garden bed construction.
Another building material that is gaining in popularity is rubber. Square foot garden boxes made from rubber are cheaper to build than wooden garden boxes and last a lot longer. For more information on building square foot garden boxes from recycled tires, https://growagoodlife.com/assembling-the-sfg/
Grids and soil
To use a square foot garden box grid you need to be able to see it. There are some ways to display a grid. Old Venetian blinds are a simple visual aid, as is string wound around small wooden spikes. Long, thin pieces of wood are another option. A 4 foot by 4-foot garden box should feature 16 smaller boxes.
Of course, you’re going to need soil before you construct your grid. Having a fertile soil mix is critical for a successful square foot garden box. Mel Bartholomew, the creator of square foot gardening, recommends a mix of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.
Garden box etceteras
If you’re using more than one 4 foot by 4-foot garden box, provide just enough space for you to work comfortably between them. If your gardening space is unconventional or small, experiment with L-shaped boxes or other designs.
If you decided to use treated lumber to build your square foot garden box, line it with heavy-duty plastic as a precaution before adding soil.
Go easy on seeds, water, and fertilizer. Square foot garden boxes make efficient use of the resources you provide, saving you time and money.
To determine how many plants are appropriate per square foot, look at the recommended spacing. If a plant requires 12 inches of space, then assign a single box in your grid to that plant. If a plant requires four inches of space, you’ll be able to fit nine plants in one square, i.e. three rows of three.
07 Steps to Build a Square-Foot Garden
Want to make the most of a small yard? Use this ingenious method to grow your veggies
Square-foot gardening is an easy way to harvest a succession of fresh produce from the smallest of yards and even those with poor soils. Developed by Mel Bartholomew in the early 1980s, the concept remains popular today because it offers a simple plan for growing vegetables in a compact, raised beds that can be intensively planted with a variety of crops.
A square-foot garden can be confined to one or as many raised beds as the yard can accommodate. The basic unit is a shallow, 12-inch deep box measuring 4 feet by 4 feet, which rests on top of the ground. Filled with soil, the raised bed is then divided into 16 one-foot squares, each one planted with a single type of vegetable or herb. Because of the limited space, spreading plants such as cucumbers and squash can be trained to grow up obelisks or bamboo tepees. It’s more difficult to accommodate root vegetables, such as potatoes, which need greater soil depth, so these might be better grown in a conventional plot.
The compact dimensions of the raised bed make it easy to reach crops from all sides to weed, water and fertilize. Gravel pathways separating the beds—if you have more than one— allow easy access and also reflect sunlight and warmth so vegetables establish and grow more quickly than in conventional gardens.
Here’s how to build a Square-Foot Garden in your backyard:
1. Because most vegetables and herbs grow best in the sun, find a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily. Ideally, choose a location handy to the kitchen that is close to a water source, too.
2. The wooden frame for the raised bed can be constructed at any time of the year—even during the winter in a large basement workroom or a heated garage—then, assembled on-site at the start of the growing season.
3. To build the frame, cut eight four-foot lengths of 2 x 6 cedar or pressure-treated lumber. Screw or nail four of the planks together to form a box, reinforcing each corner with a 12” long 4 x 4 post (or use heavy-gauge corner hinges available at specialty stores). Repeat with the remaining four planks to form a second tier so the sides of the box are 12” deep.
4. Spread newspapers or landscape cloth on the ground to help suppress weeds. Then, fill the box with a mix of equal parts topsoil, compost, and manure. Rake soil evenly.
5. Using push pins, tacks or finishing nails, divide each side of the box into four one-foot sections. Then, form a grid of 16 squares by running parallel lengths of string from side to side across the bed using the pushpins as a guide.
6. Plant one type of vegetable or herb in each square of the grid, sitting tall ones at the north side so they don’t block the sun. One large plant, such as tomatoes or pole beans, might take up an entire square while larger numbers of smaller ones—radishes and scallions, for example—can be sown in others. Then, remove the string. To prevent overcrowding, consult packet directions to determine spacing requirements, and thin out seedlings as they grow. Plants growing in each square will weave naturally into those in other squares, forming a pleasing quilt-like effect. Water, weed and fertilize as you would in a conventional garden.
7. When early crops have been harvested, replace them with a late-season vegetable, such as cabbages, kale or second sowing of carrots, topping up and enriching the soil with compost.
Table of Contents
- 1 Square Foot Gardening – Complete Guide
- 1.1 Square Foot Gardening
- 1.2 Square Foot Gardening Tips
- 1.3 Square Foot Garden Boxes – In the square foot garden, every day is Boxing Day
- 1.4 07 Steps to Build a Square-Foot Garden