Building a Square Foot Garden

So, you have a garden, but perhaps you’re a novice to gardening and growing food. So, what do you do? You first select a good site that comes with a lot of sunshine, and abundant well-drained, loamy soil.

Popularized by Mel Bartholomew, this form of gardening is based on the principle that instead of having the conventional wide rows that home gardening sports, you can grow quality vegetables in less space and with little effort. In fact, if you divide your garden bed into beds 4′ x 4′ or 16 sq ft, and separate them with paths, you could then further divide them into squares measuring one square foot and plant your vegetables in these patches.

Normally, you would plant one plant per square for larger plants such as broccoli or basil, and four vegetables per square for medium large plants such as lettuce. Stand in the pathway and water your beds, so that the garden is not compacted.

How to grow vegetables according to square foot gardening:

  • Layout:

    Grow your veggies in squares, not rows. Begin with a 4′ x 4′ box.

  • Boxes:

    Build boxes that will hold all new soil above the ground.

  • Aisles:

    Leave a minimum of 3′ between boxes for walking between rows.

  • Soil:

    Mix together 1/3 good compost, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.

  • Grid:

    For the top of each box, make a grid measuring 1′ x by 1’squares.

  • Care:

    Don’t walk on the soil.

  • Select:

    Use a variety of crop, plant, herbs or flowers in each square foot. Read the instructions regarding spacing on the seed packet, and accordingly, plant 1, 4, 9 or 16 crops or plants per grid square.

  • Plant:

    Plant up to 3 seeds per hole, taking care not to waste any seeds.

  • Water:

    Be economical with water by watering your plants directly at their base.

  • Harvest:

    After each harvest, add a trowel full of good, diverse compost.

Benefits of square foot gardening:

  • Larger harvest, smaller space:

    Not only does square foot gardening increase your harvest due to using a rich soil mixture, you don’t waste any space, as in a conventional garden.

  • Less effort:

    Conventional gardening demands using heavy soil to loosen the soil, but here the soil stays loose and loamy. Weeding is easy too because of the soil.

  • Less water:

    Due to the water-retentive nature of the soil, this kind of garden needs lesser water than a conventional garden. By watering the plant root, you also save a lot of water.

  • Minimal weeding:

    Here, vegetables form a living mulch, shading out weeds before they can even germinate.

  • Pest-free:

    If you plant marigolds or other natural pest-repellant plants, you can keep negate the use of pesticides in a small space.

With these few pointers, you’re now all set to build your own square patch of flowers, herbs or vegetables, and without any effort or anxiety. So, what’s holding you up?