Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Basics to Starting a Square Foot Garden

As I mentioned at the end of this post, I am attempting to grow a square foot garden this spring. I’ve had vegetable gardens before, but I always felt intimidated by square foot gardening. I would see other bloggers post pictures of their gardens, and I assumed it was super difficult and that I would have to buy lots of book to learn how to grow a square foot garden.

I am sure some books wouldn’t hurt, but I was surprised to find everything I needed to know on This website is maintained by Mel Bartholomew, the inventor of square foot gardening. Here are some of the important benefits and features of SFG...

  • Square foot gardening requires less work than conventional gardening. You don’t need any heavy tools to loosen the soil because the soil is never compacted. Also, square foot gardening requires very little weeding because of the loose soil and raised beds.
  • The size is an important feature of the square foot garden bed. Since you won’t walk on your garden, the garden must not be wider than 4 feet. Any wider makes it too difficult to reach across and tend to the plants. Mel recommends making 4’x4’ garden beds, although you could do something like 4’x6’ or 4’x8’.
  • Fill the garden box with a mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. No dirt is needed! It's best to make your own compost from many ingredients so that the plants receive all the nutrients they need. The peat moss and vermiculite help hold moisture and keep the soil loose.
  • A 4’x4’ square foot garden will produce more than a normal 8x10 foot garden! The grid is the unique feature that makes the whole system work so well. It is very difficult to organize and manage a 4’x4’ space unless it’s divided up into squares. Without the grid, you will be tempted to plant in rows, which is a poor use of space.
  • The grid divides a 4’x4’ garden bed into 16 easy-to-manage spaces. You can up to 16 plants in one of the 1’x1’ spaces! You can grow 1, 4, 9, or 16 equally spaced plants per square foot. If the seed packet recommends to plant the seeds 12 inches apart, then plant one seed per square foot. If 6 inch spacing; 4 per square foot. If 4 inch spacing; 9 per square foot. If 3 inch spacing; 16 per square foot.

If you’re interested, go here to check out Mel’s "three basics" and his "ten steps."  I decided that I should start small this summer. So I am using one 4’x4’ box. This is my planting grid...
While on the subject of gardening, check out this post from the archives. I love writer Wendell Berry's seven tips on how to eat responsibly.

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