What is square foot gardening?
Square foot gardening is a simple method of creating small, orderly, and productive gardens. The basic concept: Create a small garden bed (4 feet by 4 feet or 4 feet by 8 feet are common sizes) and divide it into a grid of 1-foot squares, which you manage individually. Seeds or seedlings of each kind of vegetable are planted in one or more squares, at a density based on plant size. Since there are no paths, there is no wasted space, and the soil in the bed stays loose because you never step on it.
There are many sites that can help you plan, some spacing for common crops are
Pros include high yields and reduced maintenance including weedings.
Cons include cost of initial investment to build beds and fill with soil, and can sometimes take more water than an in-ground garden, it can also be difficult to weed without disturbing the roots of other plants when densely planted.
Some Basic Guidelines
1. Create Deep Raised Beds:
Typically 4 feet by 4 feet, with a square foot lattice placed on top to visually separate the crops. Beds are between 6 and 12 inches deep which gives the plants plenty of rich nutrients, while maintaining good drainage.
Use 1/3 each of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. This starts the raised beds completely weed-free as well as being water retentive and full of nutrients.
3. No Compaction:
Don’t Walk on the Soil: This is now common practice with raised bed gardening but back in the 1970’s it was revolutionary to suggest that you wouldn’t need to dig your soil if you didn’t tread on it.
4. Plant in Squares:
To keep the planting simple there are no plant spacings to remember. Instead each square has either 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in it depending on the size of the plant – easy to position in each square by making a smaller grid in the soil with your fingers. As an exception to this there are a few larger plants that span two squares. Climbing peas and beans are planted in two mini-rows of 4 per square.
5. Use Your Space Wisely:
Although most crops will grow well using the square foot gardening technique, some crops will easily outgrow the space and may not be the best options. These include vining squashes such as pumpkins, melons and potatoes, as well as perennials such as rhubarb and fruit bushes.
Some great square foot garden lay-out templates from Mother Earth News found here!
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