Growing your own fresh foods at home is a rewarding experience. Unfortunately, not everyone has a sprawling yard and much space to plant fresh food like fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
If you have limited area or a smaller space and want to make the most out of the small garden area you have, then we have you covered! Today, we’ll be taking a dive into the world of square foot gardening. Let’s get started!
What is Square Foot Gardening
The square-foot gardening method is planting crops in small square foot sections with dimensions of 1 square foot. It’s the easiest way to make a simple and orderly system that lets you plan and create a small but productive vegetable garden at home.
You can have any garden size or garden space to do this, even a large garden for your vegetable gardening and grow your own food. This is also a great option if you have limited space. The average gardener can do this.
This basic concept was popularized by Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer, in 1981. He first devised a 4×4 square feet raised plant bed with a grid. He divided it into 16 one-foot squares where he planted his crops. Once a square foot is harvested, a different crop is planted for continual harvest and to discourage pests for pest control.
One square foot can contain one or more different plants or different crops depending on the type and the size of the plant to be grown and the row spacing required for mature crops. For example, tomatoes can be planted in one square foot, while 16 radishes or carrots can be planted in one square foot. For tall types of plants, trellises are placed on the side to prevent shading out small plants.
Pros and Cons of Square Foot Gardening
Square foot gardening is an attractive option for gardeners. If have limited room at home and don’t need huge row gardens you can harvest a lot from just a small space.
It is also a quick way to start a new garden. You can place your raised garden bed almost anywhere so you can build, fill, and start planting your own vegetables and herbs in no time. It requires less time and effort than preparing traditional rows and prepping the growing area of your garden.
Square foot gardens also require minimal regular maintenance. You don’t need to spend so much time planting, maintaining, and harvesting your crops. The square foot method is a great way to have easy access to your garden.
With this simple method, you also don’t need to spend so much time weeding, especially in your first growing season it will be less work. While weeds can naturally grow over time because of seeds falling into the bed, it still takes minimal effort since you plant in less space, and your plants shade out most weeds.
Of course, as wonderful as square footage gardening is as a system, and it does come with a few caveats. For starters, it can have a high initial cost. You’ll have to secure materials for your raised square foot bed and purchase a soilless mix, and the costs can easily add up.
With a square foot garden, you also have to consider how big mature large plants get. Crops that take up much room and larger vegetables aren’t ideal candidates for this system. The depth of a raised bed garden can also be a problem for different vegetables that need their plant roots to reach deeply into the soil. Small crops and medium plants are the way to go.
Square foot gardens also tend to dry out faster so you may need to install a drip irrigation system and to use organic mulch to keep it moist.
The Basic Square Foot Garden Set Up
Setting up a basic square foot garden is extremely simple. As long as you have all the materials you need close by, you’ll be ready in one afternoon. Here’s a rundown of what you need to do for your first square foot garden:
Step 1: Prepare Your Growing Space
Build a 4 by 4 foot raised bed box using two 8-foot long 2×6 boards cut in half. Instead of using screws or nails this is a simple and quick way to attach the boards in minutes. Just slide the boards into these corners and you’re set! Line it with weed barrier landscaping fabric to discourage weeds from growing.
Step 2: Fill it With Your Preferred Growing Medium
Soilless potting mix is your best bet for square foot gardens. You can also use fertile potting mix that contains peat moss, compost, and vermiculite. 9 cubic feet of growing medium should be enough for a 4×4 bed.
Step 3: Lay Out Your Grid
Prepare a 4×4 grid using your material of choice. This could be string, thin strips of wood, dowels, and even mini blinds. Lay this on top of your own garden bed. Once this is all set up, you can start planting!
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What to Grow in a Square Foot Garden
A square foot garden is an excellent way to plant a wide of different varieties of fresh vegetables and herbs at home. Each square foot small area can house a number of plants from 1-16 depending on how big the mature crop is and your plant spacing.
Plant 1 per square foot
- Tomato plant
- Melon (trellised)
- Winter squash
Plant 2 per square foot
- Summer squash
Plant 4 per square foot
- Leaf lettuce
- Swiss chard
- Bulb onions
Plant 9 per square foot
- Bush beans
Plant 16 per square foot
- Green onions
Start Your Square Foot Garden Today
Square foot gardening is an excellent method for any home gardener but especially for beginners and for people who may not have the biggest yard or space. With just a few simple materials, you can set up a productive vegetable garden and you’ll have a steady supply of fresh produce year-round.
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