The Square Foot Gardening Method


On this website I talk a lot about "square foot gardening."  Many people who aren't familiar with gardening don't know that there is a method apart from traditional gardening.  Before I started my garden, when I thought if "gardening" I thought of clearing away some dirt in my yard, digging trenches and putting seeds in them.  If anything grew, great!  However, I didn't plan on anything growing in our tough desert soil.  It wasn't until I went to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve for the first time that I realized I could grow food in Las Vegas... I could grow lots of food that I never thought would grow here!

After spending some time with one of the preserves' master gardeners, I found that because our native soil is similar to hardened clay, growing in the ground would be a lot of work.  He taught me about the use of raised beds and the square foot gardening method.

The Method

Square foot gardening is a method used to plant small but intensely planted gardens.  Popularized by Mel Bartholomew in the 1980's, the practice combines traditional organic gardening methods such as: a strong focus on compost, implementing a raised garden bed, vertical growing, with attention to a small, clearly defined area.  This method is well suited for gardeners who live in areas with poor soil, beginners or those with disabilities.

Each open-bottomed, raised bed is sectioned off into a grid of "square foot" sections.  Each square is then planted with a different kind of plant, the number of which is determined by the plant's size.  Gardeners are encouraged to fill the squares and grow vertically (using trellises) to obtain maximum productivity

For example I could plant green beans which are grown vertically.  In that same square I might plant spinach- which stays low to the ground, and needs shade (provided by the beans). Then, I might line the borders of the square with marigolds or other edible flowers which provide nutrients to the soil, create visual interest and act as natural pesticides.  For the purposes of this blog however, I'm going to stick with teaching about one plant type per square.

Benefits of the Square Foot Garden Method

  • Less Work: Traditional gardening requires heavy tools to loosen the soil, whereas in this method, the soil is never compacted. Harvests are increased due to the rich soil mixture, well-spaced plants, and lack of weeds.
  • Water Savings:  The soil mixture that is advised has water-holding capacities, so that the garden needs water less frequently, and in much smaller quantities than when using other gardening methods.  The raised bed also allowes for good drainage, while retaining sufficient amounts of water for the plant's survival.
  • No Weeding: Close planting causes the vegetables form a living mulch, and shade out many weed seeds before they have a chance to germinate
  • Organic:Natural insect repellent methods like companion planting become very efficient in a close space and so pesticides are not necessary. The large variety of crops in a small space also prevents plant diseases from spreading easily
  • Accessibility: The logic behind using smaller beds is that they are easily adapted, and the gardener can easily reach the entire area, without stepping on and compacting the soil. It is also recommended that 2-3 feet of space be left on either side of the box so the gardener can easily reach the inside of the bed, standing or kneeling.
  • Covers & Cages: Because beds are small, it is very easy to add things like shade cloth, and winterizing cloths or cold boxes to protect the soil and plants year round.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...