Getting To The Root Of Square-Foot Gardening
As the name eludes to, square foot gardening is a practice whereby you grow your own organic vegetables using a square foot system. An example of the kind layout is above. Each section is approximately one square foot.
“That looks complicated…”
Actually, square foot gardening is one of the least complicated methods of gardening that there is. It works extremely well if you have limited space, which can be valuable if you live in a small house or have yet to get around to that yard cleanup you’ve needed for months. As it’s compact, it needs to be simple.
“Do I have to build a raised bed?”
No, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s perfectly possible to just mark out the squares using garden canes or whatever other method you want. That means you don’t need to use a raised bed at all; you can apply the same space-tight structure into your existing plot.
If you do want a raised bed, then it’s fairly easy to build one. You don’t need any master carpentry skills; the bed is being used to make the separation of each square easier, but it can just be rough cuts of wood if you prefer.
If you want to try climbing vegetables such as tomatoes, it’s probably best to go with a raised bed initially. You can attach a trellis with a couple of screws, allowing you to maximize your space per bed.
You can use whatever soil/compost ratio you would usually find beneficial for growing vegetables – nothing special required here.
“I’ve got plenty of space – where’s the benefit for me?”
While the attractions for a small garden are obvious, there are other reasons beyond space that you should consider this practice. As the plants are spaced very specifically, they tend to crowd out weed growth, which is going to cut your maintenance time in half.
There’s also evidence that suggests this method can produce a much higher yield and success rate of crops, according to Square Foot Gardening Association.
“So how does it work?”
Check the back of seed packets for some idea of what kind of spacing each type of vegetable tends to need. As a basic start guide:
- * Small vegetables such as beets, radishes, and spring onions can be planted 16 per square.
- * Medium vegetables such as carrots, brown onions or corn can be planted 9 per square.
- * Large vegetables, such as squash or lettuce, can be planted 4 per square.
- * Extra large and climbing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, or cabbage should be planted 1 per square.
In your first year, try and start with seedlings rather than growing from seed in a square foot garden – it’ll give you a better idea of the space.
“Anything else I should know?”
It’s worth giving over a few squares for herbs that are known to deter pests. Anything in the mint family is good as is citronella. This means not only is your square garden easy to maintain in terms of watering a smaller area, but it’s easier to keep free of creepy crawlies that see your produce as a free snack!