Thursday, July 7, 2011

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Square Foot Gardening is a concept developed by Mel Bartholomew and first published in his book of theSFG_1981 same title in 1981. In the 1981 book, Mel proposed a garden layout consisting of 4’ by 4’ beds with walkways between, a variant of wide bed gardening. Each 4’ square bed was divided into 16 squares which were the basis for planning the planting of the bed. Mel provided planting guides for different vegetables, based on the number of plants or seeds per square (foot). For example, beans were planted 9 seeds per square, but peppers were 1 per square.
Maybe it was just my engineering training, but in 1986 I found Mel’s book intriguing. It was an organized, highly efficient method for growing vegetables in small spaces. And since I was planning to build raised beds so I could garden on top of ledge, I was able to adapt his 4’ squares to 4’ by 4’ raised beds built from 2x8 lumber. I also added trellises at the sides of the boxes so I could train tomatoes, cucumbers, and pole beans to grow vertically. I had great success with the garden until I had to abandon it (the subject of another post).

So I have years of positive experience with “square foot gardening” and raised beds. When I started thinking about it for my community garden plot, I picked up Mel’s new book, All New Square Foot Gardening. The “new” concepts are raised beds (already there) and the use of a special soil mix, called Mel’s Mix. I did a lot of internet research and there seems to be widespread consensus that Square Foot Gardening is the way to go. It was definitely an investment of effort and cash to go with square foot gardening and I hope I’m right. I’ll let you know.

For more about Square Foot Gardening, see here.

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