Square Foot Gardening - What It Is and How to do It
If you’ve always wanted to grow your own vegetable garden but have been turned off by the idea of spending countless hours stooped over endless rows of vegetables, square foot gardening may be the perfect solution for you. Not only does square foot gardening save space, it is also known to provide excellent produce yields matching amounts produced in row-style gardens of far greater size. But perhaps the most appealing aspect of square foot gardening is how little physical work is required compared to traditional gardening methods.
Note: To start square foot gardening or to find a grid for your raised bed's size, go here.
Sounds great, but what exactly is square foot gardening?
The term ‘square foot gardening’ was coined by Mel Bartholomew in 1981 and refers to the practice of dividing a gardening space into square foot sections. This method relies on structure to create small yet concentrated gardens that typically have high yields.
Related Article: Square Foot Gardening Spacing - How Does it Work?
What are the advantages of square foot gardening?
The advantages of square foot gardening make it attractive for both novice gardeners and seasoned green thumbs alike. The gardening method uses raised garden beds that require minimal yard space, making it suitable for those with limited space and urbanites wishing to start a garden. If your HOA allows it, a raised garden bed can also provide edible landscaping in a front yard.
A raised garden bed allows for gardening in places where the soil is of poor quality. A raised garden bed can bypass rocky and clay-type soils that drain poorly and don’t allow plants to establish strong root systems. With a raised garden bed, you are in full control of the soil your plants will grow in.
In addition to saving space, the dense planting arrangement can lead to the growth of organic mulch, making it very difficult for weeds to grow. Square foot gardeners also find planting and fertilizing to be easier as the soil is loose and manageable.
How does a Square Foot Gardening Grid help?
As veteran gardeners know well and those yet to plant their first seed will soon find out, different plants and vegetables require varying amounts of space to thrive. While not an exact science, a degree of precision during planting time will pay dividends come harvest.
Traditionally, with square foot gardening a gardener will measure and stake out square foot planting sections by making a grid out of a variety of instruments such as string or thin wood slats. Using the square foot gardening grid sections a gardener plants by area instead of rows, (reference our related article noted above) to grow in a condensed space. Upon quick assembly, the Garden Grid™ watering system takes care of all the measuring for you, dividing your growing area into equal planting sections. What’s more, the Garden Grid™ serves as your primary garden irrigation system. A square foot gardening grid and garden irrigation system wrapped into one; it doesn’t get much easier than this.
How much will I be able to grow?
Most gardeners will be surprised at the amount of produce that can be gleaned from even a small raised garden bed using the square foot gardening method. A 4x4 foot raised garden bed may yield enough vegetables for a small family to enjoy during the growing season, and freeze for later. Trellises can be used to maximize the amount of plants per square foot and ultimately increase the yield of your raised garden bed.
Square Foot Gardening Tomatoes
A delicious addition to any garden salad, tomatoes are one of our favorite plants to grow. Square foot gardening tomatoes have a surprisingly high yield; a single healthy plant can provide approximately 20 pounds of produce. The Brandywine and Early Girl varieties are excellent tomatoes for square foot gardening as they grow well vertically and require little square footage.
Square Foot Gardening Cucumbers
Another great plant for square foot gardening is the cucumber. A healthy square foot gardening cucumber plant has a yield of approximately 5 pounds, and can also be grown vertically with support from a trellis. If you use the square foot gardening method in a 4x4 foot raised garden bed you can comfortably grow eight tomato plants and 16 cucumber plants at the same time!
This is just one of countless plant combinations you can grow in a raised garden bed. To understand more about how to space different plants with the square foot gardening method, check out our plant spacing guide.
Square foot gardening gives gardeners the opportunity to grow healthy, bountiful gardens, all the while using less space and requiring less time and effort than a traditional row garden.
If you want to begin square foot gardening but not sure where to start, check out our 'How It Works' page which shows a great video on starting out with a Raised Garden Kit!
Are you starting a square foot garden? Or are you an experienced grower? Tell us about your favorite plant to grow or what you're looking forward to growing below!