Square Foot Gardening
This popular gardening method was developed by a gardener who didn’t like to weed, Mel Bartholomew.
Picture: Chesnok Red garlic bulbs nestle with tomatoes and peppers.
Square foot gardening uses a 4’x4’ raised bed. The bed is divided into 16 equal squares by making a grid out of 4’ long wood laths. Different plants are grown in each square. When one square is harvested it can easily be replanted.
Normally the raised bed is 6, 9 or 12” deep and filled with Mel’s special soil mix of 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 blended compost. This is blended by volume not weight. Mel recommends blending commercial compost by using 4-5 different types of bagged compost (or you can use your own compost).
Square Foot Gardening Advantages:
1) Take less space.
2) Hardly any weeding since soil used is weed seed free.
3) No cultivating or hoeing.
4) Soil is not compacted.
5) Grow only what you need.
6) Less work!
7) Conserves seeds (less thinning since you plant less seeds)
8) No fertilizer (the blended compost supplies all the needed nutrients).
How Many Gardens Do You Need For Your Family?
To calculate how many 4’x4’ gardens you will need Mel recommends using this guide:
1 4’x4’ will make one adult’s salad every day of the growing season
1 4’x4’ will make one adult’s daily supper veggies
1 4’x4’ will provide extra vegetables for one adult for giving away or preserving
1 3’x3’ will make one child’s salad every day of the growing season
1 3’x3’ will make one child’s daily supper veggies
1 3’x3’ will provide extra vegetables for one child for giving away or preserving
Using this guide, each adult needs 1-3 4’x4’ square foot gardens and each child needs 1-3 3’x3’ square foot gardens.
Plant spacing within each square foot is based on the size of the plant.
Mel recommends a 3-4 foot aisle width between boxes.
How Many Plants Do You Plant Per Square?
•Small (16 plants per square foot): carrots, radish, onions, chives, small beets
•Medium (9 plants per square foot): bush beans, large beets, turnip, spinach, sugar snap pea, pole beans
•Large (4 plants per square foot): leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, parsley, corn, potato, strawberry, basil
•Extra large (1 plant per square foot): cabbage, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber (2 plants/square foot), eggplant, cilantro, mint, oregano, vine tomatoes
•Vine crops are grown by adding a steel frame with nylon netting to the north end of a plot.
For more information see Mel's square foot gardening website. Mel's original book came out in 1982. However, Mel has a newer and improved book on his method, All New Square Foot Gardening, 2006. Most gardeners think the 2006 book is easier to follow and more helpful; although a few people found the plant information in the older book more complete. Click here for a free online square foot garden planner. Directions for using the planner on on the home page.