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Square Foot Gardening: An Easier Way to Grow Vegetables

01 Apr 2022 | Written by By Tracy George

If you don’t have a lot of space and you want to grow delicious, organic vegetables and herbs, square foot gardening may be just the method for you. Great for beginner and seasoned gardeners, square foot gardening produces a nice crop in a small space and is easy to maintain. 

By growing your own vegetables locally, you can minimise trips to the shops and save on the carbon footprint left from produce being distributed from further away. It’s a great way to know where your food comes from and to eat a healthy diet.

What is Square Foot Gardening?

Square foot gardening is a type of gardening that uses a raised bed and square foot grids to divide the garden into square sections. It was invented by Mel Bartholomew, who was a gardener and construction engineer, after he retired. He was frustrated with traditional gardening methods and the intensive labour required and decided to create a better way. His method is used all over the world today.


The Benefits of Square Foot Gardening

This method of gardening is beneficial because it allows you to have a lot of control over your plants and the spacing between them. You can also grow a variety of plants in a small space, which makes square foot gardening a great choice for people who have limited garden space. Additionally, square foot gardening is a great way to teach children about gardening and plants. There are other benefits too:

  • You don’t need any heavy equipment for a square foot garden
  • It can be easier for people with physical limitations
  • There are fewer weeds and it’s easier to protect from birds and insects
  • Crop rotation is simpler to manage

By using less space than traditional crop gardening, you need less water, less time, and less compost and mulch. That is enough to want to give it a try.


How to Start a Square Foot Garden

A square foot garden is a great way to get started gardening, especially if you’re new to the hobby. You can either purchase a raised garden bed frame, or build one. In the video below you can see how to build the frame.  Here’s how to start your own square foot garden:

  1. Decide on the size and shape of your garden. Square foot gardens are typically square or rectangular in shape, with dimensions of 4×4, 4×6, or 4×8. Just make sure the dimensions are divisible by 12 so that you can use the traditional square foot planting grid. Having them four feet across also gives easy access to your plants.
  2. Choose a location for your garden. The best locations are sunny, but partial shade is okay too. Make sure the spot has good drainage and is well-aerated so that your plants will have the best chance to thrive.
  3. If you’re placing your garden frame on the ground, dig up any grass underneath to make sure it doesn’t grow through your garden bed. You can also place a layer of cardboard to keep new grass from coming up. If it’s not going on the ground, you may want to place plastic tarpaulin underneath it to keep the soil from going on a patio or balcony.
  4. Measure your garden into 12-inch squares by placing string or slats lengthwise and crosswise.
  5. Next add your soil mix of 1/3 peat, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and 1/3 of a well-blended compost. The blend can include organic soil, chicken and cow manure, or compost from the garden centre. You can also add some perlite to help retain more moisture. 
  6. Once your soil is ready, you can start planting! Plant each type of plant in its own square and be sure to leave enough space between each square for easy maintenance.
  7. Water your garden regularly and add compost every few months to keep them healthy. With a little care, your square foot garden will be thriving in no time!

Maintenance and Tips for Your Square Foot Garden

You can grow almost any herbs and vegetables in your garden, although very large or far spreading vegetables will take up more than one square. Make allowances for this by using more than one space for those. 

If you want to grow vining vegetables, place your trellises at the ends of your garden. You can shade your garden by having a trellis on both ends and across the top. This allows more room for vining plants and protects the plants underneath from summer heat. 

After heavy rains, be sure to add compost to the topsoil to enrich nutrients that were leached out. You can also add a slow-release organic fertiliser and mix into the first two inches of soil so plants will stay nourished during the rainy season.

A raised bed garden is not for everyone, but it has many benefits. When I learned about them, I was hooked and never went back to traditional gardening again. Once you get your garden set up, it’s lovely to go and pick your own vegetables. Knowing where your food comes from, and that you are helping the planet by growing your own food may be just enough incentive for you to build your own.

If you would like more information on square foot gardening, click here. Please leave a comment below and let us know if you use square foot gardening or have decided to give it a try. We love to hear all about your gardening adventures!

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