People who are new to gardening or have limited space may find it difficult to grow lots of tasty produce. Can anyone have a garden anywhere? YES! Growing more in less space by densely planting in squares can make it come true, which is called square-foot garden (SFG). The whole benefit of square foot gardening arises from the use of a rigid grid to divide the garden up. The grid is a positive control on the way you could work your garden and plant your seeds.
ABC About SFG
This planting method was developed by American author Mel Bartholomew in the 1970s. It’s a simple way to create easy-to-manage gardens with raised garden beds that need a minimum of time spent maintaining them. With the square-foot gardening method, you plant in 4x4-foot blocks instead of traditional rows. Different crops are planted in different blocks according to their size; for example, 16 radishes in one square foot, or just one cabbage per square foot. A lattice is laid across the top to clearly separate each square foot.
Mel Bartholomew found the average gardener was spending hours weeding the big gaps between long rows of plants, creating unnecessary work for themselves. It soon became clear that getting rid of rows and using intensive deep-beds could dramatically cut the amount of maintenance the garden required. Add a one-foot square grid on top and it became easy to space and rotate crops.
Pros to Square-Foot Gardening
The “pros” for SFG are primarily ease and simplicity. SFG is a great method for new gardeners, people who have little time, the elderly or disabled (SFG gardens can be built at a raised height to make them more accessible), and children. Many schools have embraced the SFG method because it’s easy to install and maintain without becoming an additional burden for the teacher.
Cons to Square-Foot Gardening
Although many vegetables can be grown in SFG gardens, it struggles to accommodate larger plants (such as squash, melons, main-crop potatoes), perennials (globe artichokes, rhubarb), and fruit bushes/trees. Once new gardeners experience the success of SFG gardens, they often want to expand the range of crops they grow beyond the standard SFG crops. It would be suggested that you gradually build up the number of SFG beds and combine it with areas of your garden which are set aside for fruit trees and larger crops.
What Size Is a Square-Foot Raised Garden Bed?
A typical SFG bed is 4 feet by 4 feet, with a square foot lattice placed on top to visually separate the crops. That said, the beds can be 2x 2 feet or 4x12 feet, but the most common is 4x4 feet. If you choose to take a metal raised bed things might be a bit tough, for most metal raised garden beds in current market have a width of only 2 feet or so, which means you have to sacrifice half of your space compared to the normal dimension. Good news is that 4 feet wide metal raised garden beds are still available, though rare enough. This allows a double acreage of plants to be situated more closely together. Suppose you have a 4’x8′ raised garden bed, you can get 32 1’x1′ grids out of your bed.
To keep the planting simple, each square has either 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants in it depending on the size of the plant—easy to position in each square by making a smaller grid in the soil with your fingers. As an exception to this, there are a few larger plants that span two squares.
Raised beds should be between 6 and 12 inches in depth in order to give plants plenty of rich nutrients, while still maintaining good drainage.
Other Square-Foot Gardening Rules
A specific soil mix, which is water-retentive and nutrient-rich, is used to fill the beds. This provides a weed-free start as well as being water retentive and full of nutrients. The rich soil enables plants to be grown much more closely than normal, which in turn crowds out weeds.
Thin with Scissors. Instead of pulling up excess plants (which can disturb the root systems of the plants you want to grow), snip them off with scissors.
Using Grids to Space
Mel Bartholomew once said, “If your garden box doesn’t have a grid, it’s not a Square Foot Garden.” He also emphasized that the grids be “prominent and permanent”. Generally using grids have several advantages:
- Raised garden beds with planting grids can utilize space more efficiently by eliminating the need for rows.
- Using a garden grid helps you see exactly where there is space to plant. Empty spots in beds without grids were often left empty.
- Garden grids help unorganized gardeners be more organized, who don’t have to worry about straight rows.
- Planting with garden grids allows for proper spacing between plants, which prevents overcrowding for limited resources.
- Using garden grids in your garden beds allows for a system of polyculture as opposed to monoculture which is better for pest and disease prevention.
How to Make Grids
Step 1 – Decide on the size of the grids. They will need to fit exactly into or onto the garden boxes you are going to use.
Step 2 – Decide on the Material. In reality, any rigid material will do but make sure that it does not contain any paints, stains or varnishes that could be hazardous to your plants and avoid the use of rope and string.
Step 3 – Set up the Grid. All you need to do is cut the material into the correct lengths (the length of one side of the garden bed) and arrange them to make a grid of 90º intersections with each intersection one foot away from the next.
Step 4 – Fix the Grid. The grid needs to be secured at each intersection. Any form of fastener will do, but small nuts and bolts with wide washers offer a stronger join.
Step 5 – Fit the Grid. Fit the grid into the garden bed or onto the top edges. The most convenient position is to have the grid resting on top of the soil mixture, which prevents plants damaging themselves against the grid in windy conditions.