Square Foot Gardening

We’re going to give it a try!  Square Foot Gardening, that is.  We recently read Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening and will be incorporating many of the principles into our vegetable garden this year.  Square Foot Gardening (SFG) attempts to maximize space and efficiency by growing plants in raised beds comprised of square planting areas (bet you can guess what size the squares are).

First of all, raised beds are key.  The soil stays loose in raised beds (because you’re not walking on it) and therefore weeding is a much less daunting task.  The looser soil is good for the plants, too, as it allows their roots more freedom to grow!

Second, SFG utilizes square foot planting areas to maximize space and efficiency, and to minimize weed growth.  When you plant in rows, much space is wasted in paths between the rows.  That also leaves more room for weeds to grow and provides more work for the gardener (just what we need, right?).  By planting blocks of plants closer together, you can fit more plants in a smaller space, without all the wasted space for weeds to take over.

You also don’t need to worry about crop rotation with SFG, as each square block is growing a different plant.  When that plant is finished (say, lettuce in the spring), you plant another different crop in that box (like peppers for the summer).  This not only takes the headache out of crop rotation, but it also helps with pest control.  When your tomato or cabbage plants are spread throughout your garden, rather than all in a row, it’s a lot harder for pests to set up camp there!

There is MUCH more to this gardening method, and I definitely recommend reading Bartholomew’s book.  We’ll be combining this method with what we learned last year from reading How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons.  There are many similarities in these two approaches, which both attempt to maximize space and efficiency.

If you’ve used Square Foot Gardening, please leave a comment!  I’d love to hear your experiences and advice!

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9 thoughts on “Square Foot Gardening

  1. Pingback: Square Foot Gardening – Raised Bed Preparation « A Hopeful Homestead

  2. We had a square foot garden last year, but since we had a horribly hot summer here in the South, only the zucchini, squash, and sweet potatoes did fairly well. I would suggest also a different method (that I hope to try out soon) called “Back to Eden” – – I watched the video and was very much impressed because of the lack of watering and weeding. (backtoedenfilm.com).
    Hope you have a successful season in every means!!!

  3. I build (7) 4 by 4 beds 3 or 4 yrs ago now…in addition to traditional areas of gardening. One of the things I liked about them so far was how nice the soil was becoming in these raised beds…there were definitely more worms in the raised beds (a sign of healthy soil) I had rabbit problems w/ the green beans so it was as simple as putting a little 12 inch chicken wire around the raised beds..instead of having to fence in a large area. there’s more I could say. I’m still learning but this year I’m hoping to build some long raised sq ft beds (4 ft wide by 40 ft long)
    Here’s a link to a post with pictures from 2009,,
    http://ialsoliveonafarm.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/my-garden-notes/

    • That’s fantastic! I agree about the soil…we have 3 raised beds currently, and then used a tilled garden space for the rest. (We’re building more raised beds this spring.) The soil in the raised beds is so much richer and loose, and the plants are definitely more productive in them. And I just love how much easier it is to weed and care for!

      It is nice that the raised beds provide for an easy fix for rabbit and other animal problems!

      And I’ll take a stab at that Thoreau quote in your post – Yes, gardening lends itself towards civility – somewhat structured, even sophisitcated – and certainly social (just look at the gardening blogging world!). But it also is rustic and hardy, and provides freedom from “the system” as the gardener grows and provides for himself – just like the forest and the outlaw, which are dependent on no one.

    • Good for you! My husband doesn’t care so much about looks, but I am hoping that the garden is productive as well as beautiful! We’re not putting a permanent sq ft grid on our raised beds this year, but will likely use string to measure it out while we plant.

  4. I have a few friends that have tried SFG after reading the book but they failed miserably. I
    DO NOT think its due to the SFG method, I think they just underestimated the labor in gardening. I also think they had some major design flaws in their raised beds. I really like the concept of companion planting and plan on incorporating much of that into my gardens. I would be interested to know how SFG works out!

    • That’s too bad! We’re willing to give it a try this year and see how it goes. Last year, we used many of the principles in biointensive gardening, from the book How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons. That talks a lot about companion planting. That actually is my one big concern with sq foot gardening. When I design my layout (in the next few days), I will be trying to use the principles of companion planting as I choose which box each plant will go in. I’m hoping that I get the best of both methods by using the things I’ve learned from each!

  5. I really like this idea! We are just starting out gardening fruits and veggies in the yard, and are looking into different methods of gardening – not only to maximize space and grow lots of food, but also to minimize pest problems (and stay within a budget!). Thank you for recommending this book – I will definitely be researching it further!! :)

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