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Square foot gardening is an efficient method of growing vegetables and herbs in small, organized spaces. So-called “square foot gardens” are raised beds divided with 1“x1” wood into individual sections that are, you guessed it, a square foot each. So what’s wrong with row gardening?
Mel Bartholomew, the creator of the Square Foot Gardening Method, says it’s all wrong:
“After looking at other people’s gardens, it was usually very predictable. Here’s what I found out about single row gardening: Too big an area. Too much time. Too much work. Too much effort. Too many seeds. Too many weeds. Too many plants. Too many problems. Too costly. Too much harvest. Too many tools. IT’S JUST TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING. People can grow 100% of the crops they used to grow in large plots in just 20% of the space. These smaller, more organized gardens are easy for beginner gardeners, can be located close to the house, and are easy to protect from pests and frost.”
Best Plants for Square Foot Gardening:
Herbs and bulbs are great for square foot gardens, as are beans and most vegetables. The only things that don’t work well are bulky vegetables like artichokes, ground spreaders like melons, and root spreaders like blueberries. Good picks are:
- Cherry Tomatoes
Picking a location
- 6 - 8 hours of sun a day
- Away from trees where shade and roots can interfere
- Close to house for convenience
- Good drainage
Making the bed for your square foot garden
Building a raised bed in the garden allows a garden to overcome several problems. Raised beds may help address poor soil and damp spots.
There are many reasons a gardener may wish to create a raised bed, and the construction is often a relatively simple one; however, if a neat and tidy effect is to be created, proper planning and a little thought are required.
Reasons for Constructing a Raised Bed
The creation of a raised bed has the potential to deal with many possible gardening problems. At the one end of the spectrum, the raised bed is simply an alternative to the standard ground level bed or border, with the addition of an extra aesthetic feature. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the raised bed may be seen as the ultimate expression in container gardening, allowing the gardener to control the soil type or avoid the effects of waterlogging in a damp area of the garden.
Raised beds may also take the form of an alternative raised structure, such as a table-based garden or even a planted roof. The former of these structures is of particular value for features such as a kitchen garden. Such features also make gardening more of an accessible hobby for those with limited mobility or other conditions preventing one from bending down to tend a bed or border.
Constructing a Raised Bed For Your Square Foot Garden
Regardless of the kind of raised bed to be constructed, some prerequisites will ensure a clean and tidy finish, irrespective of style or the construction materials to be used.
Leveling – Before the construction of a raised begins, the site should be leveled, this will ensure that an even affect is created with the materials used to build the bed. Done carefully, a site may be leveled simply with a spade, taking away a layer, or soil until a level effect is created. Alternatively, one may choose to add a layer of sand and use a wooden beam to create a smooth and level surface.
The materials in a raised bed – There are many styles and forms which a raised bed may take. At the simplest end of the scale, one can buy a commercially produced raised bed kit. Raised bed kits are relatively simple to construct and usually made of wood in one form or another.
A more attractive option is to use old railway sleepers, here one can buy real disused railway sleepers from a reclamation yard. Alternatively, one may purchase modern timber from a garden center, fashioned in the style of a railway sleeper. If opting for a raised bed made of such wood, it is recommended that the wood be treated before use with some form of wood preservative.
Finally, there is the option of using brickwork or masonry of some form. This is the most labor-intensive of all the types of a raised bed. A masonry raised bed may, however, represent the most impressive form and is undoubtedly the most durable of all raised beds.
Planting and care
Plant a different vegetable or herb in each square foot. If you’re growing from seed, plant seeds sparingly. Water the entire bed gently by hand with lukewarm water (never cold). As you harvest each square foot, you can add a little potting mix then replant it.
Of course, you’ll have to deal with insects and critters just like you would in any garden, but it’s much easier in a square foot garden. To keep the hungry critters like deer and rabbits out of your garden, it’s easy to build a removable wire-mesh cap. If you end up with garden pests, use organic pest control methods, so your food stays safe to eat.
For more information on Square Foot Gardening, check out Mel’s excellent website at http://www.squarefootgardening.org/.
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