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Square Foot Garden

The first garden of this type was prepared using an open-bottomed box for holding the soil in a limited space. Area of the garden is further divided into squares by means of a grid. These squares serve the purpose of incorporating a variety of different plants into the garden. Various plants have different space requirements. Needs of crops that are commonly grown are presented below.

  • Tomato: A tomato plant just like basil, oregano and similar other herbs require a whole square for healthy growth.
  • Strawberry: Four strawberry plants can easily be grown in a square.
  • Radish: As many as sixteen radish plants can be accommodated in a single square.

After popularizing the concept of square foot gardening through first edition of his book, ‘All new Square Foot Gardening’, Mel Bartholomew discussed the topic of controlling weeds in the second edition. He introduced the technique of using ‘weed barrier’. A weed barrier should be placed beneath the box in which cultivation is carried out. The weed barrier is filled with a special mixture called ‘Mel’s mix’ that contains equal proportions of sphagnum moss, vermiculite and compost.

Square Foot Garden Plan
The plan for such gardens includes preparing a 4 feet x 4 feet soil bed. The bed has to be divided into sections measuring one square foot each by means of a grid. A pathway that is wide enough for a person to walk around the garden should be prepared. Twines or sticks are used as grids in the garden. As stated earlier, different plants have differing needs and therefore, the square is divided into appropriate number of squares. However, for plants like cucumber, frames are installed in squares which aid the plant in growing vertically. For growing tubers like potatoes, the square is provided with a side that is one foot tall. Plantation is carried out on the surface of soil bed.

Maintenance and Care
Plants grown in a square garden absorb nutrients only from the raised bed and not the soil beneath. Hence, it advisable to add a little amount of compost to maintain the fertility of soil.

Square foot gardens offer lot more benefits than those designed in a conventional manner; the latter require more space, effort and time for gardening. Let us have a look at the benefits of this form of gardening through points listed below.

  • Soil used in these gardens should be light in texture; it has to be rich in nutrients. Using such type of soil for gardening reduces expenses on fertilizers. Since chemical fertilizers are not at all used for this type of gardening, the ‘soil health’ also is maintained.
  • The ‘culture’ or soil used for growing plants in a square garden holds more water and watering should therefore, be done manually; it helps in retaining more water than in other irrigation methods. This way, the wastage water is minimized to a great extent.
  • Vegetables are planted closely in square foot gardens and hence, weeds don’t get enough space to grow. It helps in carrying out weed control automatically.
  • The methodology of ‘companion planting’ is incorporated in this form of gardening; it means that plants are grown close to each other. This helps control pests and diseases organically.

Square foot gardening is a nice way to enjoy the gardening activity. It has proved to be a successful way of gardening in a wide topographical range and varied climatic conditions; from arid deserts to cramped spaces in urban areas the square foot method of indoor gardening has proved to be a great success. This form of gardening is thus, not only economical and easy to maintain, but has wider applicability and adds to the beauty of your backyard.