If you can Play Tic-Tac-Toe, You can Garden
Square Foot Gardening
Rambling Anecdote Section
As I graduated from container gardening to a more comprehensive system, I began to explore what else was out there for gardening information. It turned out that there were entire continents’ worth of books about the subject. Books by the hundreds. Most of them 4 inches thick. I was immediately intimidated, and briefly considered giving up the whole thing. Fortunately, I discovered the most fool-proof gardening system EVER.
Square. Foot. Gardening.
This is a custom designed system for the of the small plot food gardener. It is applicable for both the suburbs and urban spaces and it is scalable. The inventor of Square Foot Gardening, Mel Bartholomew, was an engineer. His approach to soil, planting, placement, seeding, watering, and harvesting went completely against all conventional wisdom generally used in North American suburban gardens.
That is what makes it so brilliant.
By making 4 foot X 4 foot or 1 meter X 1 meter garden beds, he reduced the wasted space caused by row gardening. Row gardening is an efficient set-up for fields, but not for back yards. You end up walking on (and compacting) your soil, wasting water on the pathways, and causing about 1/3 of your space to be used for access to the plants. His method of assigning a certain number of seeds per plant species per square reduces the waste caused by over-seeding and then thinning young plants.
Actual Useful Information Section
Now you are probably overwhelmed by trying to remember which plant likes what, and where NOT to plant them, and how to space everything. I was so mentally scattered by all of these requirements, that after planting some veggies in containers, I Googled ‘How do I plant vegetables’? I just couldn’t put all this new knowledge together into a workable, entire garden plan. Luckily, Google popped up a link to Square Foot Gardening. All that is needed for a Square Foot Garden is a 4 X 4 box, 6 inches deep, and divided into 16 1 square foot sections. Each plant type is given a spacing amount for a 1 square foot section. Example: a cabbage requires the whole square foot, so you only plant 1 in the middle of the square. However, carrots, being slim and vertical, can be planted in sets of about 9 (3 rows of 3) per square. After that, this method explains how to plant complimentary plant neighbors next to each other so that you get the best companion planting combinations. It is just like Tic-Tac-Toe.
When you want to start a garden, but you don’t know what to plant in which space, GO TO
This is a general overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Square_foot_gardening
You can take the Square Foot Gardening course HERE:
It looks like this:
Planning Your SFG Offline:
1. Write down the vegetables you want to grow.
2. Look up the spacing for planting of each vegetable.
3. Draw a 16 box grid, and put the vegetable name and number of planting points in each square.
4. Find your box placement spots. Look for a place that has level ground (to prevent water pooling), with 6–8 hours of sunlight, and is near your walkway. (Bartholomew, Mel. 2nd Edition All New Square Foot Gardening. Cool Springs Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2013. Pages 53,54)
5. Construct or buy your boxes. (2nd Edition All New Square Foot Gardening page 58 / Chapter 4.)
Or see the instructions on this website.
When you are done with that, just GOOGLE ‘Square Foot Gardening’. There are dozens of free info pages.
HOW I DID MY ACTION STEPS:
So, after building my 4X4 box out of old fence boards, well, after my dad built it for me,
I filled the planter box with MEL’S MIX
(find it HERE:https://squarefootgardening.org/2017/07/our-method/) and then watered it so it was DAMP, not WET.
Then I added the grid. I used gardening bamboo sticks screwed down to make my 16 planting squares:
Then, I poked 16 little holes in the square. Hmmmm……nope. I poked 9 holes. Apparently, I ignored the instructions. But you know what? My carrots grew just fine. That’s the beauty of the SFG method. I did the same thing for my peas and onions. It was wonderfully simple, and the lack of stress made it fun.
We are not making nitroglycerin here people. The SFG method is a guideline, but there are no gardening police. Relax, read the guides and ENJOY.
As previously mentioned, the second fantastic thing about SFG, is that you do not have to know how to companion plant. It is done for you. The SFG book and planner show you how to put plants into the right places.
You can also Google it. With my SFG, I followed the book recommendations, and the plants thrived.
The third and final major benefit I found to the SFG, is calculating the rough amounts of harvest. Even if I am not using a SFG, (yes, I plant in rows for larger gardens) or if I am using containers, I can still measure the approximate square footage of the planted area.
These are the steps I made of for estimating:
1. Look up the SFG plant spacing per 1 square foot.
2. Estimate the weight of the harvest vegetable per square foot.
3. Multiply that number by the number of square feet you have planted.
EXAMPLE: Say I want to know how many pounds of carrots I am going to get at harvest time, and I have a container garden of 5 Rubbermaid containers, which are approximately 2 square feet each. One square foot of planted carrots at harvest are about 1/2 a pound or more. So, each container gives about 1 pound and five containers (10 square feet total), will yield a total of about 10 pounds of carrots.
So, even if you decide that the SFG system is not for you, you can use it to estimate growing area and harvest amounts.
So there you have it. The World’s Easiest gardening system. It has been around for decades, the basic knowledge for set up is freely available, and it is FUN. If you fall in love with it, like I did, you can also become a Certified SFG Instructor. (The course is fun). Happy Gardening!