If you want to grow some vegetables but think you don’t have enough room, think again. If you tried it once before and thought it was too much work, think again. A guy by the name of Mel Bartholomew came up with what he calls ‘Square Foot Gardening’, the name of his book.
Here’s how it works; Crops are planted in high yield squares instead of rows. Each square is 12 inches by 12 inches (an area of 1 square foot). If you planted a 4X4 foot block you’d have 16 planting squares. In each square you’d plant one type of vegetable, herb or flower. How many plants per square? That depends on the size of the plant. For example, Mel Bartholomew suggests using 1 pepper plant or 1 broccoli or 1 cabbage per square because they are larger and require about 12” between plants. Lettuce only requires 6” between plants so you can plant 4 lettuce plants per square. Spinach requires 4” so you can plant 9 per square. Radishes and scallions need only 3” so you can plant 16 per square. Get the idea? Considering that each square would contain either 1,4,9 or 16 plants, average that at 8 plants per square, means 130 plants in a 4X4 foot-planting block. That sounds pretty impressive and makes for a really decent garden in a small area.
Because the plants are so closely spaced, weeds are less likely to be a problem and no bare soil helps conserve moisture by shading the soil.
More squares or blocks can be added without a problem if you want to enlarge your planting area and a trellis used at one end of the bed is good for growing things like tomatoes, squash or pole beans vertically.
The square foot gardening method requires succession planting because of the limited space. In succession planting the soil is never empty. Harvest one crop at its peak and plant another crop right away. Plant cucumbers or eggplant where your spinach was. Put peppers where you had lettuce. You’ll find that if you put one pepper plant per square, you’ll have room around the edges to plant a quick growing crop like radishes and get them out of the way before the pepper needs the space. Mr. Bartholomew claims that one 4X4 foot block will feed one person easily through the season with none for canning or freezing.
This method of planting makes good use of every square inch of growing space, it encourages us to use the produce we grow rather than letting it go to waste, and instructs us how to do this in the easiest of ways.
The book, “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew, is a good book for any level of gardener from beginner to expert. It tells how much to plant for each person. If you want to grow enough to preserve, he tells you that too.
Give square foot gardening a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.