Square Foot Gardening by Pat Abramson
Don’t like getting your hands dirty, but love those homegrown veggies? Don’t like bending or kneeling to tend your garden? Don’t like to sweat much? Hate having to be out in the sun longer than you have to? You can order or build a waist-high garden bed put on legs with wheels so your back and knees won’t complain. The “square foot gardening” method allows you to plant 16 different vegetables or annuals in a small plot a little bigger than a card table! The method is billed as “planting 5x as much in 1/5 the space, cutting watering at least in half, and eliminating weeding.
Square foot gardening requires no tilling. No need to even use your own (disappointing!) soil. If you don’t want to build or order the waist-high garden bed, you can create a bed ON TOP OF your own soil in an area no bigger than 4’ x 4’. You only plant what you want to eat (or can, or give away).
An engineer and efficiency expert, Mel Bartholomew’s book “All New Square Foot Gardening” book explains why you may want to rethink planting in long rows that create too many weeds that produce more than you can eat, and where you thin or throw away 90% of what you plant.
Mel’s only tool need is a trowel. “Mel’s (soil) mix” is equal parts of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. (In our area, NK Lawn & Garden Seeding Mix will work better).
Preferably close to the house, your garden “box” plot will be 4’ x 4’ on each side, 6” deep. Want to plant more than 16 varieties of veggies or annuals? If so, space each additional box 3’ apart from each other. Wet 5 – 6 layers of newspaper on the bottom of your box, then fill it with the modified Mel’s mix described above. (If you’re installing a waist-high box to eliminate bending or kneeling, make sure to drill holes in the bottom of the box for drainage.)
Place on top of each box frame a permanent “grid” that divides the box into one-foot squares. This grid is what makes the whole system work. (Use wood, string, or even Venetian blinds.) Secure your grid to the sides & bolt them where they cross.) You now have 16 squares for up to 16 different vegetables. In each 1-ft. square you can plant: 16 carrots, 9 spinach, 9 beets, 4 lettuce, 1 cabbage, 1 broccoli, 1 pepper, 1 tomato, 2 cucumbers, 8 pole beans. On one side of your box you will trellis plants like tomatoes vertically.
No room for weeds, and your plot is so small, watering is now manageable. Each time you harvest a plant, add a cup of compost and plant something new.
A manageable, square-foot garden is ideal for schools. (Utah approved installing one in every elementary school in the state!)
“Square Foot Gardening” is available at bookstores and at the Harrison Library. The waist-high box as well as other information and products are available at www.squarefootgardening.com.