Square Foot Gardening Method
Small space gardens can be a challenge! My focus this year is to re-create several niche gardens that we see hovering around the internet through live demonstrations at the garden centre I manage. One of those projects includes the Square Foot Gardening Method originally created by Mel Bartholomew.
If you happen to be in the Langley area, then pop over to Milner Village Garden Centre to see them and feel free to ask me any questions. But for those of you who are unable to visit, here’s the breakdown of what I did to re-create this small space garden for growing vegetables.
What is Square Foot Gardening?
It’s a garden method that allows you to grow a lot of food in a small space. A typical size is 4’ x 4’ but you can adjust the size as big as your space will allow.
Use any type of ‘safe’ material to build your frame. Untreated lumber or bricks will work fine. If the bed has a ground floor that can be dug, then 4’ x 6’ lumber would be adequate, if not use a 4’ x 8’ instead… allow at least 8” of soil depth for most vegetables.
Soil can be well-rotted compost combined with top soil. Once your bed is filled, mark out your square feet from the corner and fasten strings across in a grid fashion to form perfect square guidelines.
What to consider when choosing your plants:
- Taller plants should be planted to the north of the bed so they don’t shade shorter plants
- Using a Trellis at the back of the bed is ideal for climbers
- Root vegetables should not be planted in squares that touch each other as they can compete for space
- Sprawling vegetables such as cucumbers or squash can be trained to climb or spill out of the bed if room allows
- Use a cage for your tomatoes or a vertical potato tower to contain bush growing crops
- 2 corn stalks in the same square can be used as a support for a couple of bean plants
- Familiarize yourself with companion plants that help ward off pests of other plants
- Create a plan and keep it from year to year so you can rotate your crops
How many plants per square foot?
There are plenty of plans out there that will give you quantities to plant in each square but I’ve provided a few below of the most common vegetables you may want to grow.
For instance, it may seem silly to plant just one cabbage in a square, but it will be there awhile and put on size until it’s ready for picking. Consider that your leafy salad greens will be eaten up first as they will not do well in summer heat. After you harvest a square, plant another cabbage in that spot. This is called succession cropping and you can have several vegetables of the same variety maturing at different times.
The above is in alphabetical order for ease of reference but do not follow this as a plan. Keep your Brassica’s together in part of your grid ( this is your broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage ) so that you can rotate them next year to another area of your bed. This helps prevent a build up of pest and diseases that would attack a specific variety and since different vegetables take up more or less nutrients in the soil it helps to move them around. This is what I referred to above of rotation cropping.
Have fun square foot gardening! My next few posts will demonstrate a Keyhole Garden and a Spiral Garden, so stay tuned!
Peace Love Garden