Square Foot Gardening: An Easy Way to Grow Your Own Food
Super-Easy Techniques for Growing Vegetables and Fruits
"No green thumb required"; that should be the label put on square foot gardening. This simple, inexpensive organic gardening method eliminates weeds – and weeding – and uses only 20 percent of the space and 10 percent of the water of a normal, single-row garden, according to its creator, Mel Bartholomew. The method uses four-foot-square wooden boxes, divided into 16 squares with wooden lath and filled with a blend of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. Each of the 16 squares can house a different plant, resulting in an amazingly varied and abundant harvest. Since 1975 this economical method has spread around the globe and is used in the most parched areas of the world; Bartholomew firmly believes square foot gardening is the answer to feeding the planet with its burgeoning population.
All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: Book Review
Mel Bartholomew wrote his first book, Square Foot Gardening, in 1980, and followed it with a TV show that ran on PBS from 1982 to 1986. He revived the show for the Discovery network in 1989, and continued the show until 1991; he also began consulting in schools around the country. All the while he was constantly experimenting and improving his square foot gardening techniques, and in 2006 he published his All New Square Foot Gardening, which was packed with new techniques and a wealth of information. Not one to rest on his laurels, he continued to develop and expand the techniques and as of February 2013 has published All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition.
Mel Bartholomew explains his revolutionary gardening technique.
This newest edition expands on the 2006 version. Packed with info on how to build the method's signature four-foot boxes and protective covers (to protect from sun, pests and critters) and on growing plants from seeds, extending the seasons, both in spring and into the fall, it expands on vertical growing techniques and really gets into natural pest controls for the first time. The book includes info on planning your garden -- locating your garden based on your crops' sunlight requirements, building both the basic 4-by-4 boxes and several variations for special crops and individual needs, sprouting seeds indoors, estimating planting times based on harvesting times, mixing "Mel's Mix," Bartholomew's special soil mixture, estimating how much of the mix you're going to need, and deciding what to plant in the individual sections of each box. According to the author, depending on the size of the crop, you can plant one, four, nine or 12 plants in each section--for instance, you can plant 12 radish plants in a 1-foot-square section, 4 Swiss chard, or one broccoli plant (see page 109).
A Sample Grid for Planting a Square Foot Garden
Find the Spring and Fall Freeze Dates in Your Area
- NCDC: U.S. Climate Normals -
NOAA offers a list of spring and fall freeze dates by state for communities all over the United States; use these to decide when to plant.
Mixing Mel's Mix
Easy for Beginners, Adaptable for Everyone
Square foot gardening, with its "container gardening" approach, eliminates weeds, controls moisture variations, and makes it easy to consistently produce healthy vegetables and fruits, and it can be adapted for a wide variety of settings. The boxes don't have to be 4-by-4 feet; they can be built 1-by-4, 2-by-4, or any number of configurations, and work well on balconies, decks, and tiny plots of land, in rural, suburban and urban settings. The narrower sizes work especially well for small children with their shorter arms, and Bartholomew encourages getting kids involved in this gardening method; the second edition of the book gives lots of ideas for teaching children how to grow plants.
Bartholomew doesn't just reach down to kids' level with his method; he advocates getting elderly people, who may have less flexibility or limited mobility, involved with square foot gardening. It's easy enough to put the boxes on a table or build them with legs so that even people in wheelchairs can enjoy gardening.
The approach can be as simple or as complex as the gardener wants. gives advice on staggering the harvest to control the amount of produce harvested at any one time and to produce a wide variety of plants over three seasons of the year. All New Square Foot Gardening
Jam-Packed with Tips
Throughout the book, Bartholomew throws out useful tips to help the gardener: for instance, water your garden with sun-warmed water -- the warm water helps the plants absorb nutrients more readily; choose your plants based on what you eat the most (don't use a seed catalog!); place your garden(s) close to your house, so it's easily accessible.
It may take only a few minutes to learn the basic concepts of square foot gardening, but Bartholomew offers up so many creative ideas, he provides the amateur gardener with the possibility of a lifetime of learning and experimentation.
Are We Running Out of Peat Moss?
Mel Bartholomew answers concerns about peat moss being an unsustainable resource here: http://www.melbartholomew.com/whats-up-with-peat-moss/