Are you busy? Over committed? Or frankly just tired? Me too! And while it might seem that in our “keep busy” culture there would be no time for gardening, there is actually a way! And it will bring the joy back to gardening!
What is Square Foot Gardening?
For the first eight years of marriage, I maintained a traditional row garden. This wasn’t always ideal, especially once we moved into a house in a neighborhood with a 1/3 acre yard. If you’re an apartment or city dweller, this may seem like tons of yard for a garden, but it was super shady and not ideal for the traditional garden space. It was around this time too that our first little gardener made his appearance, so time was even more limited. How does a person handle all of the weeding, watering, and care that comes with a traditional row garden if time is short?
Thankfully, I stumbled upon Mel Bartholemew’s book The New Square Foot Gardening while in the library. (Story time isn’t just for kids, right?) And my mind was blown by what he claimed could be grown in a minimal amount of space. The premise of square foot gardening, as its title implies, is growing fruits and vegetables in square feet. Usually this means a raised bed box that is divided into square feet. In each foot, you’re able to grow different types of herbs and vegetables. He even suggests how many plants to have in each square foot. Simple!
Why is this SFG method my favorite?
- Minimal Weeding– This really is one of the most important things for me. Since most SFG is done in raised beds, the amount of weeds able to creep in is significantly less than that of a traditional row garden. The summer I was pregnant with the littlest gardener, I remember being out in our row garden with a hoe attacking weeds. And I knew at that point something had to change. SFG has all but eliminated the time I spend weeding. I pull a few here and there while I’m tending the garden (or pour boiling water on the weeds in the garden path). You can also mulch your SFG to cut down even more on weeds and to help keep moisture in the soil.
- Small Space Friendly– Square foot gardens make great use of small spaces. If you only have a tiny corner of yard, or even just a back patio, then SFG is still manageable. A standard bed is 4ft by 4ft, but this is not a hard and fast rule. If you only have room for a 4ft by 2ft bed, then go for it! That gives you 8 square feet to plant, and that’s perfect for someone with limited space.
- No Guesswork– How much should I plant and how far apart? Having only a single square foot to work with eliminates a lot of the guess work that comes with planting. You’re given specific guidelines (there are several sources on Pinterest or in the SFG book) about how many seeds or plants to use in each foot, depending on what you’re planting. For example, you’d only need one zucchini plant in a square foot, but you could plant 16 carrots. Brilliant!
- Easy Rotation– Once a plant has finished producing, it can be pulled up or harvested and something else can go in its spot. The soil is nice and loose from the previous plant, so planting your new seeds or plant is a breeze. (And because the soil hasn’t been stepped on since it’s in a raised bed, then there’s no packing in of the soil.) For example, in my SFG, I harvest radishes early and then go on to plant more radishes (double crop!) or peppers.
- No Intimidation– Sometimes people can get intimidated about growing a garden. What if I kill everything? Have I dug up half of my yard only to have the garden fail? SFG allows new gardeners to try (and succeed) at gardening and gain confidence. If you try SFG and absolutely hate it, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find someone to take the raised bed off of your hands, or you can convert it into a sandbox (or dirt box) for the kids to play in. And if you forget the tend the SFG and everything dies, you can always pick back up again the next season and try again.
And I know I said only 5 reasons, but honestly, one of the biggest bonuses to SFG is it is so much CHEAPER than traditional row gardens. You only end up using portions of seed packages or trays of plants instead of wasting money on rows worth of seeds and plants. If stored properly, those extra seeds could be used again next year. And as for plants, if you have more than you need, go in with another gardener friend and split a tray of plants. Everyone wins!
So if you’re worn out by a traditional row garden, have limited space or time, or just want to try something simple, then give Square Foot Gardening a try. It has revolutionized my gardening, and I am so thankful. I’d love to know if you use a square foot garden and if so, what size? Have a great week and Happy Gardening!