Ever since Mel Bartholomew published his landmark book on the topic, square-foot gardening has become an ever-more-popular method for getting a lot of food out of a little space.
The general idea behind this method is to divide your garden beds into 1-foot-by-1-foot squares, and plant your crops intensively in this grid pattern instead of in traditional rows. Each square is dedicated to a particular crop. For example, if it’s a small crop, such as radishes, you plant 16 in one square. A medium crop, such as beets, gets 9 plants per square, and so on. You can, of course, plant as many “squares” of radishes or beets as you like.
Because the plants grow in this tightly spaced pattern, there’s no wasted space like you would have if planting in rows. That space simply becomes more food!
You can use string or thin pieces of wood to mark off your squares. Bartholomew as well as many other gardeners who have written about this method tend to recommend using square-foot gardening with raised beds—but if you have an in-ground garden, don’t let that stop you from trying this technique. Just create walking paths in your garden every few feet (around intensively-planted areas) so you can still easily reach your crops to harvest.
Not only does square-foot gardening increase yields, it generally means fewer weed problems. Because of the tight spacing of your food crops, weed seeds won’t have the sunlight and space to flourish. Pick the few weeds that do sprout early, and then you should have to spend little time weeding for the rest of the season.
To learn more about square-foot gardening, check out How to Plant a Square-Foot Garden, which is a key excerpt straight from Bartholomew’s book. You’ll get the breakdown of how many of each kind of crop you can plant per square, plus tips on getting started with this method.
If you’ve grown a square-foot garden, please share your own tips and experiences in the comments section. Happy growing!
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