Square-foot gardening?

For years, I’ve bemoaned my lack of space and the limitations of gardening when you live in a condo. Last year I finally got around to planting vegetables in the only place I have that gets half-way adequate sunlight. The flower bed in the front of our unit gets sun from just after dawn until about 1:00 PM. That’s only half a day and is less than most vegetables require.

It recently occurred to me to wonder whether I could adapt square-foot gardening methods to my flowerbeds. It would seem to make perfect sense, square-foot gardening is intended to maximize the use of space. I learned about square-foot gardening from a book of the same name written by Mel Bartholomew.  He claims to have invented it, though it’s just a variation on traditional raised-bed gardening (a.k.a. French Intensive or Biodynamic gardening).

(It will no doubt have occurred to the astute reader that, with a little on-line research, you could re-invent this method for yourself. However, Mr. Bartholomew has worked it all out and illustrated it so neatly that his book is certainly worth a look.)

  • Imagine a simple wooden box or frame made of 1 x 6 lumber, four feet square with no top or bottom, only the sides.
  • Lay it on the ground where you want your garden to be and dig out the grass inside the frame. You want to expose the dirt underneath and prevent grass from growing up through the bed.
  • Fill the frame with a potting soil mix of equal parts peat moss, compost, and vermiculite.
  • Divide the surface of the bed into one foot squares (hence the name, square-foot gardening) with a grid made of twine or thin wooden slats. You should have sixteen 1 ft. squares.
  • You plant in the squares. Depending on the size of the plant, you might only put a single plant, like zucchini, or as many as nine radishes.
  • The 4 by 4 size was so that no plant was more than two feet from the edge of the bed, making it easy to reach everything.

He explains all this and much more on his site: squarefootgardening.com/.

However, I don’t have enough room for the four-foot square boxes. On the other hand, my front flower beds were about two feet deep and 10 or 11 feet wide. I often add an inch of topsoil to the flower beds each spring so they are already raised a little bit. I started sketching a simple grid, two squares deep and ten squares wide. If planted tightly, you can grow a lot of vegetables in that much space.

That’s what I’ll be trying this year. Stay tuned!


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