How to Plan Your First Square Foot Garden
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Originally Posted On: https://wp.nyu.edu/mind/2022/03/30/how-to-plan-your-first-square-foot-garden/
If you want to grow veggies, flowers, or herbs in limited space, you should consider square foot gardening. It is an old concept with a timeless allure.
Namely, this horticulture technique was developed by Mel Bartholomew. Bartholomew introduced his innovative ideas in his book All New Square Foot Gardening in 1981. His goal was to adapt the commercial gardening technique to the backyard, and boy was he successful! Even after four decades, square foot gardens are as popular as ever, perhaps even more so.
The Value of SFG
As the population congregates in the big cities, there is less and less space for gardening. Nowadays, if you want a garden, you have to think small. The goal is to grow as many plants as possible in as little space as possible.
Besides, contemporary people have little time for tedious gardening chores such as watering and weeding. Square foot gardens are ultra-practical in that regard. They require minimal maintenance and save time, effort, and resources. You can easily convert them into 100% eco-friendly botanic environs, too.
Finally, plants grown in square foot gardens are healthier and harvested more easily. You can replant any empty square instantly and secure yourself a continuous supply of nutritious and delicious edibles. Crop rotation enables you to enjoy your garden no matter the season. You can have a garden salad every night of the year without too much effort (even in extreme winter weather) as long as you remember a simple rule: When the temperature gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time for a plastic cover!
With a little bit of know-how, freshly harvested greens from your square foot garden can be on par with those served in the most expensive and popular restaurants in the country. Are you interested? Let’s see how to start your first square foot garden.
Setting Up a Successful SFG
Planning a square foot garden is no brain science. It’s a fairly simple process. You only need a few guidelines to make everything pitch-perfect.
A square foot garden is not much different than any “ordinary” garden. Instead of planting in rows, you plant by area with the help of a gardening grid of one-foot squares, fill it with soil, and plant your greens in each empty square. Of course, you need some basic math knowledge to get the most out of your space.
Planning is crucial if you want a well-organized garden with enough space for each plant to reach its full potential. It would also be wise to use the Seeding Square for placing the seeds to avoid overcrowding your plants.
Start with a small garden (2×2 or 4×4). If you choose to make a raised bed, as most square-foot gardeners do, your first task is to make the frame. It would be ideal to use cypress, but if it exceeds your budget, you can use any rot-resistant wood safe for planting (even scrap wood). If you plan to grow root veggies, your bed needs to be at least 8 inches deep.
Once the bed is in place, you need to fill it with a high-quality soil that retains the water and nutrients. It is advisable to mix it with compost, manure, and peat moss. If you want to save some money, you can fill the bottom of your garden bed with some cut twigs and put the soil mixture on top.
It’s finally time for planting. You can choose your plants as you wish but consider their height to prevent tall plants from overshadowing others. It does not mean you should avoid plants that grow upwards. On the contrary, plant as many space-saving vining plants as your garden and the plant’s spacing needs allow for! When planted correctly, they work to your advantage. Therefore, place them on the north side of your bed to secure adequate sun dosage for smaller sun-loving plants. If your seedlings prefer shade, position the tall greenery in the middle of your garden bed to keep everyone happy.
Walla! Your square foot garden is completed! All you have to do now is keep it well-hydrated. Remember, the soil in raised beds drains water well. During summer, check daily to ensure your soil is moist at least 2” below the surface. Overwatering your plants can damage their roots. The good news is that you won’t have to weed your square foot garden nearly as often as you would a traditional one, especially if you plant your greens close to each other.
We wish you all the best in your SFG adventure and hope you’ll enjoy plenty of fresh and tasty produce. There is nothing more rewarding than growing your own food!