You know how much raised beds can provide relief from strain and eliminate some common problems, but did you know there’s a way to make it even better in terms of yield and output?
The benefits of square foot gardening are many. If you’ve been thinking about it and want to execute it for your next big project, I am happy to give you the lowdown. As you know, I’m a big fan of small space gardening, and out of the ways to make use of it, this is another one you shouldn’t overlook.
If you’re also asking, what exactly is square foot gardening? Well, it’s a variation of the raised bed approach that has all the benefits, but instead of planting your crops in rows, you plant in actual foot long square compartments instead. As 12″ is a foot, a square foot is exactly one square compartment in your bed that is 12″ on all sides.
Therefore, when you are constructing your beds, you will want to make sure the width and length dimensions are equal enough to create equal square foot sections. A 4 foot by 4 foot bed is a common size. Because four feet is 48″ exactly, this will add up to 16 compartments total. Here’s a graphic I drew up to show you what these beds look like as far as the concept goes.
This revolutionary technique is the brainchild of Mel Bartholomew, a civil engineer who later on branched out into gardening as a hobby – His horticultural findings were published you can find the latest edition on Amazon. One of his core tenets, revealed through experimentation, is that only 20% of space could produce the same yield that a single row could.
Ergo- if you can grow something two inches apart in a single row, who’s to say you can’t grow the same plant 2″ side by side?
I’m not keen on the idea of square raised beds as they are a little tricky to maneuver around to longer rectangles and other shapes (like keyholes) But I know some people like them. If you have a 4 x 4 bed mounted on a platform, it gets easier, and more accessible.
You could also do 4 feet by 8 feet. Or more narrow in certain spaces, with 2 x 8. There are kits available, or you could build your own.You’d need to refer to some guidelines I elaborate on previously.
To mark off the grids (12″ by 12″, remember) you can use wood dowels, twine or cord (and strategically placed hooks to hold them in place. Or you could even use broken Venetian blinds. Anything linear that you have in abundance enough for your beds can work. All that matters is that they can be marked off in the right dimensions and be easy to see where things will go afterward. This layout uses twine or cord that blends in well.
Back to the benefits of square foot gardening….which is what I want to focus on here:
Some people say that square foot gardening is almost foolproof. If you’ve never built a garden before, you can do this! Because it also involves elevated beds, you’ll be glad to know you’ll be free from rototilling, breaking up tough soil, and digging trenches.
A few crop types may be incompatible with this method – gigantic fruits like pumpkins and watermelons. These may need more than one grid to work out, or they may take up as many as four. Tomatoes and squash are generally one plant per square foot. Small crops like radishes, you can get as many as 16 seedlings in a grid. So the plant type varies.
Second- Pruning the weeds will be easy-peesy. Because the crop s will be in their own neat little grid, it will be easy to spot the troublemakers and get them out before they cause problems later.
All of your crops will be in these neat little grids…you’ll know exactly where everything is and they will look fabulous, adding to your own landscape appeal.You can also designate plant groups easier – by arranging the sun-loving plants where the light is more direct and the ones that like shade in a less sunny spot. You can also determine where and when to use row covers if need be.
A better yield
Because of the grid approach allows for more compact planting, you’ll be able to obtain a better yield than you can with rows. Especially if you pay careful attention to the rules of partnering plants together, you can expect a more bountiful harvest. You’ll be making more efficient use of space and legitimately get more in one space.
It will be easier to rotate crops (the practice of planting different crops the following growing season in the same plot and postponing the former crop type for another few years.) This helps minimize the spread of disease or pests (their eggs could be soil borne and if a crop they don’t normally threaten comes in contact they may die out on their own.)
Be sure that you keep some kind of log or journal or planner so you know what you planted in which grid and don’t forget to include the growing season and date.
Less dependence on fertilizers and amendments
Because you’re making more efficient use of space, you’ll have less guesswork about fertilizers and may not have to amend the soil as often or as haphazardly. You’ll also be better able to make use of water more efficiently too.
Now that you know this, are you willing to try it?