Why Square Foot Gardening?

Square foot gardening is becoming popular again as more and more people are planting square foot gardens.  If you are looking for the easiest way to garden, this method offers many advantages  rather than the traditional method of planting in rows. Gardening by the square foot can also be done in raised beds, or even in containers, to make it easy on your back.

Square foot gardening is done in 1 foot squares with 4 of them making up 4 foot by 4 foot blocks.  These blocks are a maximum of 4 feet because that allows you to reach into the entire planting area without having to step into the bed. When you step in a garden bed, you compact the soil and make it harder for plants to get the air and nutrients they need.  Each 1 foot square can be divided into smaller squares depending on the space needs of each particular plant.

Gardening in squares encourages you to only plant what you want whereas gardening in rows tends to make you want to plant all the seeds inside the packets.  With this method, you can also plant crops in succession so they do not ripen all at once. You want to end up with just the right amount of plants, not so many that you become overwhelmed and abandon your garden.  Planting the right amount of seeds to begin with also saves you time from having to constantly thin out your garden. 

 Your squares should be physically divided, not eye-balled, for the best results.  You can use nails and string (being careful to put the nails where you won’t kneel on them or otherwise hurt yourself), or commercially-made wire dividers.

 An example of a 4 foot block planting is 2 tomato plants in 2 squares, 4 bush squash plants in 2 squares, 1 eggplant in 1 square, 1 cabbage plant in 1 square, 1 pepper plant in 1 square, 2 broccoli in 2 squares, 1 cauliflower in 1 square, 16 onions in 1 square, 32 carrots in 2 squares, 12 loose leaf lettuce in 1 square, 4 marigolds in 1 square, and 9 spinach in 1 square (each square is 1 foot).

 Square foot gardening works well when you make your blocks as raised beds.  When you build your beds on top of existing soil you don’t have to do back-breaking double digging and you can add a perfect soil mixture at the start.  With raised beds you don’t have to bend over as much so it’s easier to pick a weed or water by hand.

Container gardening can be adapted to the square foot method as well, although you will need to take care to select containers that are deep enough for the roots. When using containers, plan to use rich soil and water often for best results. Container plants are dependent on you for nutrients and can dry out quickly in hot weather.

 Not only can gardens be in squares instead of rows, you can probably fit the squares closer to your house.  The space needed is about 20% less than that needed for planting in rows.  By planting closer to your back door and not way out in some back corner, you’re more likely to see it, tend it, and harvest the vegetables when they become ripe.

 You’ll find that square foot gardening is much less overwhelming for both new gardeners and experienced gardeners.  Not only will you plant only what you want and not too much, but you will be planting in better soil and in raised beds that are easier on your back.  No more time consuming double-digging and pulling out excess little seedlings.  You can plant closer to the house and you use your space more efficiently.  Try your hand at this method of gardening. You’ll soon find that gardening by the foot is easy!

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