Tuesday, December 15, 2009

my thoughts on square foot gardening

Square Foot Gardening is a technique of intensive planting developed by a retired civil engineer, Mel Bartholomew, in the 1970's. Mel describes the technique in his book, Square Foot Gardening, as "a system of laying out, planting, and maintaining a productive, attractive garden in any amount of space. The garden is based on a grid of 1-foot by 1-foot squares, with single seeds or plants placed in carefully determined spacings." Mel goes on to say, "The square foot system lets you make the most of your garden space to conserve the amount of water, soil conditioners, and labor needed to produce a maximum amount of food in that space. A square foot garden takes only one-fifth the space and work of a conventional single-row garden to produce the same harvest."

Intro to square foot gardening


The idea behind square foot gardening is that you can plant fruits, vegetables and flowers in raised beds, above infertile soil and even out of the reach of pets. Seeds are planted in 1x1 square foot plots, and when harvested a new plant is installed in the square. Plants are watered a specific amount each day in measured quantities so it is great for areas where water issues abound. Raised beds can sit directly on the ground or include a bottom layer and be placed on patios, decks or porches. These beds can also be made on raised tables to accommodate bad, backs, wheel chairs and old people that are falling a part. It makes for easy weeding (ain't many weeds), easy watering and and easy picking of produce. I dont care for this method for big n bushy plants. For small gardens I think it is great, when producing all your food stocks for the year it is in my opinion not optimal. Although watering seems simple , it can also become quite the chore, especially in dry climates. The beds leech water so well that the plants can and will dry up and die quicker than you can blink.

I really enjoy using this method for the smaller plants. Beans are great, radishes, lettuces, spinach, peppers, onions, broccoli ,cauliflower, beets, turnips etc are great in them. Tomatoes , squash,,okra, corn, tomatoes n sweet taters are examples of plants that I dont care for growing in the sfg beds.

While I enjoy the methods of SFG's, I don't enjoy the prices of making the soil mix that Mel specifies in his books or on his site. After all, just as in a forum, movie or book he is out to sell something to his readers. In this case it is all the components that go in to his "mix" for planting. For me, it makes for a too expensive garden. I instead mix what I can afford and what we can make from here on the land. I then make my own mix. It is not the mix he suggests but is something similar and I can still use the basic principles in growing.

I do not like the fact that he pushes such specific ingredients for the soil and gives people the notion that unless they do and build and buy buy buy all he suggests that you are not sq foot gardening. I agree that it is a specific method but I don't feel that because you built your sfg bed out of scrap or made your own soil it isn't sf gardening . What makes it "special " is the intense planting and harvesting.

I dare say, that intensive gardening is more the key word in all of this. One doesnt need a special soil mixture. Soil mixtures can be made at home from sustainable sources rather than buying soil mixes. We dont need to buy little plastic grids to be able to plot a bed in to 1x1 squares. String and a tape measure work very well for such things. We do not need to go out and spend hard earned money on materials to make a special bed. A garden can be made out of anything. If it can hold soil and has drainage of some sort, in my world it is a gardening vessel.

The bottom line in all this is that we don't have to follow any one way of gardening, nor should we. Gardens should be as individual as we all are while taking bits n pieces of what we see, read and learn every day and incorporate it into,something that works for us. Don't fall into the trap that things must be done a certain way, it just aint so. I have seen many people lose the gardening bug after trying to follow one specific method of growing, it not working the way they thought it should and giving up. The goal here is to get everyone a garden that works for them not making money off the teaching of it.

1 comment:

  1. Great post dilly! I agree intensive is the key. And 1 foot isn't enough for a tomato!!! Although the 2 feet apart I did last year following the label was too far...apparently tomatoes like it inbetween so they are just close enough to hold hands <3

    I've been spending a lot of time researching and cobbling together the best ideas from different sources and my final picture is getting closer and closer to what you do anyway :)