I had hoped to plant two of my beds square foot style this year. Now that the HOA is poking around, I am reconsidering my whole plan. Still, even if I don’t get to, I figured I could live vicariously through all of you. Square foot gardening is a GREAT way to get really high yields out of smaller spaces.
In case you aren’t familiar, square foot gardening is just that–you break your space into 1’x1′ grids and you plant those grids using closer spacing than typical. The first time I planted this way, I was worried that the plants wouldn’t do as well, but I actually got really good results, and if you mix the grids up a bit, as far as what you are planting in each grid, it helps you to create a companion planting situation that helps each grid thrive and is easier overall on the soil.
To start a square foot garden, make sure you start with healthy soil. Packing plants in tighter than normal will suck a lot of nutrients out of the soil. Mix in a high quality compost to your garden soil before you plant. Next, break your space into 1’x1′ grids. So, if you have a 4’x8′ garden space, you will have 32 grids to plant. You can make a grid out of whatever you have lying around–a bit of twine, scrap wood, etc. You could also just build a virtual grid while you are planting, by drawing lines in the soil.
After you have your grid established, you are ready to plant. Square foot gardening breaks up plants into small, medium and large categories. How you space the plants really depends on where that particular plant falls into each category. Williams-Sonoma has some awesome charts that show you how many of each type of plant you should plant in each grid. They are illustrated and FREE…which pretty much meets all of my requirements.
Also, remember that larger plants will over-shadow smaller plants, so think about planting them next to things that can use a bit of shade in the hotter months, for example cabbages next to lettuce. Don’t be afraid to use a couple of grids for pest deterrent type plants, like marigolds either. In the long run, it will only enhance the overall health of your garden.
Maintaining a square foot garden takes just a tiny bit more diligence than a standard spaced garden. For one, you will really need to stay on top of the weeding. There is no extra room or nutrients to grow weeds in this situation. Two, you will want to fertilize regularly–unless you have the cycle of companion planting and crop rotation down to a science.
If you want to know more, there are tons of books on square foot gardening, but this one is pretty much the I Ching of square foot gardening. It outlines EVERYTHING, in a gardening for dummies sort of way–which I really appreciate. 😉
Have you ever done a square foot garden? Did you learn any helpful tips for people who might just be starting?