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Square Foot Gardening*

*Square Foot Gardening is a registered trademarked name by Mel Bartholomew, originator and author.

Contribution from Dell Purdie of New Zealand

You may know of this space and labour saving method of vegetable gardening, known as Square-foot gardening.

Plants are planted in areas of one square foot in beds of any length but only four feet wide. The reason for this is, that there is no need to tread on the bed and hence to have to dig again after it is originally made, as it can be reached from either side.

Plants are planted in small quantities at frequent intervals so not all produce is coming on at once but rather spread over the whole season as required.

For example in conventional gardening, a row of lettuce may be planted with say 20 plants, too many to use in the time span, where as 4 lettuce would be planted in a square foot plot and a couple of weeks later another plot planted giving a staggered maturity time.

Further, when the first square foot plot is empty, something else can be sown immediately so there is no delay until the row is free for use again.

There are no spaces between rows as is the convention, so the garden can be as little as 20% of the normal garden and yet still as productive, if not more so.

Number of plants per sq.ft.:

16 plants/sq.ft. (ie 3 inches apart)  

Beet; Carrots; Onions; Radish

9  plants/sq.ft. (ie 4 inches apart)

Beans, (Dwarf); Spinach

8 plants/sq.ft. (ie 3 inches apart in two rows 4 inches in from edge of square)

Beans, (Pole); Peas.

4  plants/sq.ft. (ie 6 inches apart)

Chard, (Swiss); Silver beet; Lettuce; Parsley

1  plants/sq.ft. (ie12 inches apart)

Broccoli; Cabbage; Cauliflower; Egg Plant; Musk Melons; Peppers, Tomatoes (Bush)

Many other plants can also be grown, it is up to the imagination of the grower.

Small netting mesh cloches can be used to keep pests and pets off seeds etc., too.

Mr. Mel Bartholomew, President and Founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, says that this style of gardening can benefit so many different people, from introducing children to the pleasure of gardening to helping people around the globe become self-sufficient.

The main benefits are -

  • Requires very little space; 80% less than conventional gardening.
  • Can be done in as little as 4 feet by 4 feet, -- or as large as you want.
  • Your existing (bad) soil doesn't matter because we don't use it. Start with an ideal soil mix that is weed-free and requires no tilling.
  • Uses much less water; only about 20% required for conventional gardening.
  • No fertilizers or pesticides to handle -- it's all natural
  • The planting method requires no thinning and very few seeds.
  • All the hard work has been removed in the Square Foot method - only the enjoyable part remains.
  • Can be started in any season.
  • Produces 5 times the harvest of a conventional garden.
  • Can be done by those with physical or mental limitations. If getting down is a problem, raise the boxes to a wheelchair level.
  • Makes a great family project, all ages can participate - kids love to garden.





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