If you haven’t heard of square foot gardening, you’re about to learn one of the most useful and versatile gardening techniques ever created. Conceived by Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, the techniques have been enthusiastically adopted by gardeners all over the world. Square foot gardening is eminently suited for container gardening, patio and roof gardening, backyard gardening, organic gardening, herb gardens, vegetable gardens, flower gardens and more.
The idea behind square foot gardening is to maximize growing space by subdividing a garden plot into one foot squares, and replanting them as soon as you finish harvesting the crop from the last plant. This keeps the soil in use, and by paying attention to which crops you grow in which square, you avoid depleting the soil of important nutrients.
The basic concept is to start small. Bartholomew asserts that a four square foot garden provides just enough harvest for one person. Many schools, community gardens and home gardeners start even smaller. One city apartment dweller gardened in four square wicker plastic lined wicker wastebaskets bought for a dollar apiece at the dollar store.
The first step is building or buying a box in which to garden. Any container that can hold 6-8 inches of soil, and has drainage holes in the bottom will work. If you want to be more “serious” you can find some great information on the best grow box here, these are great for city gardens. Then, instead of potting soil, Bartholomew recommends what he calls Mel’s mix: 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost. A 5 pound bag of each will more than fill a square foot garden.
Choose a nice, sunny spot to place your garden, and then decide what plants to grow. How many plants you have, and what types, depends on the recommended spacing between plants which you’ll find on the back of the seed packets. Depending on the needs of the specific seedlings, you can plant one, four, nine or even sixteen plants in each square foot.
Harvest the crop in each square foot when it’s ready, and continue harvesting until it’s no longer producing fruit or vegetables. At that point, uproot the plants in that square (use them for compost!), and plant another, different crop. By refilling and rotating the crops, you avoid depleting the natural nutrients of the soil, and keep every bit of space productive throughout an entire growing season. This way you’ll never need to “plant” fake grass to get a little green.
And since the author’s first book did so well, he has created a second as well. You can find it on Amazon here, just follow the link and get your own copy of both one and two. They are well worth it for any urban dweller!