Introduction: Square Foot Gardening (commonly referred to as SFG) is a planting method in which the planting area is divided into small portions which give a look of intensive gardening in a small gardening area. It’s a simple way to create easy-to-manage gardens with raised beds that need a minimum of time spent on maintaining them. Square Foot Gardening has spread across the globe, eventually going ‘mainstream’ with several firms offering ready-to-assemble SFG gardens. SFG offers various benefits such as it produces more, uses less soil and water and takes just 2% of the time spent on a traditional garden. So what makes Square Foot Gardening special and why don’t all gardeners use it, let’s have a look.
A step by step guide to Square Foot Gardening
The basic concept of square foot gardening is: Create a small garden bed (4 feet by 4 feet or 4 feet by 8 feet are common sizes) and divide it into a small grid of 1-foot squares, which you can also manage individually. Seeds or seedlings of each kind of vegetable are planted in one or more squares, at a density on the basis of plant size (for e.g., you will plant approx 16 radish seeds per square, but only one for the tomato plant). Since there are no paths, there is no wasted space, and the soil in the bed stays loose because you never step on it making harvesting and other cultural operations convenient for the grower.
The advantages of Square Foot Gardening
High yields: Intensive planting means you will harvest a lot from a small space, so it’s ideal for gardeners having limited space for gardening.
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Fast set-up: Square foot gardening is a rapid way to start off a new garden (especially with the updated technique using a raised bed filled with soilless mix), so it’s fun for first-timers. You can place your raised bed everywhere — even over grass or pavement — permitting you to put up, fill, and start planting in a just few hours! Even if you start with your existing soil, you only have to organize the planting areas, not the paths, so it takes a lot less time and effort.
Minimal regular maintenance: Since the garden is small and you have only a few specific tasks to do on any given day, you only have to devote a few minutes planting, maintaining, and harvesting at any one time.
Less weeding: If you set up a square foot garden filled with a soilless mix, there will be hardly any if the seeds in it (depending on the compost you use) and thus no weeds has to be pulled for the first season. Weeds will, on the other hand, become more common over time as seeds blow or fall into the bed.
The limitations of Square Foot Gardening
High initial cost: The cost of construction even a small raised bed and filling it with soilless mix adds up quickly. If you already have good soil to work with, stick with the original method and form in-ground garden beds for much less money. It will be proven expensive for large gardens through SFG beds are not expensive to maintain but they are quite expensive to set up if you have a large area and want to fill it quickly.
Cramped soil beds: Small square foot garden beds aren’t perfect for crops that take up a lot of space, such as vining winter squash, asparagus, or a big plant of sweet corn. Although many vegetables can be grown in SFG gardens it struggles to have room for larger plants (squash, melons, main-crop potatoes etc), perennials (globe artichokes, rhubarb) and fruit bushes/trees. A smart approach is to grow herbs and more compact vegetables such as carrots and radishes in your square foot garden and relegate large plants or plantings to a traditional rowed vegetable garden.
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Insufficient depth: The 6-inch-deep beds recommended are too shallow for most of the plants, especially if their roots cannot extend into the soil much below. For this solution is, if you are gardening on top of your pavement, make your frame at least 12 inches deep and fill it to the top with growing mix. If you are gardening on top of the soil, use a layer of cardboard instead of weed-block fabric under the soil bed; the cardboard will slowly break down and allow vegetable roots to extend into the soil below.
Lots of watering: The soil in raised beds tends to dry out more rapidly and it is harder to re-wet if it dries out, so you may find yourself watering regularly in the days of the summer to keep your plants growing well. To counteract this, think about installing soaker hoses or some other type of drip irrigation system. Covering the surface of the soil with organic mulch such as grass clippings or torn newspaper also helps to conserve moisture.
More frequent maintenance: Because a square foot garden is planted so densely, weeds are a huge pain to get rid of especially once their roots get established.
Your best bet for this will be: Better remove when they’re still tiny seedlings. This may need weeding a few times a week, but it beats wrestling with a full-grown weedy monster.
How to manage Your Square Foot Garden for Success
Mix and match: Pick multiple plant types from the same category to give you more flexibility over what to cultivate in the space you have. For instance, instead of planting a square with 4 lettuces, plant 2 lettuce plants and 2 marigolds, which not only draw pollinators but also add a pretty touch to your garden.
Think small: Rather than planting a large tomato plant that would have need of more nutrients and water than are available in a single square foot, select a smaller dwarf or bush variety, like Better Bush, that can flourish in less growing space.
Grow up: Adding a trellis to your square foot garden is an ideal way to add to available growing space and vines off the ground. Do this for peas, pole beans, cucumbers, melons, and squash. The easiest way is to add the trellis to the back of the bed and use the back row of squares for the plants to be trellised.
How to Build a Square Foot Garden
Building a square foot garden is a fast and easy way to begin or expand your garden. The method to put up it is also trouble-free to know, organized and makes it easy to plan your growing beds. The bed is divided into one-foot sections and each square is planted as per the plant spacing.
Follow the steps to build a Square Foot Garden:
Step 1: Build the Square Foot Garden Boxes
For 4×4 square foot garden beds building uses 2×6 boards. Carefully measure and cut the boards to 4-foot lengths, then screw them together by using 6-inch wood screws.
A square foot garden is a rapid and easy way to commence or expand your garden. The technique is easy to understand and makes it easy to plan your growing beds.
Step 2: Position the Raised Beds
Weed shattered the grass as low to the ground as we could, positioned the boxes, and placed a layer of cardboard underneath the boxes. Cardboard kills the grass and decomposes underneath the soil during the summer assisting it to eliminate weeds from growing in the new garden beds.
Step 3: Fill the Beds with Soil Mix
Next is add the soil mix to the square foot gardens in layers and hosed it down several times as we filled the box. When the boxes were full, we gave them a final soaking so the mix was good and hydrated.
Step 4: Add Your Grids
You can use string to divide the beds into one-foot sections. You can also use mini blinds, wooden dowels, or thin strips of wood to prepare your grid.
Step 5: Plant Your Square Foot Gardens
Each square is planted according to the plant spacing as described. Add a trellis to the north side of the bed to grow vining crops such as pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes, or cucumbers and mulch soil in order to conserve moisture.
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