When I first started gardening, we had a small yard and I had no idea what I was doing. I had very little experience with growing anything and I had just become a mom for the first time. I needed a method of gardening that was easy to understand and relatively low maintenance. Because we had a small yard and I wanted to try and grow a lot in a small space, I went with the Square Foot Method. The first thing I did was read “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. This book is fantastic! It gives very easy instructions for building the boxes, mixing the soil, building cages to keep the critters out, and what to plant when.
Clint helped me (he did a lot of the work…) build four boxes 4’x4′. Three of the boxes were 6 inches deep and one box was 12 inches deep. Most plants can grow in 6 inches of soil however I wanted to grow carrots and onions which need a bit more room. We built cages to sit on top of the boxs until the plants were big enough to keep out evil squirrels(our squirrels were possessed!!). They would do things just to mess with me, like dig up my plants and lay them next to the bed, hide things in my pots, and then they would sit on my deck looking in the windows to see my frustration.
I started by planting cabbage, broccoli, peas, and onions. Hindsight being 20/20 those might not have been the best first plants for me to choose but they did teach me a lot. Then later in the season, I planted carrots, brussel sprouts, peppers,
tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, more cabbage, and herbs. The Square foot method was perfect for me because of the grid it uses. Each 4 x 4 box is broken up into 1 foot squares and each square could be planted with something different. Mel’s book does a great job of explaining how much of each thing to plant in the square and if you are new to gardening I recommend you read his full book. This is a basic explanation of how much can go in each 1’ x 1’ block.
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By using raised beds, there was very little weeding and the soil was just right because we filled each box with a special mix called Mel’s Mix. I will do another blog that talks about mixing the soil for the boxes. I think this really is the perfect growing method to use for a first time gardener and it gave me a lot of confidence my first year. Many first time gardeners can get very discouraged by weeds and hard-to-work-with soil. Raised beds and a simple grid can fix many of those problems! This is also a way for someone who has no usable soil to grow their own food. Raised beds can be set on a deck, made to fit right next to a driveway, worked into a corner of a tiny yard or placed in a front yard if that’s where the sun is. I still use some aspects of square foot gardening in our huge market garden.