There are many methods that can be utilized when it comes to growing food crops. One of our favourites is Square Foot Gardening. Developed by Mel Bartholomew in 1981, square foot gardening is a method of growing intensively in an organized system using modular 12″ x 12″ (1 foot x 1 foot) squares. We’ve adapted many of its principles in our garden plantings as it makes for a simple to follow system, especially for beginner gardeners

What Is It?
Square foot gardening prescribes growing in a 4′ x 4′ bed that is 6″ deep. A mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost is then used as the foundation for growing a variety of crops. The type of crop to be grown then determines how it is spaced, whether it is one plant per square foot, 4-, 9- or 16-plants per square foot.

It is advertised as a system beginners can use and get great results right from day one. Instead of digging down, think about building up above ground with a diversified soil mix and easy to follow instructions when it comes to spacing, watering, weeding, and harvesting. These are some of the many things we like about the system, and lots of gardeners have had great success with the system.

How We Use It
Despite its methodologies and protocols, there are a variety of ways in which we have tweaked the system to suit our gardening needs. This includes using various size garden beds (4’x4′, 2’x8′, and 4’x8′) with various depths (8″, 16″, and 24″). This allows us greater flexibility when it comes to placing the beds in a garden as well as easier long term maintenance for the deeper depth beds. We also modify some of the plant spacing recommendations based on the specific varietals we like to grow. For us, square foot gardening is a starting point upon which we can build off of and incorporate methods and lessons from other types of gardening (such as SPIN farming, companion planting, and traditional row farming).

Why We Like it
With square foot gardening, you never have to walk on the soil, can get started in a single day with materials from your local garden center, increase yields compared to other gardening methods, and attach accessories that can facilitate vertical gardening and season extension. Almost every area of growing space is utilized, meaning greater yields, fewer weeds, and easier overall maintenance.

If you’d like to learn more about this method, check out the book All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. For more info on how we might be able to help get a square foot garden in your backyard, contact us for details.

[Got a Tip?] If you have a tip to share with your fellow urban farmers, let us know at tips@youngurbanfarmers.comWant More Tips? Browse our Tips Archive for more.