If you would like to try your hand at gardening for the first time, or you are struggling with a physical disability which keeps you out of the garden, square foot gardening could be the solution for you. Versatile, efficient and low maintenance, this fascinating and enjoyable method is as successful in an arid desert as it is in a crowded urban yard.
Below are four tips to help you get started on square foot gardening:
1.Creating your square foot garden
For certain plants (e.g. potatoes and carrots-deep root), you will need to raise the section by a foot and fill with soil, whereas others may require frames on which to grow.
People with physical disabilities may need to have a bottom to their garden so that it can be placed on a suitable surface.
2. The benefits of the square foot garden
There are lots of benefits to square foot gardening. These include:
- It requires much less work to manage a square foot garden than a conventional one. You don’t need any heavy tools since you won’t be standing on the soil to compact it, and weeding takes minutes at the most.
- Square foot gardens are more productive than conventional single row planting. The wide spacing and lack of weeds mean that each square foot of the garden gives you more productive.
- By providing a quality soil that retains water, while minimizing waste by hand-watering, you can save water.
- Square foot gardening is compatible with the permaculture philosophy, whereby people are encouraged to work with nature to protect their crops. For example, companion plants, such as insect-repelling marigolds, can be planted to form a natural barrier to some pests. In addition, by mixing plant varieties, the disease can be halted quickly.
- Another benefit of square foot gardens is that they can be easily covered if necessary.
3. What soil do you need for square foot gardening?
When it comes to choosing your soil, there are a number of options:
You could use your own, freely-available soil, although this will need testing and possible modification. Other disadvantages are the presence of weed seeds and the time and effort needed in preparation.
A mix from your local nursery would be an easier option, though quality can vary. Alternatively, you may want to search for specially pre-prepared mixtures or recipes, and this I highly recommend. One popular, but expensive, the mixture has been devised by square foot garden expert and civil engineering graduate, Mel Bartholomew.
You can even use pure compost in your garden, though drainage is not ideal and some nutrients may be deficient.
4. What can you plant in square foot gardens?
You can plant a huge variety of plants in your square foot garden, from herbs and flowers to fruit and vegetables.
Plants such as tomatoes, broccoli and many herbs need to be planted one to a section, whereas you can plant four strawberry or lettuce plants, nine spinach plants or sixteen onions, carrots or radishes in each section.
Deep-rooted vegetables need to be planted in raised sections, as described earlier, whereas those that grow on runners (squash, cucumbers, etc.) can be put on vertical frames with netting and string to secure them.
Taller plants should be put at the northern end of your garden (southern in the southern hemisphere), to ensure they don’t block the light reaching other plants.
There are many online sources for square foot gardening, so the next time the sun is shining, pull on those gardening shoes and start creating your own.