Square-Foot Gardening: Grow a Lot in a Small Space

Square-Foot Gardening: Grow a Lot in a Small Space

Throw out the idea that vegetable gardening can only be done in long rows with a minimum of an acre to work in. For anyone who wants to have a productive garden but doesn’t have the space, welcome to square-foot gardening.

Square-foot gardening is a concept that has been around for quite a while. What is it? This method of gardening uses space as economically and efficiently as possible and became popular in the 1980s by Mel Bartholomew.

As its name implies, you’ll want to create 12″ x 12″ squares when planting. Use this technique when planting directly into the ground. You can outline your square-foot beds using anything you want. Wood (don’t use pressure treated wood as the chemicals can leach into the soil), plastic, or even string works to mark the edges of the beds.

Or you can build square-foot boxes and create your own raised bed. What I like about that idea is soil control.

All gardeners want to have lovely, loamy soil that’s easy to work in. The reality for many of us is that we feel stuck with the soil we’re given. Not so!

If you choose to garden in a square-foot box (4 feet by 4 feet square is a perfect size), it’s up to you to add the soil and amendments. And as long as you keep the soil in good shape with minerals and compost, you should be able to use it for years.

This garden box technique is perfect for a first time homebuyer who doesn’t have a lot of extra money. If that describes you, you’ve just closed on your new house and may feel like your bank account’s bone dry. Square-foot gardening is a great way to infuse your garden with color without having to spend a lot of money on landscaping. And you can have fresh veggies your first year.

You don’t have to start plants from seed when you’re square-foot gardening. You can easily do this with plants that you buy at a nursery or home center. The whole idea behind square-foot gardening is growing a lot to in a small space.

Now, I admit you can’t grow absolutely everything in a one foot by one foot square, particularly if you’re doing it in a raised bed. For instance, zucchini needs lots of room to roam around and so do pumpkins. If you want to grow plants that like to spread out like cantaloupe, cucumber and beans, try growing them vertically on a strong trellis.

Trellises can be attached to square-foot garden boxes or can be anchored in the ground. In my very first square-foot garden in Marlton, New Jersey, I pounded pointed tomato stakes into the ground at the corners of the north end of the garden box. Then I strung some white garden netting between the posts and grew tomatoes, beans and flowering trumpet vine.

Victoria Rosendahl is a freelance copywriter, novelist, and passionate gardener. Visit her website, http://www.money-saving-garden-tips.com, for three FREE gifts and tons of great money saving ideas for your garden. You can also email her at victoria@money-saving-garden-tips.com.

Square Foot Gardening (SFG) is a great way to convert that boring suburbia grass lawn into a sustainable produce isle. Don’t have a lawn? That’s cool- SFG can be done practically anywhere. Mel was kind enough to send me this DVD which gives a quick intro into SFG. This method is great for the absolute beginner who might be a little overwhelmed by starting that first organic garden. For more information, including including Mel’s popular book & instructional DVDs, check out: www.squarefootgardening.com
Video Rating: 4 / 5

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  1. Praxxus55712 says:

    Mel is in a league of his own when it comes to gardening. :)

  2. happymundo says:

    This is the BEST video on Square Foot Gardening…no BS just what we need to hear.

  3. OrganicTexas says:

    @xxnoangelxx I’m not Mel, but thank you for the awesome feedback!

  4. xxnoangelxx says:

    Mel you are my Hero! You changed my life. I have used your system for three years and I have marvelous results. It’s so easy! No back breaking work once you set up. I have change my diet built around my garden. I have improved my culinary skills . I am healthier and happier. With corporate farming controlling our food source and letting contaminates enter our food supply it’s more important than ever that you know your food source.

  5. pepperjoe12 says:

    Good stuff, Mel. Check out my YouTube Garden videos.

  6. bbbustedflush says:

    Well isnt this just wonderful. Im 60 years old and Mel just taught Ive been a gardening dummy all my life. But we always did it this way. Well no more. Thank you Mel. Who says you cant teach an old dog new tricks.

  7. speedproductions797 says:

    This guy who invented this program/system gardening invention is a genius.

  8. speedproductions797 says:

    Wow! That’s super extrmeley and awesomely cool!

    I’m going to buy the books!!!

  9. lheartlondon says:

    hi mel!!! i just bought 2 of your books. i luv it!!! thanks so much for all the info on gardening

  10. TnWormsCastings says:


  11. OrganicTexas says:

    hey ccm800… Mel’s book has a plant spacing guide so you space out the veggies & other plants appropriately in each square.

  12. ccm800 says:

    Doesn’t one plant shade out the other?

  13. donze52 says:

    might if you want to take the extra step, grow and use wild gourds. The leaves are the only plant that no bug will eat. so making a sun tea with the leaves means after you spay it on your plants–no bugs.
    if you are in the mood.

  14. imoveatparaderest says:

    You can also use small planting pots, a barrel or a small tub and grow things. Like I’ve got potatoes in a small barrel, and every time the plant gets to be about five inches tall, I cover it up 3/4 way with dirt, then it produces more potatoes, cuz it has to grow taller. Try it out for yourself.

  15. OrganicTexas says:

    I’m not Mel, but thanks! :-) Sounds like you’re doing great- keep up the good work. We need more of these Prosperity Gardens across the American landscape.

  16. kathyrclark says:

    Love your book. And love my raised garden beds in my back yard. We have eaten great veggies and fruit all summer.

  17. CyrusDawes says:

    Fun!!! [sarcasm]

  18. strasheep says:

    thats only 87%… what about the other 13% huh?

  19. godlikemicko says:

    mel bartholomew is going to save the world

  20. 19dcs93 says:

    i chose the old way becasue your optimise space if you do it right but these look very nice

  21. theblackhen says:

    We’ve been doing SFG for a couple years now and it is so much better than the old way. Lower costs (especially after getting started), less waste, less water, and a lot less weeding. I spend more time getting my crops ready for the table.

  22. OrganicTexas says:

    David Will, founder of the Organic Living Club (OLC) in South Texas discussed using barrels to grow produce during our December meeting. You can watch it here:


    or look for it on my YouTube homepage. -OT

  23. ck4b3d says:

    I love SFG, I live in a city and have limited space so this system is wonderful. We have fruitfull crops year rounds thanks to SFG. The only improvment I ask for is translating SFG to crcular barrel type planters because I have 4 of those and would like to maximize their use as well.

  24. mmovideoblogging says:

    So glad to have found your video. Square Foot Gardening is something I am planning for the 2009 growing season.


  25. noobie64 says:

    This guy is no alan chadwick.

    Raised bed gardening is great and attractive. I think row planting is best for large plots and more farm scale stuff. Intensive planting requires a lot of water. True the shade of the leaves holds it in the ground but the close planting causes a lot of competition for water among the plants.

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