- Written by Robbi Hoy
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If you're like me, and live in a city center, have very little room to garden but still want fresh veggies, consider Square Foot Gardening. You will be shocked at the amount of vegetables you can grow in a very small space.
Square foot gardening is a method of gardening that allows you to grow your plants very close together while still having them produce to their fullest potential. Find a sunny location for your gardens and get started on building the beds.
The Bed Frames
The bed frames or boxes are most often built with 2x6" boards of natural non rotting wood such as cedar, but can be built with any non chemically treated wood or plastic planks. The boxes are best 4 feet wide by no more than 12 feet long. The most common size is 4'x4'. The size allows for easy access to all locations in the bed for fast weeding and harvesting. If your garden will be placed on a weedy area of the ground, put a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard in the frame before adding soil to allow drainage while preventing weed growth.
Fill your bed frame to 1/4" to the top with good quality prepackaged garden soil, or mix your own with 4 parts sandy loam to 1 part sphagnum moss or well aged compost. Another common recipe is 1 part peat moss, 1 part compost, and 1 part vermiculite. Leaving 1/4" headroom prevents erosion of the soil and water run off. In 1 foot increments, sting twine or yarn across the length and width of you box, tacking down the edges to clearly mark off each square foot. It is in these 1' sq boxes that you will plant your veggies according to the chart below.
- The soil stays workable because you never walk on the squares
- The squares are easier to reach making it easier to harvest
- The raised bed is easier to water and also uses less water
- Less weeding because there are no rows between plants
- Easier pest control
- Crop rotation is by square instead of location
- No tilling required
- Raised gardens warm faster and drains better than traditional gardens
- The size makes it ideal for gardeners with limited mobility
- Garden can be built near the house for easy access to water
Planting Guidelines from the University of Maine
|Spacing of plants in conventional raised beds and Square Foot Gardens|
|1 plant per square foot (spaced 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart in conventional gardens)To plant one per square, simply make a hole with your fingertip in the center of the square and place the seed or bedding plant right there (bedding plants should be planted into a small saucer-shaped depression in the soil).|
|4 per square foot (spaced 6 inches apart in conventional gardens)To plant four per square, draw a line from top to bottom of the square with your fingertip, halfway across the square; then draw a second line from side to side, halfway across the square, so you have made a big cross (like the Red Cross cross) in your square. Then make a hole with your fingertip in the center of each of the little squares and put the seed or plant in those holes.|
|9 per square foot (spaced 4 inches apart in conventional gardens)To plant nine per square, use your index and baby fingers to draw two lines from top to bottom and from side to side, giving you a grid like a tic-tac-toe game. Make a hole in the center of each of these little squares and put the seed or plant in them.|
|16 per square foot (spaced 3 inches apart in conventional gardens)To plant sixteen per square, start with the grid you did for four, then use your index and second finger to make four holes in each of the four sections, and plant your seed or plant in each of them.|