Get Big Harvests in Small Spaces with Square-Foot Gardening

Get Big Harvests in Small Spaces with Square-Foot Gardening

It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that you must have a lot of space to make gardening worthwhile. But even with a small amount of space, you can actually produce quite a bit of produce by using the square-foot garden method.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a square-foot garden, it’s a method of gardening popularized by author Mel Bartholomew that typically occurs in a small space. The gardener splits the small space into one-foot by one-foot squares (hence the name square-foot) and then plants in those squares intensively.

Some people mark out the squares with either a storebought grid or they just create their own using wood or twine, but you could even use garden chalk or just draw a line in your soil. The most salient feature is not how the squares are marked, but how you plant inside the squares. The goal is that the squares are planted as fully as possible to get the biggest yield possible. Here are a few tips to make your garden as productive as possible.

Prioritize Soil Health

The main factor impacting the productivity of a garden is the soil quality. Since, by definition, most square-foot gardens are small, you can probably afford to splurge a little bit on soil amendments such as mushroom compost, composted manure, or high-quality compost.

Want to learn more about garden soil? Check out these previous articles: How to Test Your Garden’s Soil, How to Prepare Your Garden Beds for Spring, and How to Compost at Home.

Build Up

The easiest way to start a square-foot garden is to use a raised bed garden. If you don’t want to invest in a kit or put hard infrastructure in your garden space, you should still consider some method of building your space up rather than digging down. Add your soil amendments directly on top of a space where the weeds and grass have been killed in preparation for planting and work them in.

Check out this article for a cost-effective and space-saving DIY barrel garden bed.

Plant Intensively

Space is the name of the game in a square-foot garden. You want to give each of your plants the required space they need to grow, but nothing more.

Read the back of the seed package (or the card on the plant) to get a sense of how many you can plant per square. You can plant 16 plants per square that require 3-inch spacing, nine plants per square that require 4-inch spacing, 4 plants per square that require 6-inch spacing, and 1 plant per square that require 12-inch spacing.

Here are the spacing requirements of some of the most popular plants per square

  • 1 large tomato plant per 2 squares
  • 1 pepper, squash, or eggplant
  • 1 to 2 herb plants
  • 1 to 2 cucumbers
  • 1 cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower plant
  • 4 to 6 lettuce or leafy green plants
  • 4 potatoes
  • 9 bunching onions
  • 9 bush beans or peas
  • 16 radishes or green onions

Square foot gardening is a great way to get started gardening. And if you decide to expand your space, the principles will hold in any area.

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