Gardening (commonly known as SFG) is a planting method invented by American author and television host Mel Bartholomew in the 1970s. It’s an easy way to create an easy-to-manage Square Foot Gardening with raised beds requiring minimal maintenance time.
SFG exploded in popularity through Meyer’s first book and TV series in the 1980s and has since spread worldwide, eventually becoming “mainstream”, with different companies offering ready-to-assemble SFG gardens. SFG advocates claim it hence produces more, uses less soil and water, and takes only 2 per cent of the time it takes a traditional garden. So what makes Square Foot Gardening different, and why don’t all gardeners use it?
SFG was developed as a reaction to the inefficiencies of the traditional Gardening. In 1975, Mel Bartholomew had just retired as an engineer and decided to pursue Gardening as a hobby. He naturally applies his analytical skills to the problems he encounters.
In particular, he found that the average gardener spends hours weeding in the large gaps between long rows of plants, creating unnecessary work for himself. It quickly became clear that removing rows and using dense, deep beds can greatly reduce the maintenance your garden needs. Add a one-foot-square grid on top so you can easily space and rotate crops.
Square Foot Gardening System
Over the years, the SFG system has evolved into a precise set of rules:
- Create deep raised beds: typically 4 feet by 4 feet, with a square foot trellis placed on top to visually separate crops. The beds are between 6 and 12 inches deep, which provides the plants with plenty of rich nutrients while maintaining good drainage.
- Use a specific soil mix: one-third of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. This way, the raised bed is completely weed-free, water-retaining, and nutrient-rich.
- Please don’t walk on the soil: This is now a common practice in raised bed gardening, but in the 1970s, it was revolutionary advice not to dig the soil without stepping on it.
- Square Planting: To keep planting simple, there is no need to remember plant spacing. Instead, there are 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants in each square, depending on the size of the plants—use your fingers to make a smaller grid in the soil, which is easy to locate in each square. As an exception, some larger plants span two squares. Climbing peas and the beans are planted in two rows of 4.
- Cut thin with scissors: Instead of pulling off excess plants, as they will interfere with the root system of the plants you want to grow, cut them with scissors.
- ACCESSORIES: In addition to all the above details, New Square Foot Gardening provides practical instructions for building various accessories, including protective cages that easily lift and remove from SFG beds, season-extending covers, and supports for vertical growth.
How does it work?
Square foot gardening is the process of dividing a plot into square feet and utilising it as a guideline for the number of plants to plant per square foot, depending on variety,” explains Chia-Ming Ro, garden consultant and owner of Coastal Homestead. Tic-tac-toe grid is how Roman describes the result.
If you’re wondering how raised bed gardening differs from traditional row gardening, Roman says that the main difference is that you won’t have to rototill (turn and break up the soil) as often.
Square foot gardening, she claims, “gives you 100% of the crop using only 20% of the space, 10% of the water, 5% of the seeds, roughly 2% of the labour, and virtually no weeds.” This is in contrast to “single row gardening,” which requires rototilling a vast area every year or two.
Important benefits of square foot gardening system
- It’s a space saver
This strategy allows you to maximise yield from a constrained growing area.
- Minimalist in design
The plan is a practical solution for those who want to grow their food but need more space.
- Minimal effort is required to maintain it.
Once your pretty large square foot garden is established, Roman estimates that you will spend no more than 10 minutes each day caring for it, whether it’s watering, checking on it, pruning it, or harvesting the fruits of your labours.
- The spot where it will go is up for grabs.
Because you will be constructing the framework for your square foot garden, you can put it anywhere, even on concrete or asphalt. Even if your soil isn’t the best, it’s still a viable option.