Sometimes in the garden, you need to make the most out of every square foot of space you have. Whether you are trying to plant in a raised bed in the suburbs or looking to minimize your garden sprawl in the country, the square foot gardening method offers a valuable technique to grow the most amount of food in the smallest space possible. High yields in small areas can be beneficial to both experienced growers and beginners alike, especially those without much extra time on their hands. You can also eliminate or at least minimize fossil fuel inputs by using such a small space and only using natural methods of weeding and pest control. Here is your guide to start square foot gardening today.
- Choose your location
This is one of the most essential steps for the health of your garden. Most vegetables and herbs require at least 6 hours of full sun per day, so it's important to find a sunny spot that's flat enough for your garden. Avoid low spots that tend to collect water after it rains to prevent bogging down your plant's roots. The closer to your house, the more likely it is you will see your garden bed and remember to do all your weeding and watering throughout the season.
- Build a raised garden bed (or multiple)
A common size for square foot gardening beds is four feet by four feet. Compact and convenient, you can reach the middle from every side of the bed. Carrots call for sides at least 12 inches deep, but most other crops can be grown in a bed 6 inches deep. You can purchase pre-made beds or DIY to save a bit of money using lumbar or other materials you have around the house. Be sure the materials you use haven't been treated with any chemicals that could leach into the soil. Fill the bed with garden soil and be sure to mix in quality compost. Using string, pipes, or strips of durable material you have on hand, mark out your square foot sections and get ready to plant.
- Plant your favorite fruits and vegetables
It's easy to get carried away while browsing the seed catalog or the nursery but be sure you choose crops that you enjoy eating. Putting all the effort in during the season just to waste the harvest doesn't make much sense. The formula for planting in a square food garden is: 1 extra-large plant in each 1 square foot area, 4 large plants, 9 medium plants and 16 small plants. When planting, be sure you follow the formula, unless you'd like to experiment with trial and error. Crops that like to spread, like watermelon, may require an entire bed to themselves while carrots can be close together.
- Set a watering and weeding schedule
One of the most efficient ways to water your garden is by using a drip irrigation system. Once you set it up, you can forget all about it and your plants will still receive the necessary water. You can also try to remember to go out and water your beds at least once per week, more if your plants are just getting established or it's especially hot and dry. Utilizing mulch is an excellent way to maintain the moisture in your garden bed and limit the weeds that want to grow. When weeds inevitably pop up, it's easiest to eliminate them by pulling the roots up early. If the weed goes to seed, it is a lot more difficult to get them under control.