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Square Foot Gardening sign

Square Foot Gardening

Many of you have been around long enough to remember Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening program on PBS channels in the 70s and 80s. He developed a gardening “system” that produces a great amount of wholesome, edible vegetables in a raised bed that is only 4 feet by 4 feet. He has updated his best-selling gardening book “All New Square Foot Gardening.”

Now there is no excuse to keep you from gardening. You only need sixteen square feet in full sun more than 6 hours per day. This is fall and time to get the cool season garden planted. Imagine growing one head of cabbage, eight lettuces, thirty-two carrots, sixteen radishes, two broccoli plants, eighteen beets, two collard plants, four Swiss chard plants, sixteen onions, one parsley plant and four basil plants in only sixteen square feet. How can you grow so many plants in such a small area? Ignore the row spacing on the seed packet and concentrate on the distance between plants.

Best of all, you don’t have to dig out the bad soil – in fact, you can ignore the native soil in your yard or gardening area. You are going to fill this 4 foot by 4 foot box 8-10 inches high with the best growing soilless material for a no-fail vegetable garden. It will be called “Mel’s Mix.”

Finally, you will need a grid. “Without a grid, you do not have a Square Foot Garden.” This can be made from many materials including string, wood and bamboo. But the best material is recycled material such as old vinyl blind slats. Use the materials to create a grid spaced twelve inches so the planting bed is divided up into sixteen one-foot squares.

This isn’t complicated but does require some attention. As soon as a crop is ready to harvest, you should have a new crop to plant. It is a continuous “food producing machine” that provides you with quality food and exercise in the outdoors.

Happy Gardening and contact your County Extension Office for additional information.

By Ed Thralls, Extension Agent, Residential Horticulture