One of the best methods for organic home-gardening is square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is easy to learn, doesn't take a lot of supplies, and best yet, conserves so much space that you can do it literally just about anywhere - even on top of a concrete apartment building roof in the middle of an urban environment.
What is square foot gardening?
Square foot gardening focuses on using small units of space to plant crops and emphasizes the value of compost and closely planted and often intermixed plants. Companion planting and raised bed gardening are both related concepts and varieties which square foot gardening can take. Square foot gardening is great for areas with poor soil and makes an easy gardening method for beginners or people with disabilities since the square foot design makes all of the plants easily accessible.
The basic idea of square foot gardening is to take, say, an open-bottomed box with soil inside and divide that space into a grid. Each square in the grid contains a different type of plant. Since some plants naturally take up more space than others, some squares contain numerous plants, and others only a solitary plant. The squares in the grid are generally marked with sticks or twine so that the gardener won't forget where the squares are as the garden grows. It is crucial to regularly mulch the garden to provide nutrition and temperature and moisture regulation.
Companion planting is the key to how you can pack plants so densely together in square foot gardening without them crowding or harming each other. Companion plants are plants which can symbiotically benefit each other. Cooperatively, companion plants in close proximity can nourish one another, control pests and aid each other in pollination.
What are some benefits of square foot gardening?
- If you have a large plant like broccoli, one plant per square is optimal.
- A medium sized plant like lettuce can grow four per square.
- Smaller plants like spinach can grow nine per square.
- Very small plants such as onions and carrots can occupy sixteen per square.
- If you have a plant that tends to take up a row, like squash, you can instead support it vertically on a trellis. The framework can be reinforced as needed with netting.
- Underground plants like potatoes can be placed in a raised bed. This ensures enough space for the plant to grow without disrupting the surrounding soil.
- If you don't have soil, (i.e. all you have is concrete) you can use pots or vertical frames.
- Saves time and energy. Soil in square foot gardening doesn't compact and is easily accessible. This makes it harder for weeds to get a hold in the soil and easier for you to remove the few that do. You also don't have to take the time and hard work to loosen the soil on a regular basis.
- If you use the proper soil, you won't need to water your square foot garden as often or as much.
- Square foot gardening protects the health of your plants from pests and disease. Companion planting with pest-repelling plants can protect all of your plants from pests, eliminating the need for pesticides. This means you can more easily garden organically. By staggering same-species plants, you can also keep them from spreading disease to each other.
Square foot gardening is convenient and accessible, and can be used successfully in any climate or environment. It saves so much space that even a city-dweller can maintain an organic garden. Fresh, healthy produce has never been so easy or affordable to so many.