What in the World is Square Foot Gardening?
You’ve probably caught wind of the buzz surrounding square foot gardening, but may be left wondering, what is it, really? Let’s break it down into simple terms:
Fashion trends come and go—jelly sandals, butterfly clips, low-rise jeans… we’ve seen ‘em all here in Houston. The same goes for gardening! There are so many new techniques that make a big splash, and then fizzle out just as fast as they appeared. But there’s one gardening trend that has withstood the test of time and remains to be a popular technique for both seasoned and newbie gardeners alike: square foot gardening.
Square foot gardening is pretty straightforward. As the name suggests, it involves sectioning up your vegetable garden into square foot plots, to organize your crops into nice little boxes. Now, it’s not just for the sake of keeping things organized and tidy. There are actually loads of benefits to creating a square foot garden. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at how to build one.
Square foot gardening requires a raised garden bed for it to be fully effective, but honestly, any vegetable gardening should be done in a raised garden bed anyways. They’re just that awesome! It’s a much more controlled environment, it’s less susceptible to weeds, and your veggies will grow much faster in it. If you don’t have one, they’re pretty simple to make.
Once your raised garden bed is good to go, it’s time to section off the square feet. You can nail down some pvc pipe, taut string, or 2” wooden slats in a grid shape, with each section measuring one square foot. Make sure you’re able to easily reach every square without having to step into the garden because walking through it can squash down the soil and make it much trickier for roots to spread. If you’re having trouble reaching the middle of the garden, lay a 2X10 plank down the middle that you can walk across like a bridge.
Once your square foot garden is all set up, it’s time to get planting! Plant each square separately as you go along. If you have bigger plants, like peppers or tomatoes, one single plant should fill out one square. Smaller root vegetables, like beets and carrots, can usually fit 4 to 1 square. Potatoes and kale can fit 2 plants per square, and onions can fit as many as 9 per square.
If you’re looking for a little inspo on the best layouts for square foot gardening, look no further than Pinterest! Seriously, that site has endless planograms and square foot gardening charts, so you’re bound to find something that sparks your interest and is tailored to your experience level.
So, what’s all the fuss about anyway? Well, for starters, since you’re filling out all of the garden space with no gaps or rows, there’s way less room for weeds to germinate. When your vegetable plants are packed together that tightly, any weed seeds that find their way over on the breeze will just get choked out and shaded by all the existing plants. Not only that, but the perfect spacing, controlled environment and elevated soil lead to bigger, healthier, tastier crops. Can’t go wrong with that!
On top of that, it’s also just a really great system for beginner gardeners or those of us who are a little forgetful or disorganized. No longer will you be left staring quizzically at your garden, wondering which plants are which and what got planted where. Square foot gardening lays out everything in a way that’s easy to remember (and if all else fails, just draw out your grid on a post-it note and keep it on the fridge as a reference). You’ll never have to worry about whether you’re spacing out your plants too much or too little, because all those planograms have everything laid out, so you can skip the guesswork.
Now, there are a few disadvantages to square foot gardening, too, but it’s nothing major. Since your vegetables are growing faster and stronger, they’ll need extra watering, so you may need to get out there with the hose a bit more often than you’re used to. But when a huge harvest of fresh vegetables is the end result, a little extra effort is more than worth it!
One last thing to consider is the size of the vegetables you want to plant— you aren’t really going to be able to pull off any jumbo veggies, like pumpkins, melons, or zucchinis. If your heart is set on growing some big guys, you’ll have to keep those in a separate garden and keep the smaller guys in the square foot garden. You might be able to pull off some smaller cucumber plants, but remember to install a trellis so it has something to creep up.
Overall, square foot gardening is well worth the effort (and let’s be real, it’s not that much extra effort). With a bit of pre-planning and a little help from the Pinterest community, you’ll be well on your way to a decked-out garden that’s bursting with fresh veggies. To get started on square foot gardening, visit us in Houston, and our experts will hook you up with everything you need.