Square foot gardening is the practice of planting and managing highly efficient compact gardens in a minimal amount of space. Principles of Organic gardening are incorporated for optimal success. Basically, Square Foot Gardening as introduced by Mel Bartholomew in his book "All New Square Foot Gardening" involves making the absolute most of what you got.
As opposed to Conventional gardening, Square foot gardens do not require the same intensive tilling and cultivation.
Each of the beds is divided into approximately one foot square units and marked out with twine, slats or whatever is available to ensure that the square foot units remain easily visible as the plants progress.
The square-foot-gardening method as pioneered by Bartholomew uses a topless bottomless square box which contains a limited amount of soil. The soil was divided with a grid into subsections.
Advantages of Square Foot Gardens
The soil is not walked on and therefore not compacted.
Smaller beds are easily adaptable and the gardener can reach all the plants with ease, and without trampling upon the soil. The garden space is should be divided into beds that are comfortably accessed from every angle. A 4 ft X 4 ft garden is recommended for novices, with a path that can comfortably be worked from on either side of the bed,
The beds are weeded and watered from the pathways, so the garden soil is never stepped on or compacted
The recommended soil mixture remains loose and easily workable.
Weeding is simplified due to the use of easily accessible raised beds and light loose soil.
Soil and Water for Square Foot Gardens
The specific soil mixtures increase their moisture retention; the garden therefore needs less additional water than in conventional systems. Mel Bartholomew recommends using a soil mixture: one-third blended compost , one-third sphagnum peat moss, and one-third expanded vermiculite.
A few handfuls of compost should be added with every successive harvest to maintain soil fertility from season to season, the condition of the beds underlying soil is not as relevant.
Water is used more sparingly by watering directly at the plants base / root system, there is very little waste and seedlings and tender under developed plants are preserved. The Dense mass of useful plants / crops prevents weeds from establishing or in some cases even germinating.
Companion Planting - Intercropping and Crop Rotation
The principles of companion planting when incorporated into Square Foot Gardening become more effective. The large variety of crops in a small space may also halt the progression of plant diseases.
To extend a square foot gardens growing season a cold frame can also be built around the bed, and by facing the frame south, the garden captures more light and heat during the colder months of spring and winter
To encourage variety of different crops over time, each square would be planted with a different cultivar; the number of plants per square naturally would depend on an individual plant's anticipated full grown size.
Plant Spacing and Plants per Square Foot
Strawberry plants could be planted four per square, Radishes 16 per square. Tall or climbing plants such as corn or sweet peas should be planted to the north so as not to block sunlight from their shorter neighbors. They should also be supported with a lattice or similar system.