January 10, 2008
square foot gardening by mel bartholomew
Mel Bartholomew advocates his system of planting quite energetically. Like any retired engineer, he likes the grid and organization of raised bed planting, and takes it another step or two further. His method can be broken down into 3 steps:
1. Build raised 4′ x 4′ beds on top of your existing soil.
2. Fill the box with his special soil combination of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost.
3. Divide the boxes into grids of square feet and plant different things in each square.
The results, he claims, are weed-free, productive, low-maintenance gardens that do away with having to amend soil without “the hard work and drudgery of single row gardening”.
He makes some good points about maintaining your garden without walking on it (i.e., use aisles) and biodiversity. He also advocates staggering planting times and harvests. If you love squares and rectangles, this is the method for you! If you like a more naturalistic approach, perhaps not. It’s not the prettiest approach to gardening, and if you want a large amount of produce (like me), it seems quite capital intensive.
I think I will try his approach to raised beds and vertical gardening along the back fence in my existing garden plot. In the past, I have had terrible luck with squash and zucchini of all things. Everyone I know grows zucchini in spite of themselves, whereas I can’t get it past the slugs. Okay, so technically, I left the zucchini to defend themselves against being devoured, but I figured this was a good method of crop management – only the strong would survive to be eaten. This summer, I’m going up with all of these, and I will attempt to build his suggested vertical structures for bearing these, using rebar, electrical conduit piping and nylon webbing. Ugly but practical?
For more information, visit the Official Square Foot Gardening website.