The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Less unique aspects of square foot gardening

Square foot gardening diagramI think that Mel Bartholomew could have summed up the unique aspects of square foot gardening in about fifteen pages.  So in order to turn his idea into a book, he had to add about 300 pages of fluff ranging from basic seed-starting advice to how to weed and water.  While I wholeheartedly agree with many aspects of his method, none of them is really new.  In addition to permanent beds, he advocates:

  • Heavy mulches to keep down weeds
  • Starting only the seeds you're going to have space for in your garden rather than planting dozens and thinning
  • Succession planting so that your garden is full from early spring to late fall
  • Vertical gardening by running tomatoes and cucurbits up trellises (which is a method I need to work a bit harder on myself)

On the other hand, I can't get behind some of Bartholomew's other assertions.  He thinks that crop rotation will take care of itself since you're constantly filling up new squares and are unlikely to put the same plant family in a location twice in a row.  In a mathematical puzzle, that might be the case, but in a real life garden you'll discover that your carrots like the spot with deep soil and the spring peas like the sunniest area by the trellis, and you'll tend to plant each crop in the same place from year to year.  Keeping track of planting locations is essential to prevent a buildup of diseases in the soil.

I think the point where Bartholomew really lost me, though, was when he asked who would want more than four heads of broccoli in a year.  Um, me?!!!  I know that Bartholomew's goal is to cut down on work, but after a while, I started to wonder if he really likes vegetables.

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This post is part of our Square Foot Gardening lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I grew a couple types of carrots in a 5 1/2 deep box. Grew just fine, no problem. grew a crap load of peas in and all around box garden. I do crop rotate agree on that. I will never go back to traditional gardening. I am in my rd years box gardening by square foot. We have never had so many vegetables in the backyard and have never worked this easy at it. My experience with it has been the most positive.

Comment by Kyle Fri Jun 8 06:13:07 2012
Kyle -- Glad to hear it's working so well for you!
Comment by anna Fri Jun 8 08:02:11 2012

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