Square foot gardening is an easy way of creating garden space without having land or a tiller. The basic principle of this type of gardening is to grow ones garden in a box or rectangular shape verses monoculture rows. Before jumping into square foot gardening phenomenon, one must plan their garden space.
A simple principle exists when one is going to utilize the square foot garden technique and that is one 4 by 4 bed will produce enough produce for one adult to have a salad everyday during the growing season. If planting for a child, then a 3 by 3 bed will provide enough produce for one salad a day during the growing season.
If you add an additional 4 by 4 bed, then you will produce enough produce to cover dinner for the whole season. If you want to share, preserve or have large eaters, then consider adding another bed.
Once you understand this pattern, the next step is to draw up a chart that will help you calculate how many square foot beds you will need. The first step is to create a chart that has five columns and label the columns name, salad, dinner, extra, and total. After this is done, write down the first column everyone you plan to feed through your garden space. This list is not limited to humans. Many household pets such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs can also use their own garden space.
The next step is to decide when these individuals would consume this produce. An example of how this would work is planning for a spring square foot garden when the kids are in school. Unless they are taking their lunch, they probably would not be eating a salad once a day. So during this planning process consider the time of year and when the produce will be harvested to make sure you do not plant too much.
After this is done, place a check in the columns that applies to each person’s situation. Each check represents one 4 by 4 garden space. When the chart is completed, then add up the number of garden spaces required.
This number can be left as the number of beds that you will need or it can be converted to the total number of square feet required for this year’s garden.
Once the area is calculated, the next step is to plan what you want to grow. Have everyone who is going to benefit from the garden make up a list of vegetables they would like to grow. Arrange these into cool season and warm season crops. Plan out when certain plants should be started from seed and when certain plants should be placed in the garden. After this is done, mark the calendar with the planned planting dates.
The next step in this process requires a little “homework.” What I mean by this is you will need to observe your surroundings. These surroundings include your yard, porch or deck. The first thing you need to look at is where is the sun located. Most vegetable plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight to maximize production.
Another consideration when planning the location is how close the garden space will be to the house. This is very important. Most gardeners do not want to walk a long distance to harvest a few tomatoes. Also consider where in your house you can more easily see your garden space. Having a clear view of the garden area can help the gardener more closely monitor the health and wealth of the garden. This view can alert the gardener to any problem that needs to be quickly addressed. These troubles range from dogs, cats or wildlife in the garden space to disease problems.
Also, the garden space needs to be located away from trees and the area should not hold water. While the soil type is not important, since it will not be used, you still do not want to place the beds in a location that holds water.
The next step in this process is to draw the design up. The beds will need to be separated by three feet in all directions. When planning out the design, play with it a little. It can take any shape or pattern you would like. A simple way of doing this is to draw out some beds on construction paper. Cut the beds out and organize them on paper until you find a design you like. Once you have decided on a design, add the three-foot walkways and calculate the complete surface area needed for your garden space. This information will aid you in your final decision as to where the garden needs to be located.
Square foot gardening is a great addition to any gardener’s knowledge base but keep in mind though that every great project starts with planning. In this case, knowing what you need and where you need it is the first step to a successful square foot garden.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.