Square Foot Gardening
What is it?
Square foot gardening is a really cool technique which allows you to maximize the space you are using to grow plants, and makes it easier for you to get the utmost out of each area of growth. In simpler terms, think of it like this.
When you are gardening and want a large amount of produce, most people tend to use a technique called row gardening. This is when you plant one kind of seed, for example cabbage, in a row. You plant as many as you can, while also leaving enough space for you to manoeuvre yourself through the row and water the plants, thin down the seedlings, and generally tend to the plants until it is time for harvest. You repeat this with your other types of seeds, until you have row after row of different seeds sprouting from your garden floor.
This isn’t necessarily a bad technique, and while it does have its uses, it does tend to use up quite a bit of space. Not only is there quite a bit of space wasted due to the inefficiency of the system, but there is also quite a bit of water wasted since the layout is not one which allows you to optimize the amount of water used. It also takes quite a bit of energy to make your way around the rows during the time you spend tending to the plants.
So what is Square Foot Gardening?
With square foot gardening, the process is slightly different. Instead of long rows you plant your seeds as close as you can together, only leaving enough space for them to grow properly. Aside from that, you go as close as you can to preserve as much space as possible. You divide your garden beds into 1 foot by 1 foot squares, and plant one type of each seed into these squares. This is why it is referred to as square foot gardening. By doing this, you leave a much more efficient planted pattern, allowing you to make sure you get optimum growth both in quality and in quantity, and also that none of your resources go to waste.
One thing you definitely need to keep in mind however, is the space needed for each plant to grow effectively. When you purchase a pack of seeds, you can see on the back that it usually says “space after thinning”, or something similar. This refers to how much space the plant needs to grow in a health manner. Make sure you take care of that and leave enough space between the seeds so that they can all grow prosperously. An example is lettuce seeds, which need a space of 6 inches between seeds for them to grow properly, while tomato seeds only need 1 inch of space. Adjust your spacing accordingly.
Benefits of Square Foot Gardening
The main benefit of this type of gardening if the fact that you will be able to grow a large number of plants and produce a much higher amount of produce than you would with other types of gardening, due to the efficiency of how you are utilising the space available on the garden bed.
For vegetables, square foot gardening is very effective. For smaller plants like beans, peppers, onions, cabbages and other similar plants, this style of gardening is especially effective as it allows you to really maximize the amount you can grow in limited spaces.
Also, this system really does appeal to a lot of new gardeners, simply because it is so easy to understand and to get started. Anyone who has any interest in consistently producing plants and crops should strongly consider this method, as it is an efficient method that can be used for almost any purpose. But is also very easy to understand which is an important aspect for many people.
If you are just getting started and are interested in gardening, you may not be able to start food forests, seed saving, intercropping, green maturing, or any other more advanced techniques simply because you are not in a position of experience and it takes quite a bit of know how to make those systems work.
But square foot gardening, as effective as it is, can be picked up and learned very quickly by even the most inexperienced of novices. It is a great gateway into introducing yourself to home food production, and is the expert’s choice as the best place to start.
Make sure to position your grids properly, as if you position them too close to each other or other features in the garden (fences, display structures, etc;) it may interfere with the plants and the ability you have to tend to them. Layout the grids in an effective manner that will allow the plants to grow freely, and will also allow you to manoeuvre yourself around the garden in an easy manner while you tend to the produce. Poor positioning is hard to undo as it will require you to tear up your growing plants down the line, so make sure you have everything properly lined up before you commit to starting your gardening.
Also, make sure you use good materials. It can be tempting to use just any wood you find to create the sides of the grid, but over time weaker materials will decay and leave your plants at risk. Make sure to use higher quality materials, they may cost a little more but they will be a life saver down the line (in your plants case, literally!).
And lastly, remember that each garden is different and we will all encounter different challenges along the way. There is no one fits all method to grow a successful garden bed using square foot gardening. Study about this method of gardening, and use your common sense to adjust on the fly whenever you may need to.
How should I lay out the grid?
If you are planting multiple types of seed, it is best to make sure similar types of plant are located adjacent to each other. By doing this, it allows you to better structure your garden and tend to each individual grid better as the ones that require similar needs will be located right next to each other, making it easier for you.
How much space is needed for each seed?
Again, the space needed differs and can really vary. It is recommended that you read through any packs or information you may have gotten when you purchased the seed, and that you adhere to their needs. If the seeds are too far apart, then you are wasting space, which is the opposite intention of a square foot garden. However if they are too close together, you will find that each seed struggles to grow properly as it fights for space and resources. You want to avoid this potential catastrophe and make sure the seed has ample space to do its thing.
Where is the best place to locate your garden?
The garden needs sunlight to survive and thrive, so the best location would be one where it can get the maximum amount of sunlight possible. A poor location would be one where there is shade for the majority of the day, and this can lead to your garden being deprived of the necessary sunlight it needs to properly grow.
You could conceivably leave it in a place where the sunlight would be more sporadic, although this is not recommended. If possible, try to make sure it remains in a position where the sunlight can easily get to it and it will have plenty of sun rays to guide it through its period of growth.
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