Is there concern over that? I admit this is just my guess. “Mel’s Mix” is a spongy, airy, rich medium for your plants. To indulge in square foot gardening, all you need to do is divide your gardening bed into ‘imaginary’ 1 foot squares. ALL my pine/white wood beds were half gone from termites and carpenter ants by the FIRST YEAR, and rotten on the bottom where it met the soil line come the spring after I made it. You don’t need a ‘plastic’ box for this type of gardening. A healthy square foot gardening … Keep producing that, and your gardens will keep growing for you. Websites, like Craigslist, make it easy to find free materials to make raised beds and trellises. The goal of this is to assist the planning and creating of a small but intensively planted garden. Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society. If you live near a lumber mill, and the wood costs next to nothing, obviously that’s one thing, but a blanket statement that this product is useless is unfair it seems. Instead, you use a perfect mix (“Mel’s Mix”) of soil created from 1 part compost, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part peat moss. (NOTE: Even if you do think your compost pile got hot enough, watch out, as lots of seeds usually manage to slip through the cracks.). If Square Foot Gardening were the end-all system, it would be recommended across the gardening community, right? I did a quick search and the www seems to have conflicting reports on that. The basic principle is that you are giving each type of plant the spacing they require, without wasting any space. Regular pine also lasts much longer than 2 years. You Are Eating Poisonous Fruits & Vegetables Even If They’re Organic! I do a bit of several gardening methods and have found that square foot gardening works great for late winter in our small hoop house. Many gardening books are full of incorrect information. so they copy a lot of material from other places. I find the raised beds to be much easier to maintain. Plant Communication – Can Plants Talk to Other Plants? A decent circular saw alone costs what? It may be perfect for a townhome’s backyard, but it’s less attractive when you have a lot of land available or where irrigation is less available. low levels of leaching and any leaching that does happen does not travel far. The economy of the thing tells me, more than likely the 2 x 4 is probably more environmentally safer and economically less harmful to my pocketbook. Well, economy changes. Always ask, of course. If you want to start gardening but feel overwhelmed or don’t think you have the space to do it, I encourage you to explore the square foot gardening method. I just started to laugh. Great article, David! That’s Square Foot Gardening in a nutshell. So far, it’s been successful for us (except for the squash vine borers last summer but let’s not talk about those). If you are only raising the bed a few inches, raised beds add no real value except aesthetics and a bit less bending. From what I have read there has been negative and positive remarks about it. Mel goes on to say, "The square foot system lets you make the most of your garden space to conserve the amount of water, soil conditioners, and labor needed to produce a maximum amount of food in that space. The book recommends putting a barrier down at the bottom of the newly constructed bed. Square foot gardening has a time-honored, well-tested place in the gardening world, with many noticeable benefits to gardening and lifestyle. It really is a wonderful way to supply your own food. On the other hand, I see a 3 pack of these plastic raised beds on Amazon for $136.94. Square foot gardening … Square foot gardening is a solid gardening method for any home gardener, especially beginners and people who are short on space. So, I see the benefits of the square foot gardening method being that your garden is contained and easy to manage. 2 x 4 x 8′ cost $3.20 here in Indiana. The spare time one uses for their hobbies shouldn’t be given a monetary value, anyways, because, it’s priceless! I use a combination of methods ranging from row gardening to biointensive beds to water gardening to food forestry, etc. You don’t need a square box. Square foot gardening also works best in a raised bed that’s no more than 4 feet wide (so you can reach the middle easily), though it can be whatever length you like. Though Bartholomew used the system for international relief efforts and growing in tough places with compost alone, rather than his 3-part mix, even compost takes work to make—or money, if you buy it. Square Foot Gardening with Kids Written By: Rick Bickling “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” — John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States One of the areas being … Also, I spend the summer watching for construction sites that often throw away ridiculous amounts of perfectly good materials because they are charging it off to people who are to dumb to realize what they are paying for. In the spring, we built and planted a so-called square-foot garden here in Calgary, faithfully following the instructions in an updated version of Mel Bartholomew's 1970s book, Square Foot Gardening. I like the simplicity of digging mounded and borderless beds rather than having to make beds from wood. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Traditionally, ofc, 2 by 4 lumber has almost always been the best value for buck. If you’ve got a limited amount of space, like well-planned systems, and you’ve got some resources, Square Foot Gardening is a great method. Total cost would be $45 per 4’x4′ bed at 10″ high just for lumber, not including an extra piece you would require for corners, glue(because I would want it glued), stainless screws or even cheap exterior deck screws still costing something extra on top, gas for pick up from the hardware store, time and labor to pick it up. So it’s pretty much the garden equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. In square foot gardening, raised beds that are 4ft (1.2 m) … Mel Bartholomew is really fun to read—the book is worth buying just to hear what a truly excited and enthusiastic gardener sounds like. In fact, I later dug beneath my old SFG beds and stacked in chunks of wood as water reservoirs in a hugelkultur-inspired fashion … but that’s another story altogether. It will probably surprise the manufacturers of this product that plant roots will just grow under their little plastic strips! Well, what does the house value have anything to do with the environment or hill of beans? Thanks for supporting TGN! My point is – everything has a price. If you’re not gardening now, you need to start. It’s not nothing. But we did make a few mistakes along the way. Amy’s viewpoint: First off, a square foot garden is simply a raised box or bed that is divided into squares.The beds can be 2 feet by 2 feet or 4 x 12, but the most common is a bed that is 4 … The above information on the plastic square foot,raised planting box had me thinking,how about a column “Don’t buy this literature”.I and i suspect a great many others have been grossly mislead on gardening techniques and practices via “books” that have been published aimed at the home gardener,For a person to publish gardening literature that grossly misleads so many people is unjust,selfish,and just plain wrong.I love to learn and i have no problems with learning from mistakes.Having to learn the “hard way” ie,wasted money,time,effort,and productivity due to the influence of reading such books gets my temperature to rise.Speaking for myself,square foot gardening is a complete waste period and for most others for that matter. You have to build beds from something and then fill them with perfect soil. Bartholomew also strongly recommends putting a permanent grid over the top, dividing the bed into easily manageable 1-foot squares. If you’ve got a limited amount of space, like well-planned systems, and you’ve got some resources, Square Foot Gardening is a great method. A main drawback of this system is the initial setup cost. When my wife wanted to start gardening years ago, I set her up with Square Foot beds. The premise is to build a gardening box (in square … It’s 3.5 inches. Not to mention the minimum wage $10 per hour and probably 4 hours or so minimum required for me to assemble such a project. It’s a remarkably well-engineered, self-contained way to garden. My First Vegetable Garden – A New Course Offered by University of Guelph Arboretum. Drops to $2.80 for 92″ length, which might do as well. This is useful for crop rotation, replanting, seeding, and spacing. A full sheet of 5/8 costs $22 here, which means a 4′ x4′ x 9″ bed would only cost $8.80. If you want a raised bed, just bang some 2 x 8 wood boards together. I believe in certain cases, it would be useful if not most cases. You also have to make a TON of compost. For filling your new boxes, Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening … The square foot gardening system allows people to grow more food in less space, maximising yields and minimising waste. SFG (Square Foot Gardening) incorporates raised beds or boxes. An “official” Square Foot Gardening bed isn’t in contact with your native soil at all. I also found that the 6-inch-deep thing didn’t work out very well here in Florida. What is really sad about this product is that the gardener is probably growing vegetables because they believe in fresh produce and in organically grown food. Using square foot gardening, you can comfortably grow two cucumber plants per square foot. All your “fertilizer” is produced by you. fluffernut. You can’t let a week slip past or you’ll be having a Square Foot funeral. Granted, you’d earn it back in homegrown organic produce over time—which is why I bit the bullet and built beds for my wife—but it’s still a big outlay. It’s also weed-free, unless you start with homemade compost that wasn’t “cooked” enough in a hot compost pile. Does it work? You might be interested in this post Raised Beds – Pros and Cons. This grid can be made of stretched string, PVC, 1 x 2 lumber, or whatever else you have lying around. The drawbacks (while real) all have fairly simple … The only fertilizer Bartholomew recommends is compost. Why Can’t You Trust Gardening Information on the Internet & How to Bloom Houseplants? I love Sundays because I get one day every single week to hang out with Farmer and the kids, and recharge for the next 6 days. But I’m guessing it does effect it. Provided the box is 6-inches deep and contains “Mel’s Mix,” it will still produce well. You’ve built the frame for a raised garden bed; now you need to fill it with … Error message: "The request cannot be completed because you have exceeded your, Copyright © 2021 Garden Myths | I haven’t decided what to do about my sister’s backyard yet, but the plastic beds, so far, seem like the best option – at least to ME. Also, when I built my beds 9 years ago, I was actually concerned about the lumber I was using. Finally, you have to build the boxes. Learn from our mistakes before you tackle your garden! Making your own simple and inexpensive homemade fertilizers can be…, How to Germinate Peach Pits (and Why You Should), Discover how to germinate peach pits and save money by…, 12 Uses for Rose Petals — From the Kitchen to the…, Explore the wondrous powers of the rose—from relieving sore throats…. Then the manufacturer asks them to create an environmental problem by producing a plastic box. Brown paper grocery bags seem like they would be better for the environment but the world has gone to plastic grocery bags. Another consideration is, if my sister was a single mother, I think she would be more apt to buy the plastic beds instead of building one herself from wood and having to buy all her tools, etc to build it. Yet writers like Steve Solomon, Ruth Stout, John Jeavons, Toby Hemenway, Carol Deppe, Edward Smith, Dick Raymond, and yours truly all have different methods that work for them. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll eventually outgrow the box and concentrate on building your own soil rather than bringing it in from outside. This is not including the cost to the environment in terms of the forest area designated to grow this lumber, transportation, lumbering equipment etc., which in economic terms I believe is almost always and generally reflected in the $4.50 per piece price tag. I do think, … It’s still money and a resource that could be used for proactive things if desired. Another great plant for square foot gardening is the cucumber. You don’t need little plastic strips to divide the surface into precise square foot sections. Hi Robert, I just stumbled on your site doing some research for our vegetable gardens. The idea of square foot gardening has become popular over the last few years and some of the underlying concepts of the this gardening technique make sense. Do Marigolds Stop Cabbage Worms – Is this Good Companion Planting? Any system that has been encouraging people to grow their own food for the past 40 years should be applauded. The pressure treated wood produced in North America is now safe for vegetables gardens. It is easy to understand, and the small bed space is very manageable. He’s an organic gardener and a philanthropist, and just seems to be an all-around sharp guy with a good heart. Benefits of Square Foot Gardening “Mel’s Mix” is a spongy, airy, rich medium … Having said that, I have to respectfully disagree with your opinion about these plastic square foot gardens. Since most SFG is done in … Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of … Square Foot Gardening: What Is It and Does It Work? Minimal Weeding– This really is one of the most important things for me. Square Foot Gardening. Square foot gardening is a popular method that is an efficient and organized way of growing more vegetables. I totally agree that one does not need to buy a product like this to have good raised beds. Most chemicals will not be absorbed. You then plant the correct number of seeds or plants into each square foot area. Square Foot Gardening differs from most other gardening systems in that you don’t use your native earth. Even if I do it myself for free which ofc I would, I am still using those productive hours of mine that I could be using for other purposes. You don’t need little plastic strips to divide the surface into precise square foot … Square Foot Gardening is in my arsenal—but it doesn’t play a major role in my garden plans. I have found long boards in good shape that were merely used for cement forms before being tossed in the dumpster. Square foot gardening is the practice of dividing a growing area into smaller square sections. Even the plastic water bottles people buy do this. And if it takes a 4-foot x 4-foot box with good instructions and a smiling mentor—sure, you can start with Square Foot Gardening. Around here wide boards are actually cheaper than 2 x 4 when you look at total wood. Don’t buy a product that you don’t need, and more importantly, don’t buy a plastic version of it! Once the summer sun is doing its thing, the square foot gardening is done. The standard Square Foot bed also doesn’t allow you to grow much in the way of large root crops or crawlers like melons. I was at an industry gardening show recently and spotted a plastic box for square foot gardening. In case you aren’t familiar, square foot gardening is just that–you break your space into 1’x1′ grids and … With minimal upkeep, rich soil, and fewer pest problems, square foot gardening is a busy, suburban grower’s dream. You will get good results with little weeding. If you wanted to feed your entire family with Square Foot beds, you’d be out some serious cash. Having a visual delineation of your plants is definitely helpful, but this part of the Square Foot design is where gardeners often diverge from the plans in Bartholomew’s book. That I am less sure about. Not to mention, at least where I live, I think the plastic beds would raise the value of the home where a termite infested wood weathered garden, probably not so. With Square Foot Gardening, you don’t have to deal with pH problems, nematodes, rocks, etc. In the end, you can’t squeeze water from stone as they say. Sunday – 0 hours in the garden… I eventually took the bottoms out of mine once I was sure the weeds beneath were dead. Farmer doesn’t go to work, and we don’t do any yard or garden work outside. Potting Up – Which Pot Size is Correct for Potting On? The late Mel Bartholomew brought gardening to a whole new crowd, and it really looks like a fun way to grow. Even on a slope, you can make flat beds – like rice paddies on a hill side. Fill the Raised Garden Bed. Very logical and yet common sensical without hysteria. I’ve had the bed for only a month, and adjusting my watering so can’t say for sure, but I feel I will more than likely water my bed for less than 5 minutes a week during growing seasons here. Retired engineer-turned-gardener Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening” consistently tops the list of best-selling gardening books—and there’s a reason. Square foot gardening wraps up all the loose ends of conventional gardening and ties them up into a neat little box of veggies. Albeit the wood beds were outside and my patio is screened in, and other factors, hence, I state guessing. Powered by. Some of us would rather bake a cake for someone, than to buy one. Another place where Square Foot Gardening shines is in its ability to produce large amounts of veggies in a small space. 8 years … But does it work? Plastic may last longer, but environmentally it is less desirable. I easily get 5 years out of it, but only if I buy better quality wood. You make some valid comments about price. We both work in town during the week and cannot keep it watered well enough to not stress it through the day. He’s gotten people gardening and helped feed people around the world. If you don’t have a lot of available space, square foot gardening is a great choice. Do you have a source you can provide that explains how this happens? The system is simple enough for anyone to create and it produces consistently. Square Foot Gardening, despite its advantages, also has some drawbacks. It really does work, and it takes a lot of the guesswork out of gardening. While I may have gotten some bad information about square foot gardening on the above crops, there are three I don’t think work in a square foot garden: corn, potatoes and romanesco … Mel Bartholomew said, “If your garden box doesn’t have a grid, it’s not a Square Foot Garden.” … I would use untreated wood. Natural Weed Killers – Do Organic Herbicides Work? To get to a height of 9 inches or so, I would require at least 2 and a half pieces per side. I initially build mind because I was having some back issues at the time, so I built mine tall and installed a rail I could sit on while weeding and harvesting. Just stating how it is. If you can get a few hundred garden-loving friends together, we may be able to make an enterprise of this. Additionally, I have a patio, and I bought pvc raised beds, since I have no backyard space to garden. This means you do not have to bring in anything new after the initial purchases of peat and vermiculite. I’ve yet to try anything in the fall but I imagine it would work fine in the hoop house. I priced out 2×4 lumber in the area(I live in Florida) and it was $4.50 for a 8 foot piece. AT LEAST, in MY case. The classic Square Foot bed is a 4-foot x 4-foot square constructed of anything from lumber to bricks to cinder blocks. I could work let’s say and that would be minimum worth $10 or so per hour – $40. 6 Answers. Or you can build the bed on top of concrete, believe it or not. That’s Square Foot Gardening in a nutshell. For example, my sister recently expressed a wish to make a garden at her house. Perhaps where you live it certainly does. Lv 7. I basically stacked two 2x10s on top of eachother for the sides and made them 4’x8′. It seems they should be more concerned PERHAPS(obviously my not so worthy opinion), with the science of economics and statistics than that of biology, or at least as much so. Yup, it does. I am not here to bash square foot gardening (SFG). Miracle-Gro Orchid Plant Food Mist – Huge Fertilizer Ripoff, Ginkgo Biloba Tree Myths – The Maidenhair Tree, LED Grow Lights - Getting the Right Color Spectrum, 18 LED Grow Light Myths You Should Know About, The Magical Power of Banana Peels in The Garden - Or Not, Eggshells - How Not to Use Them in the Garden, Sunlight Calculator - Another Product You Don't Need. A lot of my love and recycled materials is where it’s at. This method was invented by Mel Bartholomew, an American TV presenter, … The more I read and see about permaculture and gardening, the more I feel gardeners and environmentalists are in a half-delusion. And the building of beds and mixing of “soil” takes some time. What I do know is that, the 2×4 lumber is near worthless a commodity before it is taken from the pine tree. There are so many advantages to building a square foot garden: maximizing your harvest is just one of them. As I stated, I really appreciate your website and insights and agree with most if not all – haven’t read all yet, so can’t say. For a person just getting started, he takes the overwhelming world of food production and cuts it into nice, neat 12-inch x 12-inch pieces that are easy enough for even a complete novice to digest. Getting a proper Square Foot garden together cost me about $60.00 to build and fill. Bartholomew also provides plans for melon and bean trellises, so you can grow vertically and get more use from the space. He’s encouraging, uplifting, thoughtful, and a fun writer. That said, it’s not where most of the food comes from on my homestead. Even though I don’t follow most of his advice, I’m a fan of Mel Bartholomew. Ofc, it’s not a true 4 inches. A square foot garden takes only one-fifth the space and work of a conventional single-row garden … Relevance. Necessitating me to buy more what? No soil improvements. Learn how your comment data is processed. I also used compost, most of which I made myself for the soil. Her backyard slopes downward into a creek. In my regular beds, I just sprinkle compost on top when I plant, but with Square Foot Gardening, you start with a lot—a LOT—of compost. Can’t say for sure it’s because it’s pvc. One is to use plywood for the sides. I have been an advocate of vegetable gardening for 20 years and doing raised beds for the past 9. Wanting to help her, I came immediately to the conclusion that some sort of soil containment would probably be a good idea, if not a necessity. Luckily there were no wooden structures nearby. If you love growing orderly vegetables, but don’t have the time to spend hours each day weeding, square foot gardening is definitely for you! All plastics leach chemicals – that is well known. You don’t need a square box. Everybody is entitled to have and express their own opinions,but not their own facts.That is why science is so awesome,because it is still the truth,even when people refuse to believe it. I discovered your site recently and love your articles. We have 8 raised beds based on the square foot gardening method. But on a serious note, there are two things I have tried to mitigate the cost and lengthen the life of my raised beds. What would you recommend using to construct a raised bed? … I found at least here in Florida, it takes a fraction of the water that the wood required to water it. The soil tended to dry out faster than I expected and stress my plants out. As you pull out spent crops, put in a handful of compost in the holes left behind and then plant again. We may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase an item after clicking one of our links. Answer Save. 21 Common Indoor Plant Myths – That Save You Time and Money. Would that $40 not be better served just donating to an environmental cause? Home Depot sells junk. It’s a remarkably well-engineered, self-contained way to garden. I am curious about your statement about plastic leaching chemicals into plants. More people where I am prefer the pvc fencing over the cedar – happily or sadly, I am not judging. I don’t think it hurts that the method was thought up by an engineer (generally very smart people). I’m tickled and proud that 95% of the materials in my garden were free! Does square foot gardening really work? That’s for a 4-foot x 4-foot growing space. To indulge in square foot gardening, all you need to do is divide your gardening bed into ‘imaginary’ 1 foot squares. I can’t say which is better. Square Foot Gardening promises little or no weeding, consistent results, and lots of organic veggies from a tiny space. But what are the special techniques that bring … Mix the Perfect Soil Cocktail. But the cost of taking the lumber out of the pine tree and transporting it, etc. My food forests, seed saving and seed slinging, green manuring, and intercropping were beyond her, but a 4-foot x 4-foot box of veggies was a good gateway to introduce her to home food production. I do not know why, but seems obvious there must be reasons. Having a clean slate is great. Your garden usually starts with a 4×4 raised garden … A key factor in being successful with plant spacing in square foot gardening is adding a grid to your garden. You then plant the correct number of seeds or plants into each square foot area. If you want to grow beans, cabbages, salad greens, peppers, onions, and other smaller plants, Square Foot beds are very convenient and supportive. David The Good is a Grow Network Change Maker, a gardening expert, and the author of five books you can find on Amazon: Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening, Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, Create Your Own Florida Food Forest, and Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. This system requires more watering than systems that employ wider spacing. Square Foot Gardening Mistakes – our favorite method of managing a garden in a small suburban landscape. It really does work, and it takes a lot of the guesswork out of gardening. Plastic is not good for the environment, it does not compost, and most plastic leaches chemicals into the surrounding area ie your vegetables. Do plants absorb the chemicals? In contrast the wood beds dried out in a few hours after hurricane monsoons here. 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