Give peas a chance
Join Date: May 2007
Location: California, USA
I've been doing square foots for 6 years. I've got 8 beds in the yard at my parents house, as well as an in-ground space that is about 6'x20'.
Fertilizer and manure aren't utilized in the Mel Bartholomew style of square foot gardening. Composted manure can be part of the mix, but straight manure isn't part of his formula. Everything is about compost with him, and I do go through a lot of that. I would say that over the course of a year, about 3/4's of the compost in every bed gets depleted and needs to be replenished.
My biggest problems that relate to square foot gardening are earwigs and grub worms. Earwigs love nooks and cracks, and the bottom sides of pots. If you build your own raised beds try to minimize places where earwigs can hide. This has been a huge pain for me. Earwigs will hide in dark cool places during the day, then strip the leaves off baby plants. The more food and shelter they have, the more they multiply.
Grubs love the square foot gardens much more than my in-ground space. I think it's because it's much easier for them to burrow into. The June Bugs lay their eggs in early summer then turn into the grubs who snack on the roots. They live in the bed for the better part of a year until they turn into June Bugs and emerge the following summer. Last year was the worst. I would start everything from seed, then transplant, then watch as the plants became stunted and eventually died. I had to build a screen and sift all the soil out from each of the beds. In one 4'x4'x8" bed I extracted 130 big fat grubs. It seems to make a difference if I can keep the entire bed filled with plants during May-August when the bugs are laying their eggs. I think it might be because they don't see the soil.
I also have problems with aphids and baby grasshoppers, but those attack everything, not just the sq foot beds.
Weeds are a problem with the in-ground bed, but not the sq foots. It might be because the sq foots are all commercial compost.
Tomatoes are the most problematic plant I've had in the sq foot beds. There is a wide variety in the sizes of plants that are available. More than once I've planted a variety that turned out to be a monster that overtook everything in a bed. Dwarf cherries worked well though. They are very compact plants that stay in their square.
In my experience sq foot gardens are fantastic for greens. By far, they give the highest return on investment. The best success I've had was doing a 4x4 with 16 squares and each had a different green, or radishes. No problems with pests, and it made for some exotic salads and interesting garnishes.
Vegan Cookbooks Illustrated