Square Foot Gardening? - VeggieBoards

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#1 Old 09-01-2015, 02:51 PM
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Square Foot Gardening?

Does anyone use it and have you have success with it? I would like to try it but I'm unsure about how well it works.

If it does work for you, what do you grow and what worked best when you tried it?
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#2 Old 09-01-2015, 03:46 PM
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How well it works will depend on what you want from it. It has some severe limitations, but also some benefits.
On the up side it saves space like crazy, normally increasing yield per square foot over other methods. Its also a money saver if you intend to do raised beds for whatever reason (because building the huge boxes is far from cheap) and if someone just wants a tiny garden plot to give small amounts of a variety of things, without contributing much to the diet in any real terms, its a nice way of keeping the garden plot tiny.
On the down side it requires tremendous inputs of compost, manure, and fertilizer. It makes bug infestations and the spread of viruses more rapid. Its harder to weed out. And many plants will just never reach their potential.

I had a brief flirtation with it before I got serious about growing things, enough to decide it just wasnt my style.
My library has a demonstration garden where they grow square foot style every year. They take in a viable crop every year, tho they never succeed with some crops- like okra.

If you have the space and the inclination you could try square-foot and extensive styles side by side and see which you prefer. Examples of spacing for square-foot versus extensive are as follows:
Beets 4" x 4" grid vs 4" on a 24" row
Carrots 3" x 3" vs 3" on a 18" row
Mustard greens 6" x 6" vs 12" on a 24" row
At a glance, extensive looks like it'd waste space but the plants grow huge to compensate and you can weed between them with a sharp hoe.
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#3 Old 09-02-2015, 02:41 PM
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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.

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#4 Old 09-02-2015, 07:13 PM
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Variety selection is a good point.
With chillies I've noticed that many northern and eastern european varieties of Capsicum annuum are naturally small plants that would fit right in. Avoid anything from Capsicum baccatum, theyre huge and while I've had some that would allow themselves to be dwarfed the pods were dense with seeds.
For tomatoes, many heirlooms tend to want to grow HUGE. I had two plants completely fill a 10' x 25' plot last year and the Purple Calabash plant accounted for 2/3 of that
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#5 Old 09-02-2015, 09:27 PM
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Lettuce is the best to grow in limited space, and within a month you'll be harvesting lettuce everyday for three months. The good thing about lettuce (also spinach) is that they do not have pest problems like broccoli, cabbage, arugula, radish, brussels, etc. I have planted 100 lettuce seeds in a small area and they grew fine, and produced well. I have noticed that the red leaf lettuce grows best in fall-winter.
I would suggest making raised beds by forming a piles of straw, mulch, compost, leaf litter, and dirt mixed, then defining the raised bed with old/rotting tree logs, bricks, stones. I have many raised bed posts on my site at vegans living off the land, and you can do a search within the blog or click on the "raised bed" tag under "labels" (on the left of the page). I also have posts regarding container gardening, small space/limited space gardening within the site as well (just look through the tags under Labels).

Implementing some pots and buckets, and any container to grow in will also give you some convenience.. Make sure there are drainage holes. Carrots can be grown now and grow well in containers--especially when the soil is loose and sandy. Be sure to thin out any weak plants but you can grow up to 10 carrot plants in a 5 gallon bucket. I had luck growing carrots this year in a hugelkultur mound: BIG CARROTS harvested from hugelkultur mound.

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#6 Old 03-20-2016, 10:06 AM
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Here is a photo from my square foot garden from a few weeks ago. I've been getting lazy and randomly tossing seed, rather than planning out the squares. There is a variety of greens.... red and green lettuce, swiss chard, arugula, spinach, kale. I cut off what I need during the season and it grows back. An ongoing supply of fresh, pesticide-free salad with very little work (once the beds are built).
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#7 Old 04-10-2016, 07:06 PM
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I have 22 square foot gardening beds in my backyard and grew over 600 lbs of produce my first year. It absolutely works. If you use the mix the author recommends it can get costly, but it does work. I just use compost!

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