Small Outdoor Space? Consider “Square Foot Gardening.” There’s nothing quite so satisfying as growing your own food and nothing quite so frustrating as being a would be gardener with a too small outdoor space.
What is Square Foot Gardening?
Square Foot Gardening (commonly referred to as SFG) is a simple method of creating small, orderly, and highly productive kitchen gardens. It is a simple way to create easy-to-manage gardens with raised beds that need a minimum of time spent maintaining them.
The Square Foot Gardening System
Over the years the SFG system has evolved into a precise set of rules:
- Create Deep Raised Beds: Typically 4 feet by 4 feet, with a square foot lattice placed on top to visually separate the crops. Beds are between 6 and 12 inches deep which gives the plants plenty of rich nutrients, while maintaining good drainage.
- Use a Specific Soil Mix: One third each of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. This starts the raised beds completely weed-free as well as being water retentive and full of nutrients.
- Don’t Walk on the Soil: This is now common practice with raised bed gardening but back in the 1970s it was revolutionary to suggest that you wouldn’t need to dig your soil if you didn’t tread on it.
- Plant in Squares: To keep the planting simple there are no plant spacings to remember. Instead each square has either 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in it depending on the size of the plant easy to position in each square by making a smaller grid in the soil with your fingers. As an exception to this there are a few larger plants that span two squares. Climbing peas and beans are planted in two mini-rows of 4 per square.
There’s a purpose to each of these rules and together they make up a powerful and almost fail-safe method for successful gardening. It’s a great method for new gardeners, people who have little time, the elderly or disabled (SFG gardens can be built at a raised height to make them more accessible) and children. Many schools have embraced the SFG method because it’s easy to install and maintain without becoming an additional burden for the teacher. However, there are some limitations:
Benefits of Square Foot Gardens
One obvious advantage of this approach is that you can grow a huge variety of food in not much space at all. And unlike your typical vegetable garden, which can get a bit chaotic, square foot gardens have a very neat, trim appearance. You can grow leafy vegetables (which need room above ground) next to root vegetables (which need room underground) to save space.
Because of the unique soil mix and the high density of plantings, many gardeners report that their plots are much less prone to weeds than the typical variety. Plus, they are just smaller, so it’s less of a commitment than a huge vegetable garden.
High yields: Intensive planting means you’ll harvest a lot from a small space, so it’s ideal for gardeners with limited room.
Fast set-up: Square foot gardening is a quick way to start a new garden (especially with the updated method using a raised bed filled with), so it’s great for first-timers. You can place your raised bed anywhere even over grass or pavement allowing you to build, fill, and start planting in a just few hours! Even if you work in your existing soil, you only need to prepare the planting areas, not the paths, so it takes a lot less time and effort.
Minimal regular maintenance: Since the garden is small and you have only a few specific tasks to do on any given day, you only need to invest a few minutes planting, maintaining, and harvesting at any one a time.
Less weeding: If you build a square foot garden filled with soil-less mix, there will be few if any seeds in it (depending on the compost you use) and thus no weeds to pull for the first season. Weeds will, however, become more common over time as seeds blow or fall into the bed.
If you need help designing your vegetable garden, contact us 0716 431 054, or visit our model farm in Isinya, Kajiado.