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Gardening: It's hip to be square

Sept./Oct. 2008 California Country magazine

Square foot gardening is simplified, condensed container gardening, placing an emphasis on maximizing space and getting terrific results from fantastic soil.



Square foot gardening yields more with less

I am a lazy gardener. Those of you who have been paying attention know that I want to simplify gardening so that more people are likely to try it, stick with it and succeed—which leads me to today’s topic.

I met Mel Bartholomew, author of the All New Square Foot Gardening book, a few years ago when he taught a class at Walter Andersen Nursery. The class was well attended, and I believe that day he started many on the path to easier, better gardening.

In short, square foot gardening is simplified, condensed container gardening, placing an emphasis on maximizing space and getting terrific results from fantastic soil.

The amount of soil you need depends on what size box you end up with. A 4x4-foot box yielding 16 square feet is typical, but you can do it larger or smaller if you choose.

The soil mix is the real key here, and it takes only 6 inches of it. For instance, a 4x4 box 6 inches deep would require 8 cubic feet of soil. (Length times width times depth.) The soil mix should be equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost. It is important to note here that if you don’t have homegrown compost, simply make your own by combining a couple of different types. (For more about creating the perfect soil, see www.cfbf.com/gardening/square.)

You will also need a 4x4 frame, which can be made of wood, stone, brick or anything else that will keep your soil in place. Fill the frame with your soil mix and create a square foot grid to divide your garden into 16 easily identifiable and plantable spaces. Then all you have to do is pick your crops. Whether vegetables or flowers, or a combination thereof, get your seeds or starts and get planting.

Square foot gardening increases yields and decreases work—a terrific combination! The soil mixture has enough nutrients in it so fertilizer won’t be necessary. Just remember to water.

For much more detailed information, consult All New Square Foot Gardening.

David Ross is a horticulturalist and manager for Walter Andersen Nursery in San Diego and Poway.

Gardening to-do list for September/October

It’s time to stop feeding your roses. Also, cut them for the last time this year. This will help them go to sleep over the winter, which will give you bigger and better blooms next spring.

Don’t forget to water. This is especially applicable in Southern California when the Santa Ana winds arrive. In a very short time, these hot, dry winds can suck the water and life right out of your plants. It’s particularly important to remember shallow-rooted plants and plants in pots.

Start your winter square foot garden now. Plant leaf crops such as lettuce and cabbage, root crops like carrots, beets and radishes, and flower crops like broccoli and cauliflower.


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