Building a square foot garden is a quick and easy way to begin or expand your garden. The method is also simple to understand, organized, and makes it easy to plan your growing beds.
We built our first square foot gardens in 2009 after reading All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.
The concept of Square Foot Gardening is to use a raised bed filled with a soil blend called Mel’s Mix (1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost from as many sources as you can). The Square Foot Gardening theory involves using a raised bed filled with a soil blend called Mel’s Mix.
The bed is divided into one-foot sections and each square is planted according to the plant spacing described in the book.
We began with three 4×4 square foot beds to the south end of our garden area. Then added three more 4×4 square foot beds the following year. Each year we built, filled, and planted three beds in just one weekend. Here is how we did it:
How to Build a Square Foot Garden:
Step 1: Build the Boxes
Our 4×4 square foot garden beds were built using 2×6 boards. We carefully measured and cut the boards to 4-foot lengths, then screwed them together using 6-inch wood screws.
Step 2: Position the Raised Beds
We weed whacked the grass as low to the ground as we could, positioned the boxes, and placed a layer of cardboard underneath the boxes. Cardboard kills the grass and decomposes underneath the soil during the summer helping to eliminate weeds from growing in the new garden beds.
Step 3: Mix Up a Batch of Mel’s Mix
We mixed 8 cubic foot batches of Mel’s Mix (1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 peat) at a time right in our tractor cart. You could also use a tarp. 8 cubic feet is enough mix to fill one 4×4-foot box at 6-inches high. If you are like me and math gives you a headache, here is a nifty soil calculator at Garden Supply.
Step 4: Fill the Beds with Soil Mix
We added the soil mix to the square foot gardens in layers and hosed it down several times as we filled the box. When the boxes were full, we gave them a final soaking so the mix was good and hydrated.
Step 5: Add Your Grids
I used string to divide the beds into one-foot sections. You can also use mini blinds, wooden dowels, or thin strips of wood to make your grid.
Step 6: Plant
Each square is planted according to the plant spacing described in the book. Add a trellis to the north side of the bed to grow vining crops such as pole beans, indeterminate tomatoes, or cucumbers. Mulch soil to conserve moisture.
It was easy to build the beds, fill them with soil, and plant according to the charts in the book.
Extend your growing season by growing under protection. Crisscross two PVC pipes and drape the beds with garden fabric or even a painting drop cloth. Just remember to vent on warm days. Here are 13 Quick Growing Vegetables for Your Fall Garden.
The Square Foot Gardening method is worth considering if you are just starting a garden or want to expand quickly with no digging or tilling required. Or you can purchase ready to assemble raised beds like the 4′ x 4′ Cedar Raised Bed or 4′ x 4′ Rustic Cedar Raised Bed at Gardener’s Supply:
You May Also Like:
- How to Grow a Salsa Garden in your Raised Bed
- Homemade Seed Mats or Seed Tapes
- Square Foot Gardening: A Quick and Easy Way to Begin a Garden
- Garden Planning: Mapping the Garden Beds
- 5 Ways Organic Mulch Helps Your Garden
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