Be a Square! (-foot gardener)

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People often confuse square-foot gardening with simple raised bed gardening, and there are some pretty cool differences.  Basically, square-foot gardening is raised bed gardening with a special plan.  The variety of plants planted closely together keeps the soil nutrient-rich, more weed-free than the ground, and requires less watering.  This makes it a great option for beginning gardeners, kids, or folks who can’t or don’t want to take care of a huge garden.  All you need to do is figure out which veggies you want to grow, and then use their growing size and the chart below to determine how many plants per square to plant!

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(Photo courtesy of snappygardening.com)

Adding flowers like marigold or aromatic herbs like basil to your square foot garden can help deter deer and other animals even more so than in traditional gardens because of the close planting.  Plus, planting a mix of flowers and veggies will keep the soil nutrient-rich!

Not every vegetable grows ideally in 6 inches of soil in a 1×1 foot square, so like we said at the beginning of this post, make a plan before sowing your seeds.  Vine veggies (cucumbers, squash, etc.) and tall plants (corn, pole beans, etc.) should be grown along the edge so the foliage doesn’t suffocate or block the sun to your other squares.  And if you want to grow root vegetables like potatoes or carrots, just add a box on top of the 1×1 foot square you’re planting them in and fill it with soil in order to get the right depth.

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“Top hat box” for potatoes or carrots (Photo courtesy of squarefootgardening.com).

It’s truly not too much work or money to get a few boards from the hardware store, bracket them together, and fill them with soil and compost in order to get crops of veggies all summer long.  Normally, we would say 2 soil to 1 compost is the right blend for a garden but for square foot gardens, that blend isn’t ideal because a lighter soil is required when planting such shallow depths.  So, you can make your own mix (1/3 compost to 1/3 peat moss to 1/3 vermiculite), or even easier yet, fill it up with Pro-Mix.  It’s what we use in our greenhouses in our hanging pots and planters to keep them light, and it has a ton of nutrients for all types of plants.  One 3.8 cubic foot compressed bale will fill almost 8 cubic feet of a square foot garden, so if you’re doing 6″ depth, that’s about 15 squares!  (And the compressed bale will fit in the trunk of most small cars :) ).

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