Square Foot Gardening FAQs Answered

Mel Bartholomew and Patti Moreno (the Garden Girl) answer some commonly asked questions about square foot vegetable gardening. Like for instance, what kind of wood should you make your garden boxes out of? Answer: Anything that’s free. If you happen upon a construction site with dumpsters containing scrap pine lumber (don’t use pressure treated), first get the foreman’s permission, then take anything that’s the right size for your uses. Cedar, if you’re lucky enough to find it, will last almost forever because it has natural resins in it that resist insects eating it that pine doesn’t. You can also use synthetic lumber made from wood pulp and recycled plastic bottles. It’s normally used for decking, and it lasts (practically) forever.

There’s a soil mixture called, not surprisingly, Mel’s Mix, which is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost, which soaks up and holds water very well. You have to set in a weed cloth inside the bottom of the box to suppress any weeds coming up through the soil in the garden. Make sure you use deck screws to hold your box together too. Use at least three screws per corner). Watch the video for even more information.

Gardening by the Foot

Mel Bartholomew, the “Father of Square Foot Gardening“, tells us why this method of establishing a vegetable garden is efficient on the use of resources and labor, and is also very cost effective. You really don’t even need soil to plant in, just an area where you could establish your vegetable garden.

Construct a wooden box 4′ by 4′ in dimension, add an optimum soil mix, divide it into one foot cells with a grid, and that’s about it. When you compare this method to conventional single row gardening, you can grow 100% of the harvest for 50% of the cost, 20% of the space, 10% of the water, 5% of the seeds, and only 2% of the work!

Absolutely anyone can learn to do this method in about one hour’s time. A fun way to introduce this style of gardening to your family is to give everyone in your family their own 3′ by 3′ or 4′ by 4′ box to tend and eat the products from. Matt has even set up a foundation to help teach this method to people all over the world to help everyone become more food self-sufficient. Watch him in this video.

Starting Your First Vegetable Garden

You can begin to grow some of your own produce by starting your own vegetable garden. All you really need are a sunny location, water, and the right soil. First decide if you want either a raised bed garden or an in ground type. Raised beds work well if you have poorly draining or poor quality soil. Otherwise, you can choose the in ground garden, which will need less water than the raised bed. You can decide by checking your soil either with a test kit or by taking it to your local agricultural extension service.

Install some wire mesh fencing around the perimeter of your garden about 18 inches above the top grade of your garden bed, whether it’s raised or in ground.  It will help to keep out any unwanted critters. You can add your plants either as seedlings started earlier in egg cartons, or you can simply buy them from the nursery.

Make sure to arrange your plantings oriented east to west and keep the tallest plants to the north, so they won’t shade the shorter ones to the south of them. See the video to learn more.