When researching how to get the biggest bang for my buck with a small back yard garden, I came across many web-sites recommending square foot gardening. One of my favourites is http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2009/06/17/f-square-foot-garden.html . (Maybe that’s because the blogger really feels my pain about squirrels!!!) Square foot gardening was invented by Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer, in the late 1970’s. I won’t go in to a lot of “how to” detail – if you’re interested, all you need to do is Google it. Bartholomew also has a couple of books on the subject – one fairly recent (I have not read them, but they are recommended on several websites).
Anyway, gridding out my beds wasn’t quite as easy as described, since this idea came after my beds were built, not before. Rectangles or squares would have been an advantage, but planning ahead is not always my strong suit. But, no big deal. When I completed the grid, I had 57 squares in one plot and 48 in the other! Way more space than I had imagined. Some people put a permanent grid in place using wood, but I thought that would make cultivating the soil in the spring much more difficult, so I used twine, which I removed once all the squares were planted.
Several websites had differing opinions about how many of which type of plant can go in one square. I perused several lists by type of vegetable (e.g. how many beet seeds to plant in one square, versus how may carrot seeds (yeah, right) versus how many corn seeds, etc.). The most helpful tip I found was on http://www.mysquarefootgarden.net/plant-spacing/. The tip: Ignore the row spacing completely, and just look at the plant spacing. If the package says to plant twelve inches apart, plant one seed per square; six inches apart, plant 4 seeds per square; four inches apart, plant nine seeds per square; three or fewer inches apart, plant sixteen seeds per square. Some seeds I planted much more thickly (e.g. leaf lettuce and mesclun). And forget about trying to count carrot seeds! I just mixed them with sand and planted thickly. I think I will still have to thin them out, but not much. I decided to plant yellow pole beans and scarlet runner beans around both the inside and outside of a large round trellis we purchased. I wish I had planted the Swiss chard more thickly – in two squares I planted only four seeds (as per the tip above), but that didn’t look like much to me, so in a third square I planted six. Next year I will plant three squares with nine seeds each. So far, I think it’s looking pretty good.
Definitely, some of the tall bushy plants (tomatoes and broccoli) are shading some of the small stuff I planted late (e.g. parsley, green onions, peas). This year is an experiment, and I will learn what works better in time for next year.
Written by Leanne, a happy backyard gardener in Winnipeg