Square Foot Gardening

By Lauren

Our little garden plot is the first I’ve been confronted with space restrictions.  When I started squash and zucchini seeds in my window and told my father, who lives in southern Ontario with multiple gardens and much space to expand to, that I was excited to plant these plants in my 4×8 foot bed, he laughed and gently told me I wouldn’t have space.  But it was still cold and I figured by the time my seedlings were plantlings that I would figure it out.

Confronted with the actuality of planting this spring, after a lovely Saturday building our wicking bed, I was less than convinced that my multiple plantlings would have the space they needed to roam.  I gave half away and spent the rest of the morning trying to figure out the best way to fit our vegetables into our plot.

During my search on how to maximize space, square foot gardening came up repeatedly.  I’d also noticed a few plots using square foot measurements to plan and plant their gardens and was interested in investigating further.

Square foot gardening bills itself as efficient, easy, and productive.  Compared to traditional single row gardens, it boasts a similar harvest using less space, water, seeds and so on.  Although the website is rather self-congratulatory, I can appreciate anyone who’s enthusiastic about making gardening easy and mixing up traditional views of what a garden can be.

The basis of square foot garden is creating raised beds with walkways in between (hence avoiding the nastiness of compressing beautiful soil) and planting everything based on a grid broken into 1ft x 1ft squares.  In each square, gardeners plant 1, 4, 9, or 16 seeds or plants.  Plants which use less space, like carrots and beets, can be planted 16 to a square, each spaced equal distances apart.  Medium plants, including spinach and green beans, can be planted 9 to a square.  Larger plants such as lettuce can be planted four per square while plants that need more space such as broccoli and tomatoes can be planted one per square.

While I liked the ease and compactness of the square foot idea, I tend to be slightly wary of equal measurements and straight lines.  That said, I based most of my seed distribution and spacing on the 1ftx1ft guidelines and then did my own thing including a few wavy ‘rows’ of carrots and beets at the far end of my plot.

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