Garden in Squares

The Cariboo Gardener
with
Ken Bourne

Garden in Squares

Since Mel Bartholomew coined the phrase, Square Foot Garden, the method of growing as much as possible in small blocks, (square foot gardening,) has attracted many enthusiastic followers. Often when sowing seeds you almost feel obliged to sow every seed in the packet to ‘get your money’s worth’. What you end up with is a garden much bigger than is really necessary, with a potential harvest of more crops than you can use.
The solution is very simple. Instead of planting in continuous rows, you can eliminate all that wasted space and time, by planting in blocks which measure 4 feet by 4 feet. This is a very convenient size as you can handle all of the necessary cultivation without stepping onto the garden. This is very similar to raised bed gardening but on a smaller scale. Just divide your vegetable garden into blocks of this size by placing boards or other suitable material around each square.
Divide each block into 16 1 foot by 1-foot squares and you can immediately visualize the crop that you will harvest from this space— such as four heads of lettuce or 16 radishes.
The more fertile your soil is the more crops you will be able to harvest from each block.Dig in, in early spring, as much compost or well-rotted animal manure as you can and regularly feed with a manure tea or other organic manure.
With this method of intensive gardening, there is very little competition from weeds as most of them are smothered by the closeness of the vegetables. The weeds that do survive are very easily pulled out because the soil is so friable and loose. The garden has not been trodden on as you can do all the tasks from the walkways and most hoeing and heavy digging is eliminated.
A square foot garden will produce about 5 times the crop of the same area of conventional row gardens so an area only 10 feet by 15 feet will very easily feed 2 people, — you can feed a family of 4 from an area as small as 17 feet by 17 feet.
Planting the garden is simplicity itself— use individual blocks for each class of vegetable, e.g. roots, cabbage family etc . and rotate these each year. The following is a small list of plants and the space needed for each. These will need one plant per 1-foot square— tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. The next group plant 4 to each square (6 inches apart)- leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, parsley. Plant this next group 4 inches apart, – spinach, leeks, chives, peas, and beans. You can plant carrots, radishes, onions, and beets 3 inches apart which will give 16 per square foot.
This method of square block planting will not only give your garden order, it will give you more crops from less space using less time and water.

Copyright 1999 by Ken Bourne.