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High Yield Gardening: Does anyone do Square Foot Gardening method?

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Burleson, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 10, 2007
10:09 PM

Post #3841945

I've been doing some reading on Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew and was wondering if anyone uses this method or maybe has in the past? Pros and cons? What do you think about it?

I've only been gardening (flowers) for a couple of years and am feeling the bug to grow my own veggies. I would consider myself a "lazy gardener" :) and the SFG method looks like it would suit me (e.g. less time and effort).

I thank you for any input you can give me.

Marietta, GA
(Zone 7b)

August 11, 2007
1:01 PM

Post #3843882

Dear Anniebelle 1989,

The bed I planted was somewhat larger than 4 x 4 feet, but I did use the recipe given in square foot gardener for the perfect soil mix (which actually has no soil in it) in one of my lily beds. It is a wonderful growing medium if you add fertilizer regularly. Since there is no true dirt involved, there are no nutrients. My lilies do well in the bed which is about
6 feet by 25 or 30 feet.

1. I have poor soil in my yard and this perfect soil mix was a great improvement.
2. It is easy to work the soil mix.
3. Drainage is great.

1. It is very expensive.
2. You have to add any nutrients.

If the book you are reading does not have the recipe I am talking about, I can probably find it for you.

Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

August 13, 2007
2:05 PM

Post #3851303

YES! This is my second year that I've been (loosely) following the SFG method, and strongly recommend it. I really like that you never walk on your growing soil, only on the pathways.

Our soil has been sandy and poor, nutrient-wise. By amending only the growing blocks, you can make the same amount of amendments go further, since you do not waste it on the pathways...

As far as the veggies go, it's the ONLY way to go. I've got 26 fourxfour beds set up. Used scrap lumber this year to make defined/raised beds. Very happy with the result. Now working on more trellises for the viny stuff next year...(peas, beans and squash)

I used what was available amendment wise (my own compost and lots of well rotted cattle manure)

Water is used sparingly, and none goes to waste on pathways. The spacing of the plants within the blocks reduces weeds, the plants fill the area, suppressing the weeds.

I've never been able to grow turnips, carrots or beets until this year; the soil was too poor. You should see this year's crop...grown in a block of amended soil. Carrots 8-9 inches long, turnips the size of melons...

What a difference only 2 seasons of amending the soil does! can't wait for next year.

Burleson, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 13, 2007
2:37 PM

Post #3851414

I do have the new SFG book with the soil mix recipe.

26 beds! Wow! And I'm pondering if I even want to put time and energy into just 1 or 2. :) 4 or 5 at most... Then again, once I start, I may get hooked.

To both,
Thanks so much for your advice and input. You've really helped me out.
Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

August 13, 2007
3:12 PM

Post #3851549

anniebelle, I know what you mean about getting started... I've got my niece started with two beds this summer, she's already talking about adding a couple more for next year...

happy gardening!
Fern Park, FL
(Zone 9b)

August 13, 2007
9:10 PM

Post #3853332

I just built mine this past weekend. The beds aren't square, but I did the square foot grid throughout. I agree that it is expensive - we spent about $500 total - this includes wood, soil, organic pest control and amendments (worm tea and neem oil), seeds, and other misc. supplies (like pressure sprayers). I've heard a lot of people find cheaper ways to build the using scrap materials instead of buying the wood or harvesting dirt from the yard and ammending it for the bed. I didn't have any of these resources, so I just had to buy everything, but I plan on getting a lot of use out of them, and I'm hoping the yield will make up for the initial costs.

This is my first experience with SFG, but I already love the organization of the grid. Its neat to look at and it makes it easy to plan the layout of the plants (I'm also doing companion planting). I don't have any past experience, but I will keep the DG forums up to date on my progress :) Good luck with yours!

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Burleson, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 14, 2007
2:21 PM

Post #3855719


Your beds look very nice! Thanks for sharing...

About how long did it take you to build them?

Fern Park, FL
(Zone 9b)

August 14, 2007
2:56 PM

Post #3855842

We started around noon on Saturday. Saturday we cut the wood and nailed it together to make the boxes. We laid down newspaper and started filling with potting soil. We filled one bed halfway with soil on Saturday.

On Sunday, we finished filling both boxes with potting soil and set the string grid in place. We finished Sunday evening. Most time consuming was going back and forth to Home Depot to get potting soil. We used a natural potting soil that consisted of peat moss, sand, and compost. We also added an extra few bags on compost to each bed.
Annapolis, MD

August 20, 2007
6:44 PM

Post #3878618

I put in my second SFG this year, and really enjoyed it, but some of my plants seem too crowded, even using the recommended spacing/planting grids -- but I got fast growth and large plants. I also sawmushroom coming up in the garden -- so that concerned and confused me -- I thought they grew on rotting stuff, and my garden was all brand-new. Maybe the crowded plants was not allowing enough air circulation or something? DUnno. My big mistake was being stingy with my land and putting in a 8 x 16 foot bed without paths. Next year I will make the plots no wider than 4 feet so I can access all of it for weeding, pruning, picking without walking on anything. Last year I made the mistake of putting my tall tomato plants on the south side, blocking light. This year they are on the north end. I need to build more trellises for climbing vines, and I want to expand next year with many more beds. My root crops did not do too well. Radishes were good, turnips were okay -- beets did not produce and carrots were almost nonexistant. What nutrient is best for root crops? I have not made a compost pile yet, but that come-- discussing pros and cons with hubby who is worried about the mess it might make and where to put it. I only used Miracle Grow this year. I actually liked the results on most everything. Well, time for me to go out and check my garden...happy gardening, all!

Charlton, MA

September 4, 2008
6:24 PM

Post #5508091

Hi, just wondering if anyone has seen any resources out there that show seed/plant information / charts like in the back of the SFG book? For example, the nice charts that show how long for germination at specific temperatures, when to plant for spring, when to plant for fall, etc. It is really a pretty nice set of charts/lists they have in the book, but it would be nice to have more seeds/plants.
New York & Terrell, TX
(Zone 8b)

September 4, 2008
11:35 PM

Post #5509104

Hi All,

Here are some links to Start you off with. Have fun!!

Mel's Columns & SFG:

SFG How to...

The Official Site of Square Foot Gardening and Mel Bartholomew, Originator and Author

~* Robin
edited to insert the last link...

This message was edited Sep 4, 2008 8:07 PM

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Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

September 5, 2008
12:41 PM

Post #5510921

this has been my third summer of SFG, and it works! This year I've got 33 beds...combination of flowers and veggies and strawberries.

Next year, the squashes get trellised!

Was extremely pleased with the 'alpine' strawberries, purple potatoes and the lettuces.

Corte Madera, CA

September 6, 2008
4:47 PM

Post #5516301

would square foot success (gardeners) be considered SFG? i really do not have room for beds, and the SF success planter is indeed the size.

Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

September 8, 2008
12:51 PM

Post #5523861

sure ! why not?

I take from the theory and book and then experiment. For me, gardening is a giant outdoor science experiment! For example, Mel does not list potatoes in the square foot book... but im my experience they do really well planted 16 plants to the block. I've got a mix of reds, whites, yellows and purple potatoes this year, all delicious!

New York & Terrell, TX
(Zone 8b)

September 9, 2008
10:05 AM

Post #5528304


Have you tried this method for sfg potatoes?

DIY: Grow Your Own Potatoes in Small Spaces:

Get the Best Yields with the Least Work Using the Garbage Bag Method

I have before; but I don't have a camera anymore.

I've also tried it with Tomato plants! It has worked great for both.

~* Robin
South Londonderry, VT
(Zone 4b)

September 18, 2008
5:04 PM

Post #5568331

Wouldn't garden any other way. My favorite reference book is the Postage Stamp
Garden. You can get a copy, used, for a couple of dollars, from Amazon.
Derwood, MD

March 21, 2010
7:56 AM

Post #7645134

I have questions about the Mel's Mix recipe and everyone's experience with it for a growing medium and how well it drains. I have just built 5 SFG's (2-4x4; 2-2x2; and 1-4x2) and have them raised up 12" for ease of use (low back problems). I called a 'local' garden center to confirm they had vermiculite and was told by the customer service rep that perlite was just as good and was what they currently had in stock,however he could order the vermiculite if that is what I truly wanted. He also poopoo'd the peat moss, saying that it would make the garden too wet. The Mel's Mix recipe calls for 1/3 Peat Moss, 1/3 Compost mix (5 types) and 1/3 Vermiculite and I intend to go with this unless someone can offer me a logical reason not to.
Perth,, ON
(Zone 5a)

March 22, 2010
6:10 AM

Post #7647345

Because I'm somewhat 'frugal', I tend to just use what I have on hand, (or can scrounge) .

Perlite is heavier that vermiculite, and depending on the location of the block, wind erosion may be an issue?

The only thing I'd be careful of is too much peat moss. Too much and the soil ph is off.

I don't think you can add too much composted manure though.

Over the past 4 gardening seasons, my garden has evolved, from poor sandy soil to blocks with rich soil (with LOTS of earthworms, aka garden assistants, lol), In fact, more than half of my garden blocks are sandy soil amended with composted manure and garden compost. The other half are pure composted material.

Each fall, each block gets a couple inches of top dressing of almost compost. The lilly block gets the chopped tomato plants, the asparagus gets some half finished compost and leaves.

Almost everything in my garden is/was started in 3 or 4 inch pots using good quality seed start mix (same mix as our local garden centre uses for their started plants) then transplanted out.

During the summer, I feed all the blocks with alfalfa tea.

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