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What is Square Foot Gardening?

Anna T.
Anna T.

Square foot gardening is a method of gardening many people use when they don't have room for a large garden. These gardens are typically created in an open-topped plywood box. The bottom of the box is usually filled with potting soil or fertile dirt, and there may be thin strips of wood nailed over the top of the box to form several small squares or grids. The general idea is that a different type of plant will be grown inside each square. The actual size of the entire box depends on how large the gardener wants to build it, but the most common size is 4 feet by 8 feet (about 1.2 m by 2.4 m), with each individual grid inside the box measuring roughly 1 square foot (0.09 m2) in size.

Even though lack of space is the most common reason why many people practice square foot gardening, some people also do it because these gardens tend to be simpler to maintain. Beginning gardeners may find the idea of raised bed gardening very attractive because in most cases, fewer gardening tools are needed, and weeding is typically a much simpler process. Many people also find that square foot gardens require less water and are much more easily accessible because the plants are all confined to such a small space. People who have back problems that prevent them from being able to bend easily to work in their gardens might also enjoy square foot gardening because the gardens can be placed on top of a built-up surface, which might eliminate the need to bend down.

In square foot gardening, boxes are filled with potting soil.
In square foot gardening, boxes are filled with potting soil.

If a square foot garden is small enough, a person might be able to move it around as he sees fit. Moving the garden around might occasionally be beneficial if certain plants are not getting enough light. If the square foot garden is small enough to be portable, it can easily be moved to another spot that receives more light. People also find that the soil in their square foot gardens tends to stay loose rather than compacted. This should make it easier to work in fertilizer and compost without the need for lots of tilling and plowing, which is often necessary to break up hardened soil in larger scale gardens.

In spite of the many advantages of square foot gardening, there may be a few disadvantages. Depending on whether or not a person uses treated wood to build his square foot garden, he may need to replace the wood after several gardening seasons. Many people elect not to use treated wood when they build their square foot gardens because of the chemicals used in treating wood and the concerns that these chemicals might damage their plants. Chemicals in treated wood can also be absorbed in the plants, which can be dangerous if the gardener is growing the plants to eat. If untreated wood is used, over time it will begin to rot and have to be replaced. In addition to this potential disadvantage, if not properly cared for, the soil used inside a square foot garden will likely not remain fertile forever and will at some point need to be dug out and replaced.

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    • In square foot gardening, boxes are filled with potting soil.
      By: Vasily Merkushev
      In square foot gardening, boxes are filled with potting soil.