April 11

Square Foot Gardening



I’m not a handy man, nor have I ever been much of a gardener.  So the fact that not only did I build a square foot garden, but I planted the thing, too, is something of an accomplishment.  Our son Ben was a huge help.  All those years of building with LEGO bricks has made him naturally handy, and he’s quite proud of himself.

A listener told us about Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew last year and after checking it out from the library and thinking about it since last spring, I finally bought my own copy and have been working on putting this all together.

The only “cheats” we did so far was buying starter plants for tomatoes and two kinds of peppers (those are the plants you see already in the picture).  The rest (God willing) will all come from seeds.  In addition to those, we planted cantelope, corn, two kinds of peas, red onions, chives, basil, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, and…something else I can’t remember.  Which isn’t a very good thing.  Guess we’ll find out in a few months.

Have you ever had much luck with something like this?  We’d love to read your gardening advice.

About the author 


Greg is married to Jennifer. They've got five kids.

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  • Square foot gardening is a great thing! You just need to follow the timing dates for your area…check with your county’s agricultural extension agency and/or if there is an AM radio station that runs a call-in gardening program on weekend mornings. Not when your re-runs are on Sirius!

    There’s nothing like freshly picked veggies. In our long experience (my dad has 10 green fingers and I have at least two green thumbs) … every year is a “different year” for what thrives and what doesn’t. Don’t be surprised about that. It’s all climate related for the year. Tomatoes will do best with regular, constant amounts of water so they don’t split open. You will want to cage them if they are not bush style (same with beans) or if you don’t have other plants to help support them. Herbs are from the Med., as as you’ll find out soon, they like it hot and dry (relatively speaking)…your parsley and rosemary might overwinter; the rosemary most likely. When the season is done, you can till the remains back into the ground/your compost pile…just throw it on your lawn, mow it up and put it in the compost pile.

    One year I got tomato seeds from plants that were grown in space … via Nasa. Planted, sprouted, grew, fruited, we ate and we’ve still prospered. Didn’t seem to be any different. Had to chart all sorts of things and report back to Nasa. It was the most fun.

    If you have a corner somewhere where you won’t be walking. Plant a pineapple. Cut the top off like you would for eating. Pull off the bottom two rows of leaves. Pop that thing in the ground with dirt covering where you removed the leaves. In a year you might get a pineapple. Yummy fresh picked. One year we had a dusting of snow (rare here) and both pineapples left outside and those in a greenhouse tent w/heater put on fruit. You might want yours in a pot because of your winters…but I don’t know if they’d fruit that way. Pineapples like draining soil, growing in lava rock mostly in Hawaii. It’s just fun.

    If you do the avocado thing, you won’t get a tree that fruits, so don’t bother…takes a long time and you need another one to pollinate it.

    Pick the peppers and freeze them; you can cut/clean them out/off right out the freezer as you want to use them. We also do that with shucked corn .. although that works better if it’s cooked first.

    Maybe this can be credit for a science/botany unit project!


  • This is my 4th year of gardening, but recently heard of SFG’ing and set it up this year as well to give a shot. With any kind of gardening, just stay attentive to what you’re growing. It’s all subject to the weather, insects, diseases, and animals so part of the gardening experience is learning from and adapting to these challenges.

    I’ve found the two easiest plants to grow are bush beans and peppers (hot or sweet). Both plants are hardy, grow quick, and produce a lot of food.

    I also recommend setting a square or two aside for beneficial flowers like Marigolds (or placing pots near your SFG bed with flowers in them). They help attract “good” insects and bees which you’ll need to pollinate some of your veggie plants.

    If you get the gardening bug and expand with more plots next year, I recommend checking out a “garden planner” like one from http://www.growveg.com. Looks like you got a lot of space to add more raised beds in the future, and with the SFG method you’ll be capable of producing enough veggies for both your family and neighbors.

    Good luck!

  • I’ve had wildly varying successes (and failures) with gardening, but every spring brings out the optimist in me again. Don’t assume like I did that some strange-looking bug crawling over your plants is a beneficial insect! Look up the common pests of your plants on the internet, check out the images, and see if you can identify them.

    If you get more into it, consider getting heirloom seeds. We buy ours from Baker Creek http://rareseeds.com/. They’ve got a huge selection of old varieties of seeds from all over the world. Good luck to you!

  • Looks great! Raised bed/ SQFG is totally the way to go. Save your used coffee grounds and crushed eggshells — they make great mulch. Tomatoes especially love the eggshells.

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