An awesome website - square foot gardening

Hi all
If you go to you will find the work of Mel Bartholomew and supporters. Mel used to be in the US Army (don't hold that against him, he's incredibly open and sharing) and devised a raised garden bed system where you divide your garden into 'square foot' blocks, and plant accordingly. The medium is described on Mel's site, basically a 1/3 1/3 1/3 combo of vermiculite (couldn't find it here; used coarse pumice, works fine), compost and peat moss (I used pea straw, and apart from a few stray peas initially that's worked fine too).

There's some fantastic examples from Mel's site of how square foot gardening operates in all different parts of the world. You can buy his book here (I got one through a local Home Show for $30) but really all the info you need is on the website. I got the raised garden made by a local builder, purchased through Trademe, though Mel recommends all kinds of recycled options but he doesn't know my building skills (grin). It's covered with protective cloth using some recycled metal uprights ($8 total for 6 from a metal recycler's, around 7 feet high) so the butterflies etc. can't get in. It looks like the Day of the Triffids in there, with tomatoes, peas and beans gone mad. Do take a look at the site if you're interested in this form of gardening, which works well with no digging, and regardless of your soil.

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Comment by Pip on August 21, 2009 at 4:45pm
Great to hear it's working for you David. I am slowly figuring out what is sensible to put in and what isn't. For instance, in our area (Hamilton) strawberries are so plentiful and cheap in the season that growing strawbs in the square foot garden is a bit of a waste of space. Herbs are growing well though - and a nasturtium that I poked in for the hell of it turned into the Day of the Triffids. High time I did some spring planting! Good luck with yours.
Comment by David on August 10, 2009 at 9:01am
I should have added I do have the squares marked out and grow upwards as much as possible ... Also didn't make up the soil mix ... Used Living Earth soil/compost. What is a little harder is maintaining a reasonable cop rotation ...We are now making our own compost to a surprising success and amount ... More that the veggie borders need so the rest of the garden is benefiting too :O)
Comment by David on August 10, 2009 at 8:57am

I also use the SFG method due to lack of space for conventional gardening ... We had a great success over the past 12 months ... While my borders are larger that the 4x4 in the books (I have four 7x4s and a number of others around the 4x4 size) we did manage to grow everything we wanted to a good size too .... I even have the raised beds on tarmac and grew tomatoes in them ... massive crop . We spent an age making chutneys etc and all with heritage Toms too ...:O)
Comment by Pip on February 9, 2009 at 3:43pm
Totally agree, Alan. My curcubits (courgettes and cucumbers) and the broccoli have hugely taken over the space, and the Heritage tomato I put in has overflowed around 3 of the 'square foot' spaces! Mel recommends going 'up' rather than 'out' so I've built supports for everything, but they're still growing madly.
I've had practically NO weed problems with my mix, once the initial peas from the pea straw were removed. My bed, made by the Trademe dealer, is gum with macrocarpa, all untreated. They reckon it will last 10 years....I hope!
Comment by Alan Henderson on February 7, 2009 at 7:02am
Missed a bit. Height of the beds is 400mm. The retaining wall pine is tongue and groove so it's easy to slot together. If you're concerned about using treated pine you can line the inner sides with (recycled) plastic. For my next beds I'll use untreated macrocarpa sleepers. If you hunt around you can find them at a reasonable price.

Schist or old bricks would be great if you could get them cheap.
Comment by Alan Henderson on February 7, 2009 at 6:57am
I started using this method a year ago. It's well worth the initial effort. I haven't bothered with the special mixture - I double-dug the lawn area for two 3m x 1.2m beds, used 200mm x 50mm retaining wall pine from Mitre 10. Topped up the beds with 50/50 topsoil and compost.

Works a treat, but I'm considering increasing the grid size from a square foot to at least 450mm x 450mm. I'm finding a square foot is too small for broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

Advantages: 2 or 3 times the amount of produce from the same area, more or less automatic companion planting, plants like lettuce are easier to grow in the summer because they can be shaded by bigger plants, weeds don't germinate so easily... I could go on, but you get the picture. :)

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