Square foot gardening

Many of my readers are likely to be familiar with square foot gardening. But for those of you new to the idea, here are the nuts and bolts of this great space saving way to garden.

Mel Bartholomew is probably the most recognized proponent of this garden system. I can’t say for sure whether he invented it or not but he’s written about it extensively. You can find his book(s) in just about any library and I recommend them.

The basic idea is to plant a large amount of stuff in a relatively small space. Each garden bed is sectioned off into, you guessed it, square feet. Each square is devoted to a plant or group of plants. Ideally, the plants in one bed will complement one another, either by positioning them so they aren’t shaded by their taller neighbors or by the time it takes the plants to grow.

Raised beds are ideal for this method. We made ours from 2″ x 12″ cedar planks. If you’re growing vegetables, it is best to avoid treated lumber, but you do need something that is rot resistant. The simplest way is to just make a square, four feet on each side. Nail or screw the boards together, put the bed where you want it, and fill the box with soil. Some sources recommend putting down a weed barrier first.

Using raised beds like this is great for areas with poor soil. You can easily add soil amendments like compost to the dirt in the boxes, working it in so it is thoroughly mixed.

Another advantage is you can leave space around all four sides of your beds, making it easy to weed as well as harvest when the time comes. You won’t have to trample the soil to be able to reach the plants.

Also, for those like me who live in northern climes, you might find it necessary to cover the seedlings at night until the weather truly warms up. It is very easy to drape your covering over boxes like this and just weigh down the edges with rocks or bricks to keep it from blowing away.

For plants that climb, such as beans, adding a trellis to one side of the box is very easy.

In his books and found elsewhere online are lists of veggies that do very well with this system, as well as planting guides to show you how many seeds of each variety should be planted in a given square.

Unless you live someplace where you have zero access to the outdoors, there is no reason you can’t adapt this system to your location.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for SurvivalWeekly.com. He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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