VEGETABLE GARDEN SQUARE FOOT GARDENING
The gardening technique of square foot gardening comes from a book by Mel Bartholomew. The idea is to break up your garden into square sections, rather than one large area with rows of vegetables spaced one to two feet apart. You can fit more plants into a square foot than in a traditional row garden, making it easier to weed and water.
However, for this technique to work, the plants need to be close together and the soil needs to be high-quality, as well as there being plenty of sunlight.
It is generally recommended that square foot gardening is done in a raised garden bed. This way, you can fill your plot with nutrient-dense, store-bought soil. Twelve inches high is the ideal height, but as long as you till the ground below and mix some high-quality soil or fertilizer in with the ground soil, you can get away with a six-inch high bed without any issues.
If you want to try square foot gardening, you don’t necessarily need to have a raised bed. You can do it on the ground, but it will require more work, since you need to make sure the soil is turned over at least 10-12 inches deep, and that it has plenty of nutrients mixed in. This will help your plants to thrive, since they won’t have to compete with other plants for resources.
BEFORE YOU START
- Make sure to choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. I watched my backyard for days and took pictures at different times to figure out exactly how many hours of sunlight various areas got throughout the day. Most vegetables require a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day, and eight or more is even better. Some aren’t quite as needy when it comes to sunlight, but make sure to choose a spot where they will get as much sun as possible. Especially if you’re going to try square foot gardening. The more support you can give your plants, the better.
- Test your soil. Especially if you plan on planting directly in the ground. That way you’ll know the quality of soil from the start, and you’ll know what you need to add or adjust for healthy crops. I used the Luster Leaf Rapitest Test Kit. It’s super simple and tests your soil for ideal pH levels, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium with easy-to-read indicators.
- Plan ahead. Draw your layout. Figure out what you’re going to put where. Plant your climbing vegetables on the north or west side of your garden so they won’t block the sun from the smaller garden plants. Also, keep in mind that certain vegetables do well planted near others, while there are some plants you’ll want to keep apart. Check out this guide to companion planting and implement some of the companion planting techniques
HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR VEGGIE GARDEN HARVEST
- Grow vertically. Use a trellis for any veggies that will climb one. You can buy a big, beautiful trellis, or just use tomato cages or stakes. If you can teach your plants to grow upwards, it’ll save you a lot of space. Or, if you’re planning on building a fence to keep the critters out, consider using fencing that could double as a trellis.
- Plant some flowers nearby. Many flowers attract helpful insects that will eat all the pests that would otherwise try to feed on your plants.
- Fertilize. When you have a lot of plants growing in a small area, fertilizing is even more necessary. You’ll want to fertilize your vegetable garden every few weeks. I recommend using a liquid fertilizer so that the nutrients will be more quickly available to your veggies. If you’re trying to keep your garden organic, kelp and fish fertilizer are both great options, or you can make your own liquid fertilizer.
- Mulch! Weeds are less of a problem with a square-foot garden layout, but mulching can still help your soil retain moisture and regulate temperature.
- Try succession gardening. When a plant is getting close to being ready to harvest, you can start another seedling in the mature veggie’s square. By the time the seedling is big enough to take up significant space, the older plant will be harvested and can be removed to make room. If you plan accordingly, you can harvest two to three crops per square foot over the course of the season.
STRATEGIES FOR SPACE PLANTING
In order to make the most of your space, you should follow the spacing guidelines on the backs of your seed packets. This will ensure that your rows are spaced out optimally. You can also:
- Stagger the Plants – You should stagger your plants to maximize your space. The mature plants should end up diagonal from their neighboring plants. Plant using the closest recommended spacing guidelines. If you want to grow two different crops right next to one another, you should take the spacing for each crop and add them. Once you have this number, divide it by two. This will tell you how far apart you should plant the two crops.
- Spacing is Based on Mature Plant Size – Your spacing recommendations are directly related to your plant size at maturity. You can squeeze a lot of additional space if you get creative. One thing you can do is eat younger plants instead of waiting for them to mature. For example, think of the baby greens in the grocery store. Sow your leafy green seeds together and space them less than the recommended area on the package.
- Routinely Thin – Start trimming and thinning out your vegetables by harvesting some baby greens. They work well in salads. Continue to think them out over the next few weeks until you have enough room left for your plants to reach mature size.
SMALL GARDEN IDEAS – 16 COMPACT SPACES BIG IN STYLE
- PLAN THE LAYOUT TO PERFECTION
Think about where you will sit and relax and make sure you have the privacy you need.’ Before landscaping a garden, Rachel Crow from Homes & Gardens advises planning the location of seating and lounging areas. She suggests setting them back from walkways and terraces so they don’t protrude. Consider where you will want to relax and make sure you have the privacy you need.
Make sure you understand how the sun and shade move in your small garden so you can position your seating accordingly.
- PICK A ONE-COLOR SCHEME
Planting a one-color scheme can work wonders at making a tiny space feel sleekly designed, less chaotic, and calmer.
We can make small gardens seem bigger by keeping them minimally furnished and to a limited color scheme.
- USE REPETITION TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
If you want your small garden to appear well-designed, balanced, and cohesive, you can use repetition, just like you would with a one-color scheme.
Why is repetition effective in design? Jennifer Ebert, Homes & Gardens’ Digital Editor, poses this question. She states that repetition creates a pleasing visual effect which can be used to create a sophisticated space. In small gardens, repetition can be achieved through the use of flower colors, plant varieties, or furniture choices.
- DEVOTE ATTENTION TO AN OUTDOOR LIVING SPACE
Since your small garden is going to be visible from indoors, it’s important to get it right. Give attention to outdoor living rooms, and if you have limited space for planting and seating, make sure the seating is surrounded by container planting or borders.
According to Rachel Crow, you should choose furniture that is simple and low-lying so that it fits with the lines and style of the landscaping. You should also dress the furniture with cushions that complement the surrounding flowers and greenery.
- STEAL ELEMENTS OF COTTAGE GARDEN STYLE
Cottage gardens are designed to be small and intimate, with bright colors and a mix of vegetables, fruit, and flowers in the borders.
Melanie Griffiths, editor of Period Living magazine and one of Homes & Gardens’ gardening experts, says that flower bed ideas in cottage garden style can bring a lot of interest to small gardens. She also says that you can steal other cottage garden tropes, such as arbors, to bring vertical interest. This is a great way to make small gardens look more impressive.
- TURN A SMALL GARDEN INTO A LEISURE ZONE
The most important element that you can design in your small garden depends on what you want to get from your garden and how you will use it.
If you’re worried that pools would take up too much space in your small yard, consider how you could use your space to create the perfect pool area, seating area, or dining area. You can still have a green space without sacrificing these features.
- USE TRELLIS TO HELP YOU BORROW A VIEW
Trellises are a great way to add privacy to a small garden without making it feel enclosed. They also allow you to take advantage of a beautiful view and can be used to camouflage unsightly features.
- DIVIDE A SMALL GARDEN INTO ROOMS
One way to make a small garden feel larger is by dividing it up into ‘rooms’ with different flooring materials or overhead treatments.
According to Homes & Gardens’ Gardens Expert Rachel Crow, living walls and decorative filigree screens can be used to create shelter and enhance privacy.
- ZONE A SMALL GARDEN WITH DECKING
Although a deck might just be a flat surface of wood or composite material, it can help create different areas in a small garden, making it seem more orderly and increasing its usability. Additionally, a deck can make a small garden appear larger.
- ADD COLOR WITH PRETTY PAINTWORK
A cheap way to make a big impact in your backyard is to paint your fence or shed.
Light colors can make a small garden feel more open and bright, while dark colors will make a more serious impact.
- MAKE SPACE FOR A ROCK GARDEN
Although rockeries are not the most up-to-date water feature ideas, their ability to be scaled down makes them one of the simplest to put into smaller areas.
A small rock garden can add a sense of wonder to the garden, as well as the relaxing ambient soundtrack of rippling water.
- DEDICATE A FLOWER BED TO EDIBLES
Keen cooks, you can grow your own food by dedicating an area of bedding to edible delights, without needing a rolling kitchen garden.
If you have a small garden, you can still get a lot of produce by growing chilies, runner beans, and tomatoes. If you have very limited space, you can grow herbs in pots and stack them on shelves outdoors.
If you’re having trouble getting your plants to grow, you might want to learn how to add calcium to the soil. This can help ensure that your plants remain healthy and strong. Calcium helps create strong cell walls, which in turn help the plant grow properly and makes it less susceptible to diseases and pests. This is especially important for small gardens and flower beds.
- NO GRASS, NO PROBLEM
If you swap your turf for a patio, you don’t have to use grey stone. You can use greenery to make a low-maintenance garden that is easy to take care of.
- KEEP IT SIMPLE IN A SMALL GARDEN
Do not go overboard when planning a small garden. A hand-picked selection of plants and materials is frequently the most satisfying.
Even though you might want to be adventurous and experimental, it is important to be aware that too much stuff in a small space will make it look messy and be harder to use.
- PLANT SMART IN TINY SPACES
Choose plants that won’t overcrowd the space for a smaller garden.
You should not only look at fencing and boundary walls as places to plant. The evergreen climber Trachelospermum Jasminoides, which is also known as star jasmine, is a useful plant that provides year-round interest with its abundance of white flowers from mid to late summer.
- POT UP IN A SMALL GARDEN
A compact garden can benefit from large pots and planters. The increased size will give your plants more room to thrive and will require less watering. Big statement pots can also provide a real focal point and make the garden appear more lush. Try to use matching materials for the containers, or at least materials and colors that complement each other.
Plants in pots are ideal for small gardens because they can be moved around to create different looks. They are also perfect for balcony or courtyard gardens where there is no space for planting beds.
Pots can be placed around the dining terrace and moved as needed. Plantings can also be changed depending on the season.