Gardening is a great hobby. It is relaxing, reduces stress, gets you outside into the fresh air, and clears your mind. It is also a good skillset to know in order to level up your self-sufficiency.
One of the easiest and most popular entry level gardens is a simple raised bed garden planted using the square foot gardening method invented by civil engineer Mel Bartholomew.
Matt published a book called "Square Food Gardening" in 1981 which is now regarded as a timeless method of planning and gardening with limited space. His method allows amateur gardeners to easily grow the maximum amount of food with a limited amount of space. Today Bartholomew has updated his book with several adjustments for modern times, it is now on the 3rd edition.
What are the advantages of the square foot gardening method?
- Grow the maximum food in the smallest amount of space
- Works well with compact 4x4 raised bed gardens
- Does not require a large yard or acreage to generate food yields for your family
- No weeding at all (soil is self contained and should not include weed seeds)
- Less work and strain on the body
- Does not damage or interfere in your yard
- Extremely easy, great for new gardeners
Square Foot Gardening Method Summarized:
In essence the name itself explains what the method is all about: planning your garden into a square foot grid. This allows you to follow a system that will space out your plants properly and easily utilize the space you have to grow what you want without plants interfering with each other. For example the most common starter garden for this method is 4x4 feet which includes 16 plantable boxes within the grid. You can either plant 16 of the same vegetable, or mix and match. Some vegetables take more grids than just one. Others allow for multiple plants within one grid.
Square Foot Gardening Steps:
1. Choose your grow space
By far the best choice for utilizing Square Foot Gardening is using a raised bed garden. A great size to start with is a 4x4 foot raised bed. You can either build one yourself, buy a premade raised bed, or check out our 30 minute pallet raised bed guide.
2. Plan your grid
It helps to start planning what you want to plant into your grid before you get too far into the process. You can change your choices later, but a little planning goes a long way. Here are some good SFG planning resources:
- SFG Plant Spacing Reference Sheet
We researched the best soil to use in your raised bed square foot garden. It's pretty simple, the guy who invented the system also invented a simple 3-ingredient soil mixture that is apparently hand's down the best option. This soil is light and airy, drains well, yet absorbs the right amount of moisture. Includes all the vitamins and minerals your plants will need to grow, and is even re-usable for multiple seasons.
Here is our short DIY guide on planting soil:
The Best Raised Bed & Potted Soil Mix (Mel's Mix)
Add your grow medium (Mel's Mix)
Mark your grid
Plant your grid