The idea of raised garden beds is not something that is alien to us and is a great way of maximising the growing area that we have at our disposal. This system is a great and innovative method of gardening and the advantages and benefits of growing our vegetables is showing what great results that can be achieved.
Now let’s take this a step further and see what can be achieved by expanding this idea a little further. This may look scientific,modern, organised, or what ever else we would like to describe it, but it takes growing and gardening to another level. Square foot gardening with raised beds is now a system that a lot of gardeners are adopting with great enthusiasm and vigour and if we thought raised bed gardens produced some great results, this idea again has surpasssed expectations in every aspect of horticulture.
Square foot gardening with raised beds;
This is a great idea for beginner gardeners or first time growers to get used to what is involved in the great outdoors. It simplifies the task of what and how-to, it takes away any fears that we may have about this exercise and in short, it makes gardening simple and exciting and more enjoyable.
But first, we must have a raised bed in place in order to use this system and if we have that part in place the rest is easy. In essence what square foot gardening does is to divide up the growing area into smaller growing sections which would measure approx. 12” x 12” or a square foot in old money.
So lets look at a standard raised bed of say 4ft x 8ft, ( as per above image ) this would have a growing area of 32 sq ft and would give us 32 smaller growing sections each measuring 1 sq ft. Here in this example we could decide to plant whatever we wish in any of these, depending on what variety we were going to grow. When this idea was introduced back in the early 80’s, it was shall we say, experimental in nature. The idea was to grow as many vegetables crop varieties in as little space as was possible, so as to maximise output, from minimum effort.
How to make a square foot grid;
This is a very simple task and can be done by measuring one foot lengths along all the sides of the raised bed frame. Hammer in a little small tack or nail at every 12″ spacing for the purpose of making the grid as per image above. Then tie a length of string along the width and length of the bed frame and that should yield the square foot sections. It is advisable to use strong sturdy weatherproof twine or maybe some other type of cable that would withstand the elements and the workings of a garden, while we are planting our veggies and crops. Narrow timber lathes or strips of 1″ x 2″ would also do for this exercise and this frame could be nailed to the raised bed sides for convenience purposes.
If we have kids who might be interested in gardening, this idea will be very appropriate as we could allocate them a square or two and let them plant whatever they wished. Then on a label mark out what they have planted., ie the variety, date and so on, so as they could track the plants progress and performance etc. It would engage their interests and keep them occupied for the summer hols, also it would be a great learning curve for them.
What to grow in SFGs;
This is the whole purpose of this exercise, as we mentioned earlier, its a way of maximising output from minimum space. In truth we need to be practicle with this idea, as some varieties will take up a lot of room, so a little planning is needed in deciding what to plant and where would be the best positions for these. In an earlier post we discussed the best positioning of a raised bed and it was agreed that we should always orientate these bed frames in an east-west position. The reason for this is that the raised garden bed will gain maximum benefits of the sun. So with that in mind we need to always plant the vegetables that will grow tallest at the back or northern side of the bed and the smaller shorter veggies to the opposide or southern side of the bed frame. ( This is for growers in the northern hemisphere and the opposite will apply to those growers in the southern parts of the globe.)
Take the larger plants like tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and the likes, these will definitely require one square section each as they take up a lot of room when growing, maturinging and producing yields. Smaller varieties like onions, parsnips, turnips or lettuces etc, do not require as much space and thus can be planted at a rate of four or six to a square foot section. The thinner plants or vegetables like spring onions, leeks and so on, can be planted in greater numbers per square foot.
This system is just another method of gardening with raised beds in a sense and within that, we have is a smaller
system that we could experiment with and see what works best within this method. It is again dependent on what our climate is like, where we live and how much time we have on our hands for this idea. It does take a lot of time to get organised and prepared, mark out and make the grid and then accquire the seed or seedlings, plant and maintain afterwards. Although maintenance will be at a minimum, it does require a certain amount of input in the start, just to get the whole concept set up and established.
There are a lot of books and journals written on this subject by gardeners who specialise in this area and these are also available online for purchase. Plans, ideas and SFG grid layouts are also available online or at some garden centres. This idea is a runner if we have a lot of time on our hands and we are particularly interested in going down this route of experimental gardening.
I hope this post explains all there is to know on square foot gardening and if you have any questions on this particular topic, feel free to contact us via the comments box down below.
Happy gardening to all.
Cheers Phil Browne.