Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Square foot gardening revisited

Many, many years ago, when there were still actual gardening shows on television, (long before your time, my children) there was this quirky show called "Square Foot Gardening." Bob and I watched it religiously.

The whole thing was the brainchild of a lanky, hyperactive gardener with a bad combover named Mel Bartholomew - the gardener, not the combover. Mel's idea, which he presented enthusiastically in each 30 minute segment, was that instead of planting vegetable gardens in long, narrow beds seperated by walking paths, one should plant the veggies in raised beds of 4 ft. x 4 ft. blocks. Each of the blocks was then further divided into a grid of 1 ft. square planting blocks. Then each block was planted and managed as a separate garden entity. Thus, in one square foot you might have radishes planted, in the next square spinach or lettuce, and in the next a cucumber plant on a trellis.

In the 1980s, thanks to the television show and Mel's book, also called Square Foot Gardening, the concept enjoyed quite a burst of popularity, and certainly many, including myself, have continued to use some, if not all, of the principles that he espoused, but the whole idea has sort of faded into the background over the years. Now, however, with the sudden increase in popularity that vegetable gardening is enjoying, Mel is back preaching the gospel of the square foot garden once again. Actually, he never stopped, but now he is garnering some notice once again.

He has revised and updated his old book, a copy of which still graces our bookshelves. It is creatively titled All New Square Foot Gardening, and it is finding a new audience eager for information about how to successfully grow vegetables.

Square foot gardening does, in fact, make a lot of sense for the vegetable gardener, especially the vegetable gardener with a limited amount of space. It is quite amazing the amount of food that one can grow in just one 4 ft. x 4 ft. square raised bed with good soil, diversity in planting, and good cultural habits. The diversity in planting is especially important because it helps to control pests and many plants do better with companion planting rather than in a monoculture.

And now, Bob is contemplating putting Mel's principles to the test in his own garden bed. He has decided that he wants to take over one of the beds in the veggie garden to plant and care for himself. This is a man who doesn't garden and doesn't exhibit much interest in gardening except to consume the products of the gardener's labor. I am ecstatic that he is taking an interest and is actually going to get his hands dirty this gardening season!

I've designated the very sorriest bed in my vegetable garden as "Bob's Bed." Now it's up to him to do what he will with it. I can hardly wait to see the results.

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