Thursday, December 1, 2011

Urban Farming 101 Weekly Wrap Up: Square Foot Gardening


This year I kept my first garden and it was a lot of guesswork. Now that I'm gearing up for Spring again I've checked out a stack of Urban Homesteading books from the library. I'm determined to have a more efficient garden this time.The Weekly Wrap Up Series shares what I am learning. 


I planted my first garden in neat little rows, just like they say to, intentionally sowing five times more seeds than ultimately needed, most of which were destroyed in the thinning process. That seemed inefficient and wasteful. Plus, the pathways between plants were easily over-run with weeds. So much work for a small suburban garden. There must be a better way.

And I think I have found it.

This week I delved into Mel Bartholomew's book Square Foot Gardening.  The square foot grid is the product of an engineer's mind coupled with a gardener's passion. The man is a genius!   

(photo by aekeel @ Photobucket)

Each square foot contains precisely the number of plants that ordinarily fit into that sized space, at the appropriate distance apart. Pepper plants require one foot's distance between one another, so each square fits one plant. Since lettuce requires only six inches apart its squares hold four heads. No thinning process necessary. And this method requires 80% less space than conventional gardens because it eliminates walkways. Without walkways to weed maintenance time is significantly reduced. Just weed a few squares a day and you are done in minutes.

(photo by ronh2k@ Photobucket)

This winter I will make some 4 x4 boxes out of some scrap wood from a torn down fence. I know they won't look as pretty as these. 

Take it away Mel:

What I Learned This Week on the Blog Hops:

I've often heard that egg shells benefit soil. One year I tried to compost some but they didn't break down.  Graceful Little Honey Bee has a great post about how to get egg shells to break down. Now why didn't I think of that?

The Humbled Homemaker has a great recipe for a foaming hand soap. If you regularly use those expensive, natural, biodegradable pump soaps this will definitely save you money. I tested the recipe. It really does foam!

Whenever my shower head starts spraying all haywire I usually buy a new one. This week I learned from Frugally Sustainable that this is completely unnecessary. She has a fun recipe that  removes those hard water stains. Your kids will love this one!

Special thanks to


for helping me learn new homesteading skills.


Square Foot Gardening (Mel's site)

Mel Bartholomew (his other site, includes blog)

*This is not a sponsored post.


  1. We've done a square-foot garden for the past number of years. We love it! Thanks for sharing the ideas and the hops. I look forward to learning more from you!

  2. Sounds like a great idea. I am trying to grow a bit of veggies but I lose most of my crops to insects:( I think this year I will forgo organic gardening and get the chemicals LOL Thanks for sharing on the NOBH

  3. Hi Julie. Thanks for coming by. It sounds like I could learn from you!

    Hi to you too Adventurer. I'm sorry to hear about your crops. :( My local farmer told me that a mixture of water and liquid dish soap sprayed directly onto the fruit or veggie keeps critters and bugs away. I tried it and found it works for the bugs, but critters will still bite into a ripe tomato once before they say yuck and walk away - still renders it inedible whether they bite it once or eat half of it though. It is important not to let this mixture get on the vines though, or they will darken and wither.

  4. I am looking for authors that would like to join me for a new forum at Random Thoughts.

    If you would be interested to share your opinions and views in an open discussion format please contact me at lynda(dot)schultz(at)ymail(dot)com

    It's a no holds barred forum, and I'd love to have you on board.

  5. I have a small garden in our backyard and was perplexed at the inefficiency of planting too many seeds and then thinning. Thanks for sharing your discovery about a more efficient use of gardening space. I'll have to check this out for the next growing season. Thanks for linking up with NOBH! Smiles -

  6. First time I read square foot gardening I seriously wondered if there was something wrong with the population as a whole--why had no one ever figured this out before?! And why aren't more people doing it now? I definitely use the compact spacing methods in my urban home garden.

  7. Hi Lynda. Thanks for thinking of me. Let me know when your forum is up and running. Hi Amy -I hear ya. Mel says in the video up there that SFG used 2% less water than traditional gardening. Much more efficient. Hi Jeanette. I wondered the same thing. I think the old methods were (are?) practical for large farms and they got carried over into small home settings without much thought.

  8. Love how well you utilized a small space. We don't own a home or have any outdoor space, but would love to start a tiny garden. Any tips on how to do this without having any actual land? We have a stone patio.

  9. Hi Sarah. Yes. Absolutely. Google and You Tube Vertical Gardening. You will find some great ideas on how to grow upward, rather than outward, on a patio.

  10. I've always been drawn to the idea of gardening - and that guy does sound like a genius. I've got the book on request at the library. I'm also going to check out the vertical gardening!

  11. That's great Jeff! He has a chapter on vertical gardening in there. His method requires 2% of the water of traditional gardening. That's a biggie, where you live especially. Let me know when you get started.


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