Gardening... By the Foot!


Many of us will be growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in our gardens this summer. But I’ll wager that the vast majority of us probably won’t be growing those fresh veggies on a plot of land even remotely resembling a farm.

For urban “farmers” like us, it’s essential to build a solid game plan that ensures we’re making the absolute most of what little space we’ve set aside for our gardens. That’s where square foot gardening comes to the rescue.

The idea is simple: section your raised garden bed (no wider than 4 feet) into 1’ x 1’ squares. You plant one kind of plant per square, and appropriately spaced for the plant’s future growth and needs. This will be easy to remember because each square can accommodate either 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants, depending on their size.

Why go to the trouble? Aside from the easy math, this method was designed to eliminate the need for paths, which compact your soil. The smaller size means it’s easier and more comfortable to reach your plants when you tend them. This method also makes it simple to rotate crops as the season wears on. You can plant seeds or transplant seedlings, just like any other garden.

There are drawbacks to square-foot gardening. For one, it’s difficult to accommodate larger plants, like melons. The setup can also be a bit costly, though this can be true of just about any garden plot. Some farmers will find it too small for their grand plans, or on the flip side, it could be too cumbersome for someone who just wants to grow a couple containers of strawberries. Finally, it’s important to remember that this is a raised bed garden, and it comes with the same drawbacks, like more frequent watering than a ground plot.

Not sure where to put your bed? Start by thinking about your sunshine! Most vegetables need around 6 hours of direct sun per day. Next, consider overall drainage. If water tends to stand in spots of your yard, those aren’t ideal spots to place your bed. Easy!

Not sure what to plant? Consider what you, your family and your friends love to eat. Lettuce, green beans, radishes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, carrots and peas are common garden staples. Culinary-minded gardeners might add herbs like chives, basil and parsley to the mix.

Not sure where to plant each kind of vegetable? Be mindful that your plants might cast shade in the morning and evening hours. The plants that will grow the tallest should be positioned on the north end.

While square foot gardening might not be for everyone, it’s a great option for central Kentuckians who want to dip their toes into at-home vegetable gardening. However you do it, I encourage you to get out and grow this summer!

Recommended Reading: All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, the gardening expert who first popularized this method. Learn from the best!