All New Square Foot Gardening – A Book Review

In Book Reviews, Soil & Gardening by James0 Comments

As a wannabe farmer being self sufficient in producing all my own food is one of the biggest draws. This not only means providing my own meat, but also providing my own fruits and veggies. I’ve seen Square Foot Gardening recommended by numerous reliable sources along my journey, and after reading it I understand why. Square Foot Gardening has been around for over 30 years. Mel Bartholomew wrote the first edition in 1981 and it sold over one million copies, becoming the best selling gardening book in America. The All New Square Gardening book I’m reviewing is an update, a second edition to that classic, and was written in 2007. When the book first came out it rocked the gardening and farming community. Mainly because it flew in the face of everything they’d been taught. Specifically single row gardening: Gardening that required a person to turn over soil, perform pH tests, add numerous amounts of humus, dig in manure or leaf mold, add fertilizer, use multiple tools, dig as deep as possible, break up clods, remove stones, use copious amounts of water, spend back breaking hours  removing weeds – and the kicker was the square foot gardening method yields the same harvest using 20% of the space that single row gardening does.

What is Square Foot gardening?

Square foot gardening is exactly how it sounds. The basic concept is instead of planting in rows, you design your garden by square feet. More specifically you will build or buy a box, in dimensions of 4 feet by 4 feet, and section it off into sixteen sections. Within those square foot sections you will plant your garden. Each square foot can contain a different variety. One square foot may include one head of broccoli while the one next to it may include 16 radishes. Another thing you’ll learn is how much space each variety of plant needs to grow. That information is usually on the seed packets. The beauty of this system as I mentioned before is the economy of space, and the economy of work to maintain such a system.

What about soil?

One of the biggest obstacles people encounter when undertaking gardening is soil, or more specific: poor soil. Square Foot Gardening eliminates this problem. You provide your own soil. The first reaction is: That’s going to be a lot of soil! But remember the square foot gardening method only uses 20% of the space a traditional garden uses for an equal harvest and the depth of the soil is shockingly shallow. All you need is six inches of soil. If you want to grow long carrots, then you can double up on certain sections for carrots and make it 12 inches, but for the rest of your harvest six inches is all that is needed. This is another shocker for people when they learn about SFG, but the reason traditional gardens are deeper is because the roots are looking for nutrients and moisture, which is hard to find in poor soil. With a square foot garden all the nutrients and moisture is readily available so it eliminates the need for deep soil. The soil mix is a 3 part equal mix of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. After that the only thing you need to do is occasionally add some homemade compost to the surface (the book also teaches how to make that).

What’s in the book?

The book is a wealth of information, but in an easy to understand and well laid out plan.

–         1. Introduction: In this section you learn about the history of the SFG method. Like I mentioned earlier it’s over 30 years old, and the success stories are abundant. Mel had several gardening shows on the PBS network for years.

–         2. SFG, Newer and More Improved: This section describes the innovations that have been applied to SFG over the years.

–         3. Plan Your Garden: Here Mel explains the fist steps in SFG. Choosing a place to put your boxes. Different options for box dimensions. Optimal locations around your property to place your boxes depending on sun location.

–         4. Building Boxes and Structures: In this section you learn how easy it is to make your own boxes. The materials and skills required are minimal. And even better the cost can be as low as zero if you’re on a tight budget.

–         5. Mel’s Mix, Essential for SFG Success: Here Mel describes soils and explains why his method works best.

–         6. How to Plant Your All New SFG: In this section Mel explains how to actually plant the seeds or transplants along with seed storage.

–         7. Growing and Harvesting: Here Mel gives tips on growing and harvesting your garden. Just like the chapter title suggests!

–         8. Vertical Gardening: This is a great section that gives you the how-to info on making your garden vertical. Especially useful for people growing tomatoes and melons.

–         9. Extending Seasons: Typically there are three growing seasons, but you can make it four if you do the right things.

–         10. Special Gardens and Gardeners: This is a nice section that answers some of the more out of the ordinary questions about SFG. It gives a lot of good ideas for people with special circumstances and how to SFG within those conditions.

–         Appendix: The appendix spans 72 pages and is loaded with useful gardening information from information about specific vegetables, herbs, and flowers, to planting charts.

Who is this book for?

This book is for anybody who wants a garden, has thought about starting a garden, or currently has one. I had no idea what having a garden could be like until I read this book. I’ve never gardened, and I like most people imagined it to be a lot of work with luck determining the payoff. Using the SFG method which requires 20% of the space, 50% of the cost, 10% of the water, 5% of the seeds, and 2% of the work a traditional garden does with an equal harvest anyone can start a garden with confidence. Start today and enjoy your bounty and improved health.

Buy the book via Amazon by clicking HERE (It’s an affiliate link so I get a little kickback if you buy. Thanks!)


Here is Mel in the flesh introducing SFG!

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