By SUE McCORMICK | Palo Pinto County Master Gardener
There is a lot of talk these days about ways to garden in small areas. “Intensive gardening” means packing as many plants as possible into a given space. One of the easiest methods of Intensive Gardening is explained as “Square Foot Gardening.”
It starts by choosing a 4x4 foot area and building a box with at least 6-inch sides. (untreated lumber, metal, stone, etc.) At the bottom, it is necessary to block grass or weeds from intruding into the garden. Purchased weed barrier works, but a layer of cardboard or eight layers of the box is then filled with really good soil.
Mel Bartholomew, who wrote a book titled, “Square Foot Gardening,” recommends one-third coarse vermiculite, one-third sphagnum moss and one-third compost (a mix of at least five different brands to get a good balance of micro nutrients). Homemade compost is complex enough to fill that requirement.
Vermiculite helps retain moisture and sphagnum moss helps things drain. Gardeners have been successful with half native soil and half homemade compost. The idea is to have soil that maintains good moisture without needing water every day.
After the box is filled with soil mixture, a grid is installed breaking the area into 1-foot squares, 16 squares in all. Of course the garden can be 4x4, 4x6, 4x8 or any other dimension desired. The 4-foot depth makes it super easy to reach all squares for harvesting and weeding.
The number of plants or seeds in each foot depends on the mature size of the plant. Common spacing is one plant per square for larger plants (broccoli, basil, tomato, etc.); four plants per square for medium large plants like lettuce; nine plants per square for medium-small plants like spinach; and 16 per square for small plants such as onions and carrots.