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All New Square Foot Gardening – Book Review

All New Square Foot Gardening – Book Review

This book rocks.  If you’re tempted to start a garden but you’re worried that you don’t have the time, space or know-how – All New Square Foot Gardening is going to be right up your alley.  Mel Bartholomew’s technique maximizes space and minimizes work.  Last year we built our first real garden using this technique and I was so impressed with how well it worked and how easy it was to maintain.  Essentially you build (or buy) raised beds, divide each bed into one foot squares and then plant each square with a different vegetable, fruit or flower. This method eliminates the hassle of ripping up sod and working the soil.  The soil mixture (peat moss, vermiculite and compost) results in a nice crumbly, nutrient rich soil that doesn’t need to be tested, amended or even fertilized!  It also greatly reduces the amount of weed seed which makes weeding a breeze.  It yields a lot of produce from a small space and it also looks really good!

Mel Bartholomew (the author) claims that compared to traditional gardening this method takes 50% of the cost, 20% of the space, 10% of the water, 5% of the seeds and 2% of the work.  Wow.  He summarizes his technique in the following 10 Basic Steps:

  1. Layout – Form your garden in squares as opposed to traditional rows.  4 feet x 4 feet is the standard size but this can be adjusted to meet your specific requirements.
  2. Boxes – Use raised beds instead of digging your garden into the ground.
  3. Aisles – Space your beds at least 3 feet apart so you never have to walk on your growing soil.
  4. Soil – “Mel’s Mix” is composed of 1 part compost, 1 part peat moss and 1 part vermiculite.  High quality compost even eliminates the need for fertilizer.
  5. Grid – Place a grid on top of each box that segments the soil into 1 foot x 1 foot squares
  6. Care – Don’t walk on your soil or it will compact.  Tend your garden from the aisles.
  7. Select – Choose a different vegetable (or fruit or flower) for each square.  Each square can support between 1 & 16 plants based on that plant’s size and space requirements.
  8. Plant – Plant 2 or 3 seeds per hole or buy transplants.
  9. Water – Water when plants look droopy or the soil feels dry a couple inches below the surface.  Hand watering is recommended.
  10. Harvest – After harvesting a square foot just add compost and replant it with a different crop.

The book gives detailed instructions and illustrations for every step along the way.  Mel’s writing style is pleasant, straight forward and easy to follow.  He approaches gardening like an engineer and it’s very apparent that he’s thought through the entire process many times to create a simple and efficient guide.  I loved the book and it gave me the confidence to start a garden of my own.  Last year our 4 raised beds grew beautifully and were shockingly easy to care for.  If you’re interested in gardening, this technique is awesome.  Below are some of my posts that outline how to make a square foot garden.  I also highly recommend reading the full book:  It will give you all the information and confidence you need to build a really great garden!

For reviews of other books I love (and have learned a lot from!), click here:

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