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square foot garden crops

Square foot garden

A square foot garden is a great way to grow a lot of food in a limited space. We show you how

An effective way to grow a lot of food in a limited space is a 'square foot' garden. This unique growing method allows you to grow 16 different crops in an area that's just 1.2m x 1.2m.

Apart from saving space, there are other advantages too. Square foot gardens require minimal maintenance – because the crops are growing quite intensively in a small area, there tends to be less weeds, and when weeds do appear they are easy to remove. There is no need for digging, and crops are easy to reach, without walking on the soil, for tending and harvesting. This means the soil never becomes compacted.

To create a square foot garden, you'll need a raised bed that measures 1.2m x 1.2m. If you have good woodworking skills, you can build this yourself from scratch – or you can buy easy-to-assemble kits.

Place the raised bed directly onto grass or weeded soil in an open, sunny spot in the garden, and fill with compost. The recommended mix in traditional square foot gardens is a third standard compost, a third peat and a third vermiculite.

square foot garden compost

We filled our raised bed with a mix of one part coir to two parts peat free compost

For a more sustainable compost mix, we've used two-thirds peat free compost and one-third coir in our raised bed. Coir is a great, environmentally-friendly alternative to peat – created from the discarded husks of coconuts, it's a sustainable by-product that adds structure to the soil, improves drainage and helps retain water. You can buy fair trade coir compost blocks from Traidcraft.

Next you need to divide your bed into smaller squares. Make a grid with six 1.2m bamboo poles by lacing them together at 30cm intervals – you may need to trim the ends a little to fit them into the bed.

square foot garden grid

Now the fun begins – it's time to sow some seeds! Choose the vegetables you want to grow, and sow each variety into an individual square. The number of seeds sown depends on the size of the seed and emergent plant. So for broccoli, cabbage and courgettes sow one seed in the centre of the square. Chard and lettuces should be sown four seeds to a square. Beans, peas and beetroot need nine seeds – and for really tiny seeds, like carrots, spring onions, radishes and rocket, sow 16 seeds.  

Below is a diagram with examples of some of the plants you could grow, along with spacings. Growing a few flowers too – like marigolds and sunflowers – helps attract beneficial insects to pollinate your crops and keep pests at bay.

Water your square foot garden well and pull out any weeds that emerge and it should reward you with an abundant harvest!

square foot garden crops

Little Green Space July 2016

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