Square Foot Gardening Progress Report

I thought it was about time I posted a progress report on my square foot gardening efforts.  I’ve certainly been having fun with my mini-vegetable plot and I’ve got to say it looks really pretty – a plus point for those with little space who feel they have to make a choice between an ornamental garden or a vegetable plot.  There are pros and cons to square foot gardening I’ve discovered but on the whole I definitely think it is a great way to encourage people to get growing, especially if they are new to gardening – results are quick and it doesn’t feel like hard work.

I think one of my main worries about gardening in this way, especially now I’ve harvested the first few squares, is the feasibility of crop rotation.  In theory you simply harvest a square and then replace it with something from a different vegetable family. In practice, however, it gets a little more complicated because you have to take into account the different heights of plants so that they don’t shade those at the back of the garden.  And then there are those plants that are not very well behaved and swamp other plants, I avoided courgettes for this reason.   One of my early mistakes was planting turnips in some of the central squares whose abundant foliage has been bullying neighbouring squares of coriander and carrots.  I found myself cutting back the top growth (which is perfectly edible and we have been dropping shredded turnip tops into noodle soups) in order to give the neighbours some peace.  I’ve made my most recent sowings of these in the back corner squares, slightly off-centre so the foliage can spread out over the edges.

That said on the whole the square foot garden is proving to be quite successful.  My worries that the bed would dry out, it is after all sited on top of cobbles and nothing more than a large container, were unfounded.  I have not found myself having to do an undue amount of watering, although prolonged dry spells are rare in this part of the country.   Working on one tiny square at a time means it doesn’t feel very labour intensive.  You can weed one square within minutes, which is just as well because the top soil we dug out of the garden was full of nettle seeds!  You don’t feel rushed with the sowing and so do it very carefully with very little wastage of seed.  Germination rates in the beautifully sifted topsoil have been fantastic, we’ve never had such impeccable rows without gaps!

image of square foot gardening at Sustainable Living Project

Square Foot Gardening Spacings:

I haven’t quite perfected my spacings yet and some plants are still maturing so I’ve yet to see whether I’ve got it right or not.  You can easily get 24 radishes in a square foot, we’ve used the long cylindrical French Breakfast variety, they’ve been a real success and we’ve never had such perfectly formed unblemished radishes from our garden!  I’ve put 9 leeks in a square, I had read that you should be able to do 16, but when it came to making the planting holes it just didn’t feel right, so I opted for nine instead, so far so good.  Beetroot, are (roughly!) nine to a square, some maverick strays have been allowed to break the ranks!  Carrots have eventually been thinned down to about 18 plants per square foot, they won’t be enormous carrots but I expect them to be perfect!  I’m still in the process of eating and thinning as you go with the spring onions, so I don’t know what the final spacing of those will be.  Kohl rabi and chard are currently spaced at 4 plants to each square.  The first turnips did well, harvested at golf ball size, at  9 per square so I’ve continued new sowings at that spacing.  Kale and cauliflowers have a square all to themselves.  The fennel will eventually be thinned to one per square also.

Broccoli Raab was one of the new crops I was trying out, I grew about four of these to a square.  The thin spears are absolutely delicious lightly steamed with butter and black pepper but you have to catch them quick before they run to flowers and eat them practically the minute you harvest them.  I don’t know whether they would have been less prone to bolting if I had been more generous with the spacings, but my feeling is just one or two plants wouldn’t provide enough harvest in one go.  So while this is maybe not a contender for the square foot garden I think it is a crop worth persisting with, next year I will be giving these a dedicated patch in the main garden with several successive sowings.

Pests And Disease:

The sifted soil and copper piping running around the edge of the bed has ensured that so far this has been a slug and snail free zone, not a nibble has been taken out of a single plant.  The biggest pest so far has been flea beetles on the broccoli raab, although not enough to cause irreparable damage.  Leaf miner is also evident, in some cases this doesn’t matter too much but they can make for ugly and unusable leaf crops such as chard.  My main fear is they will run rampant through the foliage especially with such close plantings, I’m picking off affected leaves the minute I spot them.   The carrots so far look healthy and green, I guess one advantage of square foot gardening is that it encourages you to try different varieties of a crop in each square, so I have three different types of carrots at various stages at the moment – the hope is that at least some will come through unscathed by carrot fly attacks – time will tell!   As yet nothing has succumbed to disease but it is still relatively early in the season and of course the soil was fresh to start with, again time will tell – I’ll post another report on the square foot garden in late summer.

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2 comments to Square Foot Gardening Progress Report

  • Fantastic stuff Goo. What a wonderful little industry you’d have if you opened a little roadside shop – fresh, local, home-grown and healthy produce for sale. :)

  • goo

    Thanks Earthpal. We’ve managed to eat pretty much most of it ourselves. This small plot produces just the right amount of food for the average family. I think if we had any excess we would leave it out for passers-by to help themselves – I like food with a feel good factor!

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