Grow More Food in Less Space

April 20, 2009


ESA ePistle reader Doug Lass wrote in about the square-foot gardening method last week in response to my “Plant with Purpose” post (reposted here on the Flourish Blog). The Pritchard family started square foot gardening about three years ago. We have a small urban yard, but we weren’t ready to convert the whole front to vegetable garden, so we started nibbling away at the edges. The “square-foot” gardening method was perfect for us, and the book has changed the way we think about growing vegetables. It is a highly-intensive system, built around modules measuring 1-foot by 1-foot, laid out on raised beds.

Since our soil is pretty rich in car parts and broken glass and God-knows-what-else (like lots of urban soil). Because you’re aren’t walking on the soil surface, you don’t compact the soil, and because you can reach every plant, weeding is easy and watering can be done with great precision (and therefore efficiency). It’s not the system you’d use for growing wheat, but there’s no reason to adopt industrial methods for home vegetable gardening.

The best thing for us–most of the methods are almost like following a recipe. Novice gardeners and those rediscovering the lost art will appreciate the hand-holding and rigor that helps avoid mistakes. But even with such detailed instructions, there’s still a lot to learn just by getting started (or restarted) in gardening, and that’s the virtue of growing your own food. You simply aren’t completely in control, and you don’t know everything–life lessons taught best by trying to develop your own green thumb.

The All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is available in bookstores or at

Rusty Pritchard is the President and co-Founder of Flourish.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kim Sanford April 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I’ve just joined the wonderful world of square foot gardening too. My former gardens in our tiny yard always suffered because of overzealous condo landscapers who weed-whacked everything in sight and the dog who trampled anything that the landscapers might have missed. I’m excited to be starting my a square foot garden. I’ll be curious to see, though, if I can really grow the quantity of vegetables that I want to. As I’m beginning my spring planting, I’m worried that some plants are going to require more room than I’m currently giving them. I’m curious to hear from other square foot gardeners which vegetables work well for you and which don’t.

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