Square foot gardening is a new and innovative way to set up a small garden for optimal use of soil, space, light and water. As such, it’s a great solution for those who have small home spaces that they want to use for “postage stamp” gardens that will nevertheless provide them with a good amount of vegetables or herbs for daily consumption. Setting up a square foot garden on your balcony, terrace or patio can be a reality, but only with some effort and attention to detail, as well as a good bit of follow-through.
Check for Light
Before setting up your square foot garden, it’s a good idea to check your balcony space for the amount of light it receives daily. Do a quick check at different times of the day and make an assessment about the best spot for the garden within your available space.
Trucking in Soil
One of the big planning aspects of a square foot garden is that it is usually made in a raised bed, with wooden sides. The raised bed gets filled up with soil that may or may not be from the gardener’s own property. One benefit of this is that a square foot garden can be done on a balcony, roof of other surface that doesn’t have its own soil. The trick is to get the right soil for the job.
When you have located an available soil source, think about getting a soil test done to learn more about the makeup of the topsoil that you will use. Bagged fertilizers can be added to the soil to make the garden grow better. Compost is also another popular way to enrich soil that may be poor in some kind of nutrients. Doing your homework on the soil that you will transplant to your square foot garden will get you much better final results.
Setting Up the Square Foot Garden
Generally, all you need to set up your garden is the solid wood planks that will function as the sides of the raised bed, and some additional wooden shims to mark out single square foot spaces. The conventional square foot garden is set up in a grid that is 4 feet by 4 feet, with 16 single square foot beds for plants. You’ll put a certain amount of seed into each single square foot. Your plants will share space and bump elbows, but with the right ratios, they’ll thrive.
Support Special Plants
Some plants have additional support needs. Tomatoes are an example of a plant in your square foot garden that will grow vertically. This is great for utilizing a balcony space or other small area, but be sure that you have the proper method for staking, wiring, or otherwise supporting these sensitive plants. Corn is another crop that will need some vertical support, especially in high winds.
With all of the above in place, you’re all set to benefit from a square foot garden design. For more, square foot gardeners can check out Mel Bartholomew’s original book on the subject or check out forums and web sites offering detailed guidance based on the trial and error of others. With practice, you’ll become a pro at using less space to grow more food.