Gardening For Beginners : Who Said You Needed A Lot of Space?

Categories: Green

Square foot gardening is the practice of dividing the growing area into small square sections (typically 12" on a side, hence the name). The aim is to assist the planning and creating of small but intensively planted vegetablegarden. It results in a simple and orderly gardening system, from which it draws much of its appeal. The major criticism of SFG is that it packs the plants too close together, which inhibits root development, and thus water and nutritional uptake suffers resulting in stunted plants. Mel Bartholomew coined the term "square foot gardening" in his 1981 book of the same name.

Tips on using raised beds and vertical gardening to get the most from your vegetable patch.

Intensive or square foot gardening uses space more efficiently than traditional methods. Instead of wasted room between rows of crops, the garden area is maximized — that way you get the most vegetables, fruits and flowers in the smallest amount of growing space.

Even if you have plenty of room in your backyard, intensive gardening can require less work while still providing lots of heathy plants. Usually there is less weeding involved since plants are spaced closer together and every bit of garden space is cultivated throughout the entire growing season. However, because there is less room between crops, weeding will need to be done by hand or with smaller garden tools — there will not be enough room for machinery. Another drawback — to some people — is that because plants are always growing, they are not all ready to harvest at the same time.

Raised Beds

A raised bed is simply when the level of the soil is higher than the surrounding ground. The Ohio State University Extension has listed several benefits of gardening in a raised bed. A few of these benefits are:

• Higher yields
• Improved soil conditions
• Ease of working
• Ease of pest control
Water conservation

A raised bed should be just wide enough that you can reach all the way across without climbing into it (or, if you can access both sides of the bed, you need to be able to reach half way across). See Building a Raised Bed Garden (PDF).

One of the reasons raised beds have such high yields is that the soil is mixed with amendments to create a light, fluffy growing medium to a depth of about 2-feet. This encourages great root growth.

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardens are both a wise use of space and aesthetically pleasing (seeContainers with Altitude). Plants grown on walls, trellises and fences can cool your home or garden and block views you don’t want to see.

Good support surfaces for a vertical garden include:

  • Openwork fences
  • Trellises
  • Hanging baskets
  • Arbors
  • Cages
  • Poles with string or nets

Choosing the right plants for a vertical garden is important. While many plants can be trained to grow upwards, not every plant is suitable. Some of the best fruits and vegetables are as follows:

Tomatoes do better grown in a cage or other support system than when left on the ground. Not only do they use up less space, but they are less likely to become infected with a soil-borne disease. Learn more about tomato gardening here.

Cucumbers grow as vines and are a natural for vertical gardening.

Corn grows vertically, naturally, and can be used as a support for beans or other plants.

Peas, melons, and passion fruit take well to upwards growth. Even zucchinis, pumpkins and other squashes will grow vertically as long as their support system is strong enough.

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