Square Foot Garden

31166375_2327757037250702_2385487693044776960_nSQUARE FOOT GARDEN

I thought I’d show you the interesting developments of my square-foot garden in my raised bed over the past year. I am not an expert on square-foot gardening, so if you’d like more information on what it is and how to plan a square foot garden then do check out this helpful article. It includes the pros and cons of this particular gardening method and how the make the most of the technique.

For those who have never heard of square foot gardening, it’s a method of growing which is easy to manage, makes good use of the space you have (better than planting in rows for example) and makes a new bed less overwhelming when planning it out. The basic idea is that you prepare a deep bed with lots of nutritious soil and then divide it into square feet using string or lengths of wood.

18010591_1839648999394844_5969114248098899782_nWe built our raised bed straight on top of a patch of ground which had grass and geraniums growing on it; we simply cut it all down and covered the ground in a deep layer of cardboard (see more about this no-dig method of establishing raised beds on Charles Dowding’s site). Then we built the wooden frame on top, and filled it with compost and manure of a ratio of about 50-50. Then I divided up the space into 12 square feet using string.

The idea is that every square foot contains a different crop. For salads and chard for example, I sow seeds all over the square foot so that the plants take up the whole of the space. You can then harvest them with scissors a bit at a time, and this way the crop lasts for a season. My Rainbow Chard has overwintered and thrived even through all the frost and snow we had!

For18951095_1908831672476576_2615735764286647134_n-1 larger plants such Courgette and Purple Sprouting Broccoli, I sow in modules first, and then just plant one healthy plant in each square foot. They do tend to take over and spread further than their own square foot so you need to plan for that. Last summer we had 2 courgette plants in neighbouring squares which did very well, spreading over the edge of the wooden sides.

For climbers such as french bean, I train them to climb up an obelisk contained within a square. This year I’m going to try growing an outdoor variety cucumber so that it climbs up the obelisk. I’ll be planting just one.



The main challenges have been slugs and snails. The slugs love to hide out down the sides of the wooden sides of the raised bed and under the mulch, and they come out at night to nibble my veg. Last year I did some slug patrols at dusk and was horrified by the huge slimy gangs of them heading towards by veg!! This year I might be forced to try slug traps (beer traps) again. The snails are easy to pick off by hand in the daytime and I just relocate them in the wild part behind the bridal path at the end of our garden.31124593_2327757127250693_8423905707685838848_n

Caterpillars are always a pest for brassicas, so my Purple Sprouting Broccoli and my Ragged Jack Kale all suffered last year, even though I spent time picking off the caterpillars by hand. I should really invest in some netting but I am reluctant because it would spoil the view of the garden from the house and our patio. That’s the compromise of growing veg in a garden and not on an allotment I suppose. But the good news is that the brassicas survived and thrived after the caterpillar season, also survived our cold winter, and they are now happily producing for food for us.

Another challenge has been that the thick layer of cardboard mulch that we put down initially, has now broken down and is not preventing some of the daffodil bulbs in the ground beneath the bed growing up into my square foot garden! If I was to start all over again, I would have used a permanent membrane instead of cardboard.



By far the best thing about this growing method is it’s accessibility. I suffer from health problems which make it difficult to manage a large growing space. Having it all contained within a manageable area, which I can walk around easily, makes it very doable and less overwhelming. It’s easy to see what’s growing and what is a weed, and it’s easy to pull the weeds out. And it’s easy to plan. In fact it makes food growing a complete joy.

31131313_2327757077250698_3548668878089355264_nAs I’ve already mentioned, the current successes have been that our Chard, PS Broccoli and Kale survived the Winter and are now thriving well ahead of any of this year’s crop. We are now entering ‘the hungry gap’ when this year’s crops are only at seedling stage and not ready for harvest, but we are harvesting from last year’s growth. The PS Broccoli just keeps on giving, so we’re enjoying lots of fresh greens in our meals. The Ragged Jack Kale is still really getting going, so I hope it will provide more in the month ahead. The chard has been regularly harvested for making Saag dishes, and for adding into a Kedgeree.


My tips

1 Plan your bed ahead of planting. Some crops will need sowing in modules first to be planted later, some will be best sown directly into the bed. Making a simple plan on paper which you can add to as the season progresses will help you make the most of your bed. I have a scrap book which I keep all my garden notes in.30727413_2319391514753921_7640994450218418176_n

2 Think about succession. When one crop is finished, have the next crop ready to plant out or sow. Add in a bit of fresh compost with each new crop.

3 Decide to grow the things that you love eating the most. Particularly think about which crops are expensive to buy in the shops and which are best eaten fresh. Some examples I can think of are: oriental salads, mange tout peas, purple sprouting broccoli, and spinach or chard.

4 Harvest little and often. Over the summer I was harvesting salads and maybe a courgette too every day. At this time of year I’m harvesting the PS Broccoli or chard nearly every day, just picking enough for our evening meal.

5 Keep your squares with newly sown seeds covered with wire mesh to protect your crop from cats and birds and anything else that might disturb the soil.

6 Take photos of your bed throughout the seasons so you can record what worked best. This is useful information when planning your next year’s square foot garden.


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