For people who live in the city or on small suburban lots, finding space to garden can be very difficult. Thankfully, there are ways to make it work!
When I moved to my townhouse in Plano Texas, I was dealing with a back yard that was maybe 6 feet by 12 feet. I wanted some raised beds for my gardening endeavors, but I was not permitted to build up the soil against the fence. I had very little space to work with.
After doing some research, I came across the Square Foot Gardening method. This technique is great for getting the most out of a very small garden! The ultimate resource for people considering adopting this approach – and a book I think is well worth investing in – is the All New Square Foot Gardening* by Mel Bartholomew, one of several books on the topic he has authored.
While several spin off books have been written by him and several other authors, Mel is the person who started the Square foot gardening craze back in the early 1980s. He is the original and best, and has really refined his methods over the decades.
If you have researched the method at all, you will see that Mels’ techniques are more about the gardening than pretty packaging. Unfortunately, my setup was constrained by community rules – see here for an example of one of my HOA friendly raised flowerbeds.
Despite having to design to keep the neighbors happy, my various beds still comply with the square foot gardening approach. I filled them with rich soil – see this Lasagna Gardening article for details – and I plant them using sound companion planting practices.
There are many great advantages to gardening of this type. Firstly, since square foot gardening is done in a raised bed, you determine the growth medium. Instead of trying to grow your tomatoes in solid clay, or infertile sand – depending on where you happen to live – you can build the perfect soil yourself.
Another advantage is the small surface area you are dealing with. Square foot gardening allows you to perform intensive gardening. You have a lot growing in a very small area. When you grow in this manner, rather than using more traditional row gardening, you have a lot less garden to maintain.
People with big yards will probably have experienced the pain of having to weed large areas of garden before. With this more intensive approach, you can walk out and weed a couple of square feet in only a few minutes. Not only is there less ground to cover, but since the soil surface is raised you don’t have to bend down so far to work it, so square foot gardening is easier on your back too!
Another great benefit is the water saving possibilities. With a very small garden, it is quite easy and cheap to setup a drip irrigation system for your planting. As much as I love to garden, I don’t much enjoy having to water. I always seem to forget when I’m relying on myself to remember – irrigation takes away this worry.
Overall I’m very pleased I got into Square foot gardening. It is perfect for a small property, and really helps make gardening fun! I have no hesitation recommending Mr Bartholomews techniques to anyone.
*Please note the link above directs to amazon as I have found they offer great deals on the Square Foot Gardening book.