by Blake Herzog
Many of us love the idea of becoming a little more self-sufficient by growing at least a bit of our food, but we think we don’t have enough space, time, energy or know-how to pull it off.
Square-foot gardening can solve all of these issues.
The name is a little bit of a misnomer because you get to grow more than a single square foot of plants — the original design, developed almost 50 years ago, uses a raised 4-foot-by-4-foot garden bed divided into 16 square-foot cubes.
They’re 6 to 12 inches deep and filled with rich, moist soil that can support a lot of plants. Placing a grid of wooden slats, strong tape or anything else on top that can demarcate makes it easy to separate crops and rotate them to prolong the life of the soil.
Each one can be designated for a different crop, or multiple squares can be devoted to larger plants or those you’re especially keen on. You can put up to 16 plants in each square, though that will only work for the skinniest crops like carrots.
Some, including tomato plants, need a square of their own to thrive.
Planting seeds or sprouts in these squares rather than the more traditional elongated rows saves space and leaves little room for weeds to take root, saving the time that’s usually spent trying to keep them out.
Focused watering can give you a net savings over a larger garden, though it can feel like you’re dumping a lot of it in a relatively small space.
So, what can I grow?
Pretty much anything aside from the largest crops like corn, watermelons, pumpkins and the like will grow in your square(s). Most vegetables that thrive in the Prescott area can easily fit into this framework including kale, lettuce, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, cabbage, peas and beets.
Trellises can support climbing plants including cucumbers, peas, squashes and pole beans.
The smaller scale of square-foot gardening makes it ideal for beginners, and there are many online resources to glean information from, including www.squarefootgardening.org.