Lesson 1: Square Foot Gardening

square foot gardening

Hello Fellow CVYR Friends,

The summer heat has been beating down and cooking our Central Valley floor the last two months.  This means our garden is exploding with produce. Our watermelons are growing and stretching out and we have been picking spaghetti acorn, and butternut squash, cucumbers, tomato, summer squash, corn, eggplant, and more. Plus, our cut flower garden is popping with color. Picking produce has been quite the task as our plants love their square foot garden boxes. I thought that now would be a good time to explain how to square foot garden. This is a fairly simple process and anyone can do it for fairly cheap. Besides, once you make it, you will have garden boxes and yummy produce for years to come. Come fall I will be writing a blog on how we will develop the second half  of the garden using the Back to Eden Gardening method. For the purpose of time, we used furrows in the back this year and the produce there is doing quite nicely.

For those of you who will be doing this with kids I have started you off with some discussion questions. I always find it fascinating to hear what kids say. Plus, it always give me a little insider on their childhood. Many of my kids mention having a grandma or aunt that gardens or gardened and I love hearing their methods.

Questions to start you off:

    • Ask your kid(s) if they have ever gardened before, or if they have seen a garden.
    • How would they describe it? What did it look like? Rows? Plots? Etc…
    • What was planted? What are some of their favorite things that grow in the ground?

Square foot gardening is a new and efficient way to plant created by Mel Bartholomew. The concept incorporates fixes for all of gardener’s pet peeves. First, it is built in a 4-foot by 4-foot box. Why? He chose 4 feet because you can reach to the center of it from every side. Once the box is built, 1” slats are placed on top spread out every foot. This creates 16, 1-foot boxes. This allows gardeners to plant 16 different crops in one box! 16 vegetables, herbs, flowers, or fruits all in 4 feet by 4 feet! The boxes are only 6-8” deep as all crops, including sunflowers and corn, only need 6” of depth for their roots.

Below our box we stapled weed cloth. This is a fabric like material that allows water to run out, but does not allow weeds to grow up through the box. Guess what?!? This means we don’t have to spend hours weeding in the Jeremiah Garden! Over the weed cloth we also stapled chicken wire. I bet you know why if you live in the country…. Yes, Gophers. Gophers love to dig up from the bottom of our box and eat the roots of our plants. This, so far, has kept them all out!

Next, we place a trio mix of soil. This is important. The reason behind the trio mix is so we don’t have to fluff or turn up our soil because one, we are not walking on top of it, and two, the soil mixture chosen keeps it from hardening and packing down. The first material added is called vermiculite. Not only does this natural material help keep if from packing down, but it helps with moisture while keeping it well drained. We use 1/3 vermiculite in our boxes. Our next 1/3 is made up of Pete Moss.  Pete Moss is another natural material that helps do the very same thing. The next 1/3 ingredient, however, is used for its nutrients and minerals for the growth of our plants. Therefore, no fertilizer is needed. This last ingredient is compost. All three are mixed up in the box and spread out evenly to the top. After its filled, we use a nail gun and nail down our slats to make the 16 boxes.

If you would like to learn more about Square Foot Gardening I suggest Mel Bartholomew’s book “Square Foot Gardening”. In the back of his book he even gives the guides to growing each plant and how to plant the seeds. As you can see in the pictures below, we even added trellises to the backs of a few of ours for cucumbers, beans, and peas to grow up. Some of our kids made plant markers, painted rocks, and even their own garden box!

After your boxes are ready to go it’s time to pick out seeds for the season you are planting in. Below are links that will help you plant your garden boxes.


Beginner gardener? No problem. Follow the link (will be posted shortly) that will take you to the next lesson:

How to Plant.

 Square Foot Garden Planting Guide

 Square Foot Gardening Grids

 Companion Planting Chart

Garden Markers

 The Jeremiah Gardens 2018 Planting Calendar





Hailey Stambach

Hailey Stambach

Hailey is a full time Session Leader and our Horticulture Coordinator here at CVYR. She loves growing things and playing in the dirt while we love eating the things that grow in her Jeremiah Garden.

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