MEL BARTHOLOMEW, a retired businessman and engineer, found the answer to the frustrations of most gardeners with his square foot gardening method, which has received worldwide acclaim. He also created the non-profit Square Foot Gardening Foundation to promote easy gardening methods for people around the world. He lives in Utah. For more information, visit www.squarefootgardening.com.
I have to admit it, digging the rocky soil of New England never appealed to me. So when I started a garden in our New Hampshire backyard, even though I had a half acre to work with, I used this book and the square foot principles. There is no reason to create a monster patch of garden if you are only going to have to give away those hundreds of zucchini (people in our town make sure to close their car windows in August, lest passersby fill their auto with their surplus squashes.) The square-foot garden method uses square plots, starting with a 4-foot square, that's all. This book gives you the right number of plants per square to put in each for a typical family. We love lettuce, so devoted more squares to lettuce; and you'd be surprised how few tomato plants you actually need. A married couple with no kids can actually garden in a 4 foot square, which is also helpful for those living in condos or doing terrace or balcony gardening. This method is somewhat related to French intensive agriculture, where a huge crop can be grown in a relatively small space. Another reason to square-foot garden is to have enough compost to enrich the soil. I never ever have enough of this black gold, even though we compost all our vegetable scraps and grass clippings. (A friend went so far as to strike a deal with the local organic vegetarian restaurant for their scraps to have enough.) And weeding is a lot easier in a small square than on a long, endless furrow. This is one of my favorite garden books. It's really fun to read, especially in the dark of winter as you plan your summer salad and tomato bounty for the coming summer.
This is one of the 2 books that actually got me into gardening (the other being Christopher O. Bird's _Modern Vegetable Gardening_). Like most suburban dwellers, I have a back yard that does not lend itself to traditional gardening. With Mr. Bartholomew's method, I grew green and wax beans, peppers, tomatoes, zuccinni, watermelon, canteloupe, cucumbers, sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, lettuce, swiss chard, carrots and radishes all in a garden consisting of 2 4'x8', 1 4'x4' and 1 1'x8' plots.
It is an excellent book for beginners, providing basic information on where to place a garden, when in the year to start it, amending your soil (or even making soil, if necessary), etc. There is also a guide for every popular vegetable, showing how and when to plant it, how often to water, how often to fertilize, how to harvest, common problems, and other such things.
In conclusion, if you are typical suburban dweller who is interested in starting a garden, this book is a "must read". Not only will you gain great knowledge about a non-traditional form of gardening, but you'll learn that it is really something that you can do, no matter what your level of expertise.
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Are you like I was. . .grab a handful of seeds and sow them like grass then worry about thinning later? Of course, thinning was an arduous chore and never really got done; which meant, I'd usually end up with a lot of small useless vegetables. "Square Foot Gardening" has done away with the old traditional method of raising vegetables, especially, the plant thick, thin later approach. The first year I used the square foot gardening method I couldn't believe how many carrots I grew, and each carrot was picture perfect. What a difference square foot gardening made for our family garden. No longer is it like fifteen little carrots then one big one. The same is true for all the other produce. My radishes were the biggest I'd ever grown and not a hollow one in the bunch. Each plant gets undivided attention in an easy almost carefree enviornment. Also, in arid areas such as Utah--where I live. I use only a fraction of the water with the square foot method. It's all explained, and more, in Mel Bartholomew's book: "Square Foot Gardening".
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I grew up near Baton Rouge. We had three acres of land with about 20,000 square feet of garden. I was the only boy in the family, so during the summers when Dad was at work, I got to work that half acre all by myself. I hated gardening and swore I would never inflict this curse on my kids. I started reading this book on 3-31-00, and started digging and planting the following afternoon. I am actually excited about my new garden, and my kids were begging me to let them help me. This is a terrific book and I recommend it to anyone that even thinks they might have an urge to grow. You can grow nearly all the veggies your family of 5 can eat in less than 100 square feet, including corn. Some things just take up too much room (potatoes, for example), but if you want to eat it, you can probably grow it in your square foot garden. The only thing that isn't really covered (if it is, I missed it and apologies to Mr Bartholomew) is replenishing soil mineral content. All plants produce their vitamins with not much more than standard nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash fertilizers (organic or synthetic), but they cannot produce the trace elements that they get from the soil which are essential to your diet (like iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, et al). Anyway, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. READ THIS BOOK READ THIS BOOK. You will be thanking yourself every time you eat a meal. Many thanks to Mr Bartholomew!