235 of 236 people found the following review helpful
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.
136 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 1997
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.
135 of 140 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2000
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".
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2000
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!
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 1999
This "gardening instruction manual" is a perfect fit for our 90's lifestyle - not enough time, and small yards instead of acreage. Good organic info (fertilizer, compost, etc)too. I first purchased this book in the early 80's as a newly-wed with the idea that I might like to try a small garden. The square foot garden concept is so simple, and the garden is so easy to maintain that I have used it since then.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
55 Reviewers pretty much say it all, but I just had to add to the applause. I have used this book as a reference for over 20 years, and have used Mel's methods in the sands of Florida, the gumbo of Texas, and now the 'barely there' soil of Northern Virginia. And what have I gotten... production and ease!
Based in part on the French Intensive method of gardening, you pretty much can avoid the inherent soil problems of where you live and grow veggies and flowers with little weeding and grunting.
Ideas in this book include:
How to prepare the soil (fertilizers, conditioners)
How to put together raised beds and other support structures if you want them
A guide for popular vegetables
-- how and when to plant them, including how to start seeds
-- the what-fors of watering
-- common pest and disease problems
In my opinion this easy to read book is a gardening staple good for all levels of experience.
75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2009
I got pushed into gardening by my stepson and step-grandson. Just ka-poof, there were these two raised beds (so Grammaw wouldn't have to bend over - HAH!)
Remembering that my green-thumbed late husband used to watch and read Square Foot Gardening religiously, I dragged out the old copy and started in.
Well, very good. It really has tons of great advice. But I did notice that all the plants in the cover picture were young, small ones. I went ahead and followed Mel's planting advice, though.
You should see it now (August 1). I've had to pull out a few plants and others are VERY crowded. The pole beans are trying to intertwine with nearby bushes.
I'll still follow many of the ideas in the book, but certainly NOT plant large plants so close together.
Oh, by the way, do go ahead and plant corn! It doesn't have to be in a block if you go out every day once it tassels and shake each stalk until the little rice-like things come snowing down. My lovely Golden Jubilee has lots of filling-out ears, and I can hardly wait to munch them.
And you can't stop zukes. Even in that little space, I overdid the squash.
If you own several gardening books, or even one other good one, get this, but don't plant all those things 16 to a square-foot block! And NEVER believe those people who sell plants in peat pots. The pots MUST be torn or cut down, otherwise the roots will become bound (yes, even commercial nurserymen lie) and your eggplant will die and you'll have to buy them from the farmer's market. They don't take zucchini in trade, etiher.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2004
A couple of years ago I got involved in a community garden at my work here at UCI. The plot I inherited had, like any of the others, a serious problem with gophers, and since it was an organic gardening environment, I needed to find a realistic way to deal with the gophers. A dear friend named Karen recommended an old book she had, and low and behold, I've been a convert ever since. Besides the down-to-earth nature of Mel's gardening style, the addition of chicken wire or similar hardware cloths affixed to the square foot frame to keep the varments from tunneling up into my planting box made the whole experience completely do-able, easy, and practical. Now residing in a totally different community garden (still at UCI) and having added two square foot garden boxes to my fairly small condo back patio, I can tell you this system really works.
Ironically, those who do not know or understand SFG will think you are a perfectionist, anal-retentive gardener due to the grid you create (apparently I have been referred to as the "precision gardener!") but for all the reasons the other reviewers have cited, Mel's system works so incredibly well and whether you are a closet perfectionist or just simply a mellow gardener, it works so well. The work really is cut. Your crops grow in pure food that is friable and nutrient-rich (Mel's mix is 1/3 compost, 1/3 course vermiculite, and 1/3 peat moss). You'll have a manageable amount of food rather than an insane bumper crop of veggies (after all, you can only have so much zuccini bread) and if indeed you are working in a garden area that has gophers, forget the planting garlic or the planting certain bulbs - they just tunnel around them. Just line your boxes with 1" sized chicken wire and you won't have any problems.
I wish there was a newer edition of this book, but Mel's too busy taking his SFG around the world to help create self-reliant farmers and families. [...] He's all about simplifying and enjoying the gardening experience. So I suggest use both this great book and his [...] to create your own garden space that will be so much more manageable and enjoyable.
One last thing: my husband who is a 4th grade teacher brought the SFG system to his school's nature center. The kids loved it. Interestingly enough, he was able to weave many state learning standards into his gardening lessons - beyond science really. It incorporated simple math, estimation, measurement, etc. And it turned out truly successful.
My thanks to friend Karen for her wonderful recommendation. I now pass the recommendation onto you!
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2004
I bought this book last spring and put it to use immediately in my 4x8 foot raised bed. I am in SE Alaska with rocky soil, lots of rain, long days and short growing season but my garden was beautiful.
It was also low maintainance! I could probably count on one hand the number of times I weeded.
We had fresh salads whenever we wanted (all summer long) and best of all my 4 year old daugther loved to help pick it. She is insisting on her own garden this spring and I am going to build her the recommended children's garden from the book of a 3x3 foot square.
The system is so simple and the results are very satisfying. I had doubts about my garden from the beginning but I shouldn't have worried. It far surpassed my expectations and I have plans for an even bigger garden this spring.
The only thing that would make the book even better (it's already got 5 stars from me though) is that I wished they covered growing organically.
I wish I could post pictures of my garden, it was truly beautiful.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 1999
I have gardened the traditional way all my life but was frustrated with the space required and hard work involved. I tried the techniques presented in Bartholomews book on square foot gardening and LOVE it. It is so easy and enjoyable not fighting weeds. Also there are suggestions for anyone with only a few feet of space to produce an amazing amount of food. This is perfect for todays small city living spaces. There are directions for flats at heights comfortable for persons wheelchair bound. I highly recommend this book for ease of reading as well as gardening.