Mel Bartholomew and Square Foot Gardening

We just came across one of the coolest concepts: Square Foot Gardening! Thank Nikoli!

In the founder’s words:

How would you like a garden filled with beautiful flowers, fresh herbs and luscious vegetables, all with NO WEEDS and NO HARD WORK? No more heavy digging or all-at-once harvest. Less watering, weeding, and thinning. What’s left is a picture perfect garden you will be so proud of. Put yourself in a rocking chair and start your own Square Foot Garden!

Check out this YouTube video for more about Mel and Square Foot Gardening:

Learn how to start your own Square Foot Garden.

Check out the showcase of Square Foot Gardens.

Learn more about the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

Their goals are simple and easy to get behind:

      To encourage and Foster the Conservation of the Earth’s Natural Resources through composting and practicing Square Foot Gardening.
      To share Square Foot Gardening with the entire world enabling all people to live a more nutritional, healthy, and self-sufficient life.

You can donate to the foundation here.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Bonnie Ann Fuller

    Square Foot Gardening does lower resource use and contributes to self-sufficiency and healthful eating. Also, it doesn’t use pesticides and fertilizers. It is, therefore, worthwhile. It doesn’t, however, improve the soil or even stop or reverse some of the widespread damage. And it uses vermiculite as 1/3 of the potting mix — a mined, non-renewable resource. It cannot, therefore, be considered a sustainable form of gardening in my opinion. Better to garden in a way that has the above advantages but also repairs the land, such as permaculture.

  2. 2
    Danielle - bookstore manager of Square Foot Gardening


    Yes we do use vermiculite. But the ingenious aspect of Mel’s idea is that you only use it once. And in this economy only having to buy something once is great.

    “Better to garden in a way that has the above advantages but also repairs the land, such as permaculture.”

    Well Bonnie, that is wonderful that you have the time and money to be doing all of that hard work. But being a mother and working full time does not leave me a lot of time for hobbies. Also being a wife of an Active duty soldier, who is constantly getting sent away from me and my 4 year old son leaves me with no one to help me with the heavy lifting. I have cut down my own bills (grocery and gardening bills) with using Square Foot Gardening. Can you say that about traditional row gardening or even permaculture?

    What would you do if you live in an apartment? Or even a nursing home? Where you do not have the space to garden? With our patio boxes even people who can’t bend over to garden can garden. Can a handicapped person reach a permaculture bed in there wheel chair? Can they bend down to thin and weed that garden?

    How much does a traditional gardening take in time, money, and supplies? You have to improve your existing soil; so rent a tiller (or buy one), and (organic) fertilizer, compost and whatever else your soil needs. That takes a lot of money which many people just don’t have available in this economy. Starting a square foot garden is cheap and easy.

    Did you know it takes a real gardener approx 7 years to get their soil perfect for growing? Considering that the average length a person lives in one place is 5 years. I would think its a better idea to Square foot garden then to worry about improving the soil that you are just going to be moving away from. The fact that I am in a military family, means that we move every four years or less. I just pick up my garden pack it and take it with me. What other garden can do that?

    In conclusion, yes you have to buy vermiculite once. But the ability that ANYONE and I mean anyone can do it much outweighs the fact that you need you a use a non-renewable resource only once.

  3. 3

    I don’t see any reason why we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Mel’s idea is brilliant. So is sustainability, reducing our impact on the earth, leaving it in better condition than we found it, etc. Couldn’t Square Foot Gardening work if you substitute something more renewable for the vermiculite? Say compost, organic fertilizers, etc.

  4. 4
    Bonnie Ann Fuller

    You make several false assumptions and statements, which I’d be quite happy to let go unanswered if wasn’t so potentially harmful to those who might benefit from accurate information. It really helps to do your homework. First, using permaculture or some other natural techniques like, say, the Fukuoka mehod, it is the very antithesis of time, labor, and money. To the contrary, after the initial use of resources for setting it up (as you need with SQG), it virtually runs itself (unlike SFG). It couldn’t be more different from row gardening. For example, it emphasizes planting in clusters of compatible, mutually supporting plants, not rows at all. It emphasizes such things as perennials that don’t have to be replanted from year to year (unlike SFG) and swaleing which naturally saves water, reverses erosion, and fertilizes soil without doing anything at all after the initial setup. Second, it is readily applicable to environments from studio apartments and tiny houses to large farms. Check out all the videos around on how to do that. Also, where did you get the idea that the elderly or handicapped couldn’t do permaculture? Check out Robert Hart’s world famous permaculture garden on YouTube. Or that it takes 7 years to improve the soil? Not with these techniques — results can be seen very quickly. And btw, about the environment — instead of “worrying” about it, some of us enjoy and see the value of working with nature. To reiterate what I said in my first post before you ignored it, SFG is a step in the right direction, but so much more can be done with less.

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