The book All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition by Mel Bartholomew, was recommended on many forums that I visit. When we decided to put in a garden, it was one of the first books we ordered. I helped my parents in the garden as a child but haven’t had a garden of my own. This book is an excellent resource for those with little to no gardening experience as well as those who are new to square foot or raised bed gardening. For those who don’t know, the biggest difference between raised bed and square foot gardening is that in square foot gardening, you section off the raised beds, using 1 foot by 1 foot sections.
As I mentioned, the book is an excellent resource and came with me every time I planted. It explains how to make the beds, trellises, mesh coverings and explains how to section the beds. It also gives information on vegetables, fruits and some popular plants and flowers, such as growing season, seed to harvest and whether seeds can be started indoors or not. Mel also gives tips on starting, growing, harvesting and preparing as well as some other hints and tips.
Since this type of gardening was new to me, I appreciated that there were charts for spacing of numerous vegetables. The back of the book is loaded with charts that give the planting schedule from last frost to the first frost for numerous vegetables.
There were a few things that I either modified or wish I would have. First is the trellis that I mentioned yesterday. The way I came up with just seems so much sturdier to me. Either way will work, but the trellis I came up with can be taken down at the end of harvest and used again the next year with no extra effort. Second is “Mel’s mix”, he recommends that 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 Peat Moss and 1/3 Coarse Vermiculite be mixed together and added to the beds. I had quite a few boxes and this mix was just too expensive. I ended up buying a yard of black dirt, a few big bags of Peat Moss and a bunch of compost, which worked just fine. When bringing in black dirt, there is a danger of bringing in weeds with it, but if your mulch is thick enough, you don’t have to worry about weeds.
The last thing is something I really wish he hadn’t recommended; lining the bottom of the boxes with garden fabric. I’m sure the thought was to keep weeds from coming through underneath, but as I mentioned, if you mulch thick enough, weeds aren’t a bother. Having the bottoms lined also stops beneficial bugs, worms and other organisms from coming up into the box from the bottom. Most importantly, it keeps your roots from going any deeper than the boxes’ depth. He recommends using 2×6 lumber, which simply isn’t deep enough for some plants.
I give the book 4 stars despite my three complaints. This book is a must have for any newbie to raised bed or square foot gardening. When I figure out what I am going to do with my yard, it’ll go back out with me to plant.
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