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If you are new to gardening or have a limited space with which to work, you’ll find the concepts offered in All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space for planning, growing and producing a bountiful harvest most appealing.  This concept uses small square foot plots for planting.   Even more appealing is that one doesn’t have to worry about tilling the hard ground every spring as this type of gardening uses above ground, raised planting beds.

This is the 2nd edition of the book created by author Mel Bartholomew.  The original SFG was published in 1981.  There are significant changes made from the original version including moving the garden beds closer to the house, a 4ft. x 4ft. square solution, and an all new special soil concoction.

You’ll even find an entire chapter devoted to vertical gardening. This type of garden can successfully generate large volumes of produce in a very small space because of efficient placement of plants, as well as additional vertical gardening solutions.

The author is a retired businessman and engineer who enjoyed gardening, but also conceived of these high-efficiency garden designs.  He also created the non-profit Square Foot Gardening Foundation to promote easy gardening methods for people around the world.  He provides the reader with clear instructions and supporting photos or drawings showing how to plan and plant the garden, as well as how to build the grid box structure and supports.

Another benefit of this type of garden plot is minimizing the weeding and fertilization requirements.  If you use a weed barrier then that prevents nuisance weeds growing up from the soil underneath the square foot planting areas.  The only weeds will be those inserted by bird droppings, your own excess seeds and perhaps some seeds still viable in the soil mixture.

The Premise

Just because you live in an apartment with only a small patio or balcony doesn’t mean you can’t raise homegrown vegetables and herbs.  But if you have 200 acres, it doesn’t mean that you need to plant a huge garden in order to fill your freezer and cellar with fresh frozen or canned bounty from the garden.

All you need is a plan like the 4ft square grid solution and you can enjoy fresh tomatoes, herbs, and an assortment of other goodies using a small space.  Add on the vertical gardening method and you extend your garden further without having to step away from your patio.

Reviewers of the book indicated that while the concept is valid there are a few modifications they suggest for a more effective planting.  Basically, you are building 4×4 ft. boxes divided into 1 foot grids. This design means you can put the garden tiller in the next garage sale because you fill the grids with soil instead of tilling the ground to do the planting.

One reviewer suggested using a weed blocker material before filling the 1 ft. grids with soil.  This keeps the weeds from the ground soil beneath your grid from penetrating the above ground planting plots.

The author’s recommended soil mixture (Mel’s Mix) is a bit difficult to work with as it is 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 agricultural gauge vermiculite.  This is a chunky mixture unlike the potting vermiculite you probably use for your indoor potted plants.  However, even though different, it is still much simpler to dig around in compared to working with compacted soil.

Note: Several people mentioned that it was difficult to locate the agricultural grade vermiculite at their local gardening outlets.  You may want to check the availability in your area.   If it isn’t readily available, check with your gardening store professional for an alternative.  Also, local co-ops or nurseries will carry this grade of product. Contact these business owners to learn if you can order the product through their sources.

Book Organization

The All New Square Foot Gardening has 10 main chapters and 7 appendixes.  Included in the main chapters are the:


Square Foot Gardening (or SFG),

Plan your Garden,

Building Boxes and Structures,

Essentials for SFG Success,

How to Plant Your All New SFG,

Growing and Harvesting,

Vertical Gardening,

Extending the Seasons,

Special Gardens & Gardeners

The appendixes include planting charts and schedules, plant profiles, herbs & flowers, vegetables and more tips sheets.  These are handy tools to aid in your planning and preparation of the garden.

Some of the problems the SFG solves besides having to till the ground include accessibility.  These small gardening areas can be established closer to the home and water source.  This means you won’t have to haul water to gardening beds located a long distance away from your outdoor faucets.

Having the beds closer to the home also helps deter critters like deer, raccoons and possums. However, you’ll probably still need to plan a way to keep the wildlife out of the beds.  Since this covers a smaller area, you can set up lightweight fencing around the plot to keep out the trespassers.

If you are accustomed to planting a larger garden to supplement the family food supply, but no longer have all the mouths to feed, using this type of design is a simple way to downsize your garden.  Harvesting is also simpler as you don’t have to traipse through long garden rows while collecting the vegetables in a container which you have to haul back to the kitchen.  The 4×4 grids are easy to walk around and reach over to gather the harvest without having to step into the plots.

An additional benefit of these patio-sized garden plots is that seniors and children can easily access the gardens without becoming overwhelmed with muddy or chunky planting rows to negotiate.  Chances are you’ll find the children love to participate in the planting and even helping with the maintenance since there isn’t much to that.  Just place a watering can in the area and encourage the young helpers to water the plants.  Don’t call it a chore!  Call it visiting nature’s gifts.

If you prefer to continue with a larger gardening area and have the space, then it’s easy to add on another 4×4 planting grid.  Extend one off the end of another, or just find a new location to accommodate the additional 4×4.

Another consideration is using the SFG to grow flowers and decorative plants.  These will add color and beauty to the outdoor area.  They will attract garden helpers such as bees, butterflies and lady bugs.

Who Benefits

Both novice and experienced gardeners who are looking for ways to create a bountiful harvest by using small spaces will enjoy this easy-to-read and understand book. The book also includes suggestions for getting children involved in the SFG project.   This is an ideal reference to have in your gardening library and makes a much appreciated gift for any gardening buff.

Rapidly increasing in popularity, square foot gardening is the most practical, foolproof way to grow a home garden. That explains why author and gardening innovator Mel Bartholomew has sold more than two million books describing how to become a successful DIY square foot gardener.

Now, with the publication of All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition, the essential guide to his unique step-by-step method has become even better. Mel developed his techniques back in the early 1980s and has been teaching them throughout the world ever since. In the process, he has made improvements and refinements and continually adapted his practices to keep pace with modern times.

In this new volume, Bartholomew furthers his discussion on one of the most popular gardening trends today: vertical gardening. He also explains how you can make gardening fun for kids by teaching them the square foot method.

Finally, an expanded section on pest control helps you protect your precious produce. Rich with new full-color images and updated tips for selecting materials, this beautiful new edition is perfect for brand-new gardeners as well as the millions of square foot gardeners who are already dedicated to Mel’s industry-changing insights.