Anybody else into Square Foot Gardening?

+1 vote
asked Jan 12, 2013 by Ennie Wan
I find it hard to plan a garden with the tool on the site since I will be using neither soil nor pots and the shape of my garden is irregular. Furthermore I wonder whether tips will be applicable/valuable in my situation. Still I would love to level with like minded ppl.

More information about the SqFt method:

I speak 4 languages but no Italian and most ppl here only post in Italian. So if there is a thread going about SqFt gardening in Italian I am sorry to double post. Maybe you can extend the language selection or be more firm with the lingua franca being English.

5 Answers

0 votes
answered Jan 13, 2013 by Leonardo Piras
Hi Ennie..I'm not able to answer your question but I know many many Italian guys who populate the site speak a great English.

I hope they'll be able to help.
Thanks for joining us.
0 votes
answered Jan 14, 2013 by Dulcamara Malatesta
Hi Ennie! Thanks a million for sharing the SqFt manual. My husband and I were thinking of implementing this method in his parents' garden - though I'm not sure we're going to create raised beds (it's not a long-term investment for us: we're trying to secure a bigger plot somewhere closer to home, hopefully soon), but we have marked out the four squares and we're going to replace the current wooden planks with stone walkways between the plots. At the moment we're waiting for green manure to finish doing its job. You may see the pictures on his profile here on GtP (his name is Raffaello Bisso).

We were thinking of combining this with a rotation of plants that use P, N and K, plus "builders". I don't know if you're familiar with this technique. My in-laws' garden is in a cool area in the hills, therefore annual rotation makes sense. Where I live, right on the Mediterranean sea, I'm trying to keep my plots occupied year-round and I'm also experimenting with permaculture, which - I think - is incompatible with the fourfold rotation P-N-K-B. The fourfold rotation is probably more compatible with the GtP's growing tips than the syergic/permaculture approach. Just my guess, but I'd love to hear more on this from other Growers.

As I said, we're mostly experimenting with new techniques at this stage, so I'd be interested in hearing more about what you are planning to grow etc., and to keep in touch as our work progresses. Where are you based? (what climate zone?)


Hi Dulcamara!

Am I pleased to see such a nice response! I was not familiar with this scheme of soil maintenance rotation and your suggestion was a nice read up.

The last garden manoeuvres I made were when I was a kid in my dad’s garden. Now I’ll be turning 59 this year. After a hard working life running two businesses and bringing up two wonderful sons as a single mum I got caught in the recession and lost all. My kids are grown up and moved out and I fell ill because of all the mishap. In the struggle to cope I moved from The Netherlands to Bayern in Germany, near the Czech border because life is a lot cheaper here than in a big city in NL.

I rented a big neclected house for little money with shared parts of the premisses with a dairy farm. The plot at the corner that is in full sun light all day will become my veggie garden and I am planning for that now.

Intensive physical labour is a problem and I wasn’t looking forward to turning that set ground full of stones. So roaming around the internet for alternatives I came across a website of a Dutch boy that started a SqFt garden when he was 14. Over the years he kept a log, wrote a book, maintained the website and had a TV series for kids about it.
He motivated a lot of people and all over The Netherlands schools have followed his example, as have community gardens and homes for the elderly besides private persons. It is a great success.
He based his garden on the SqFt gardening of Mel Bartholomew.

What triggered me was the prospect of being able to maintain a garden with lots of result and little effort and thus being able to provide for myself for years to come.
This is what made me decide:

Backyard Gardening will never be the same again.
•    No more hoeing weeds
•    No more heavy digging
•    No more chemical fertilizers
•    No more buying seeds every year
•    No more rototiller
•    No more all-at-once harvest
•    No more excessive watering

SqFtG Takes Only…
•    50% of the cost
•    20% of the space
•    10% of the water
•    5% of the seeds
•    2% of the work

Old Fashioned Gardening Takes…
•    2x the cost
•    5x the space
•    10x the water
•    20x the seeds
•    50x the work

I will follow the instructions of the Dutch site and not the English pdf from my last post. First I will cover the whole lot with weed barrier cloth. On top of that open boxes 1.20 x 1.20 x 0.20 m with grids. I intend to use in each 15 cm of this special mixture that consists of:
1/3 Blended Compost
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Coarse Vermiculte

As far as I can see now is the Vermiculte a bit pricy over here. In NL it costs 21,50 euro for 100 liter (size 0-5 mm).

I downloaded Emily’s Companion Planting Tool from

Other than planting something different in the same spot after harvesting will I not use a rotating scheme this year. Since all I have to do is take out what is left of the plant to throw at my own compost heap and mix in a new part of blended compost there is no problem. Over time I will learn how much of what fruit and vedge I need per season and can plan a rotation accordingly.

For the moment I can see some problems that I’ll have to address: snails, birds, cats and marten. Because I want to enjoy the growing and not look at nets and such I decided for a screen house of lumber and wire mesh that will cover the whole lot.

Wow, big posting, but now you know what I’m up to. For your parents I would also choose the easy way and use the mixture in boxes like me. If you find a better place you can easily move the boxes to that place 

As for your permacultural aspiration … have you looked into a forest garden? Again lots of result with little effort. Friends of my eldest son have started a forest garden in Spain a year ago. You may want to check it out:
They have lots of information on their site.


If vermiculite is too expensive, use perlite. It will work just fine. I could not get vermiculite here last year (my first year square footing) so I used perlite. It was fine. Love the square foot growing method. I also do container gardening as well (on my deck). Great discussion!
0 votes
answered Jan 14, 2013 by Raffaello Bisso

Thanks for sharing the pdf, Ennie, SqFt gardening sounds very interesting. If I got the point, my plot is to be divided in 1,2 m (4') squares, each square to be divided in 30 cm (1') small squares. The 3' (90 cm) walking spacing between the boxes, however, sound a bit large to me. I think a 50 cm walkway may suffice.

Great, we're probably going to give this a try at the end of the winter in our small Casella plot....


On the Dutch site they advise to make the paths 75-90 cm wide as it will not be just for walking but also for tending to your plants. If you sit there on your knees in less width you will get stuck :)
0 votes
answered Jan 15, 2013 by Dulcamara Malatesta
Dear Ennie,

many thanks for your most informative reply! I have no time to answer properly right now, only to express solidarity with your project (and lots of admiratio of course). Our hometown has been in a recession for about thirty years now. Imagine what it's like to live here when another, bigger, nationwide recession hits. We know a number of subsistence growers here - it's part passion and part necessity.

Coming back to the main topic now... FYI, you will find the principles of four-square rotation illustrated here:

It's easier and more interesting than you might think! Worth taking a look. I suggest you don't underestimate the potential boost (or, conversely, loss) in soil fertility despite all the good compost you may produce.

More soon.


0 votes
answered Apr 9, 2013 by Dulcamara Malatesta
Dear Ennie, we are now ready to start up the vegetable garden. Have you made any progress on yours? It would be nice to share experiences! Looking forward to hearing from you. DM and Raf