Square Foot Gardening Book Review by Great Escape Farms

This post offers a Square Foot Gardening Book Review. All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space is a book written by Mel Bartholomew. Mel’s most recent book is a revised edition of his original book published in 1981. The premise behind Square Foot Gardening is to plant different species very close together, each plant type in 1-foot squares, in special soil.

Square Foot Gardening Book Review by Great Escape Farms - Front Cover

Square Foot Gardening Book Review by Great Escape Farms – Front Cover

Square Foot Gardening Book Review - Back Cover

Square Foot Gardening Book Review – Back Cover

He states that planting a garden in long rows is a hand-me-down from farmers. Most of us gardening are not a farmer; we are gardeners so we should go about farming with a different approach. As for the soil he states it takes 7 years of plowing and digging up the soil to make it right for our large gardens. The national average is that a homeowner moves every 7 years. So as soon as our soil is good for gardening, we move!

Square Foot Gardening Book Review

His solution is to grow plants above the soil in a box with a special soil mixture called “Mel’s Mix”. This way you have soil ready to plant in and grow good crops the first year. Instead of doing long rows of plants and growing too much food, grow what you need in a 1-foot square. If you need more, pick anther 1 foot square elsewhere in the garden.

His suggested box size is four foot by four foot. This way you can reach into the garden from all sides and reach all points of the garden without having to step in the garden. Stepping in a garden compacts the soil and makes it harder for plants to grow and get healthy roots. Mel actually has a parts list and detailed pictures and instructions in his book on how to put the bed together. He uses wood lath to permanently lay out his one foot squares.

Mel goes into many different design options on how to cover your garden and keep pests out. The book has many pictures so you can get a good visual of what he is talking about.

Mel’s Mix

The Book has an entire chapter on how to make Mel’s Mix so you can garden with success. The basic ingredients are compost, peat moss, and coarse vermiculite all measured equally by volume.

After your Mel’s Mix is made and ready to go in your bed, it is time to plant. That is where chapter 6 comes into play. It describes how dense to plant various different plants. He also talks about succession planting or planting different plants in the same square at different times of the year.

To conserve space in smaller areas he talks about how to garden vertically. This is basically growing the plants up a trellis or fence on one side of your box. This allows you to have more plants in the ground because you are not taking ground space for sprawl and crawl of the plants.

There is a chapter about how to extend your growing season and the different techniques to do this. This includes starting plants indoors and shading in the heat of the summer.

Square Foot Gardening Book Review – at-a-glance

He has a rather extensive appendix that gives “at-a-glance” documents, plant profiles, planting charts and planting grids.

I bought the book, All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space by Mel Bartholomew, about three years ago and implemented many of the techniques in his book. I have had some success, but always find some bright shiny object to sidetrack me that my gardens usually don’t look as pretty as the ones in his book. Some of his plant densities seem a little too aggressive and I think the plant size may suffer from this. Overall it is a great book for someone who has limited space and limited knowledge of gardening.

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