Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening has become one of the most popular gardening books of the last 20 years. Bartholomew's simple, straightforward recommendations help home gardeners grow more food in less space, while paying plenty of attention to soil health and fertility. Originally published in 1981, the book has been through a few revisions but the information remains consistent. (For the record, this review is based on the 1981 edition.)
Review: "Square Foot Gardening"
I'm pretty sure I first learned about Mel Bartholomew and his square foot gardening method from a garden t.v. show. Likely something on HGTV. With a small space in which to garden, his method seemed like the perfect answer to my need to grow MORE.
That was back when I first started gardening, and I still use Bartholomew's method in at least some of my raised beds. If you are familiar with French Intensive Gardening, Bartholomew's advice and methods will be somewhat familiar to you. Tending to the soil, not walking on garden beds, and planting closely and successively are all practices Bartholomew encourages.
The book starts out by explaining the Square Foot Method, including explaining how to use interplanting and successive sowing for a more productive garden. The next chapter is all about plans and garden layouts and Bartholomew provides several pre-made garden plans. Chapters on necessary tools, soil (and how to care for it) and siting a Square Foot Garden, as well as explanations for how to plan and plant a garden follow. One of my favorite parts of this book was that he included easy-to-read charts showing when to sow, plant, and then sow successive crops of the most common garden vegetables. These charts alone are worth the price of the book.
Bartholomew includes a chapter on how to properly space plants, as well as a lot of information on vertical growing, which is essential if you're trying to grow a good amount of food in a small space.
The last half of the book is devoted to necessary garden advice: how to start seeds, how to transplant, how to deal with pest, disease, and weed problems. It is a very complete education for the beginning gardener. This book, along with my Michigan gardening books from Lone Pine Press were the foundation of my gardening library. I still have all those original books, plus many more besides.
One thing I should mention: in the early chapters of the book (at least as far as my 1981 edition is concerned) Bartholomew can come off as a bit of an infomercial type. Some of the claims he makes such as "you'll harvest more than ever before" and the like can come off a bit like Billy Mays hawking OxiClean. Try to ignore this. The information in the book is solid, and beyond the first couple of chapters, the infomercial talk is toned down quite a bit.
Quotes From "Square Foot Gardening"
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Square Foot Gardening:
- "This book is all about a new system of gardening, one that is so simple and easy that anyone can enjoy a weed-free garden all year, and produce a continuous harvest."
- "I began to question all of our current gardening methods and procedures. Why do we plant an entire packet of seeds all at once and then have to go back and thin most of them out? Why do we thin plants to stand at 3, 6, and 12 inches apart in a row, but then leave 2 to 3 feet between rows?"
I highly recommend Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening for any gardener who wants to use their space more efficiently.