A word about the Square Foot Gardening Technique

When our landlord gave me permission to start gardening in our side yard the first thing that my husband and I did was to go outside with a garden claw and start tugging on the crabgrass. Once we realized that it, the crabgrass, was winning my husband suggested building a series of raised beds filled with soil mix. I will, in a subsequent post, go into the references for the various resources available here in Barbados for the materials used for building and planting the beds.

The side yard on the southwest side of our house is approximately 10′-0″ wide by 30′-0″ long, and contains (4) 3′-0″ X 6′-0″ beds and (1) smaller 2′-0″ X 4′-0″ bed, each bed is 12″ deep. At this point I will be honest and say that the size(s) of the beds are purely a function of the least expensive, most available wood in 12′-0″ lengths. As soon as my husband, the resident handyman, nailed the beds together and moved them to the side of the house I sat down in front of my computer to revisit small scale gardening. In my search I discovered Square Foot Gardening a technique developed by Mel Bartholomew, a (semi)retired Engineer, innovator and businessman from New Jersey. Here is Mel relaxing next to some of his plots:

The basic premise of Square Foot gardening is to construct 12″ deep raised beds measuring 3′-0″ X 3′-0,” after which each bed is divided into a grid of (9) equal square feet with each square containing a different “crop.” We doubled the concept to create 3′-0″ X 6′-0″ beds; as long as you create the “square foot” grid any size bed will suffice. Mel suggests using plastic dividers to demarcate the grid, we made do with some nice biodegradable twine and copper nails.

The Square Foot gardening method was very attractive to me as it purports to be an efficient use of limited space, consumes less water for purposes of irrigation, and due to the high density of the planting is a natural deterrent to pestilence. I can say that in the beds that I have planted thus far I have a significant variety in limited space, I am able to water all (5) beds with (3) to (4) buckets of water, and I have not yet, in the last (3) weeks, spotted a single slug.

Here are some images from my garden:



All in all, Square Foot Gardening, which from here on out will be referred to as SFG, is really an impressive and easily adapted concept for the Kitchen Gardener. After thoroughly reading Mel’s site it seems that his concepts could be applied to many different populations in Barbados, such as:

  • School age children taking pride in learning the valuable lessons afforded by tending small manageable plots of herbs and vegetables.
  • Adults of all ages seeking the rewards and relaxation of a growing vegetables as a hobby that could potentially lead to a measure of self-sufficiency.
  • Senior Citizens seeking to remain active while perhaps passing on some of their knowledge regarding the often long forgotten benefits and uses of various indigenous herbs and plants.

Please, take a look at Mel’s site. You can check out SFG here: http://www.squarefootgardening.com.

I plan on contacting him as a momentum (generated by me) for SFG builds here in Barbados. I often pass the Vauxhall Primary School here in Christ Church: they have a significant, but at times, untended garden plot. According to my husband’s recollection of his school days in Barbados, tending such a plot would have been a regular part of the curriculum. However, these days with the rigors and responsibilities placed on teachers around the world it seems that a much more manageable plot, as proposed by SFG, could easily be accommodated by the curriculum (Mathematics, English, and Science at least) of school children of all ages.


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